More than a month after reports surfaced that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez had reached a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, a deal between Gonzalez and the team has finally—and officially—been reached:
While that's a far cry from the six-year, $50 million windfall he was rumored to have landed back in July, Gonzalez is still arriving in the City of Brotherly Love with high expectations placed upon his shoulders by a team and a fanbase that needs some young, electric arms from the right-side of the mound in the rotation.
With Roy Halladay far from certain to return in 2014 and Kyle Kendrick able to leave as a free agent after next season, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. needed to get this deal done.
Ideally, the Phillies would send Gonzalez to the minor leagues for some fine-tuning before he made his major league debut, but with the minor league season coming to an end and the Phillies going nowhere, a trial-by-fire in the major leagues appears to be the way things will work out.
At 6’3”, Gonzalez has a lean, athletic build that doesn’t require future physical projection given his age. But despite his long limbs, the right-hander actually demonstrates plenty of present strength throughout his delivery. Furthermore, his frame helps generate lots of extension towards the plate.
Employing a high leg kick, Gonzalez hides the ball well and, for the most part, does a nice job of keeping his shoulders closed and in line with the plate. However, there are times when he’ll cut off his stride and rip open with his front shoulder, which leads to lower velocity and flatter offerings left up in the zone. Additionally, the right-hander doesn’t always finish his delivery and, in those instances, tends to rely on sheer arm strength rather than executing pitches.
His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and is most effective when he keeps it down in the zone, while he turns to his three secondary offerings—a changeup, curveball and forkball—to keep batters off-balance.
So what can Phillies fans expect to see from Gonzalez this season?
Assuming that Ryne Sandberg inserts him into the back of the team's rotation right away, replacing Ethan Martin, Gonzalez would be on track to make five starts for the Phillies down the stretch:
|Tuesday, Sept. 3||Washington|
|Sunday, Sept. 10||San Diego|
|Friday, Sept. 15||@Washington|
|Wednesday, Sept. 21||New York (NL)|
|Monday, Sept. 26||@Atlanta|
While there's something to be said for beginning your major league career at home, leaving pitches up in the zone at Citizens Bank Park can be deadly, as the ballpark remains one of the most hitter and home run-friendly locales in the game.
That said, the ballpark doesn't automatically doom Gonzalez to failure, and with the majority of the batters he'd be facing having never faced him before, early success is certainly not out of the question, especially against the Padres and Mets, who have two of the weaker lineups in baseball.
If he starts, Gonzalez would likely run into some rough patches against Atlanta and Washington, especially the second time around against the Nationals, though it would be interesting to see whether he's able to adjust to the adjustments that Washington makes after its first outing against him.
The other option, of course, would be for the Phillies to use him out of the bullpen, limiting the wear-and-tear on his arm—and exposure to the competition—allowing him to ease into the major leagues, pitching an inning here and two innings there.
If it were up to me, I'm starting Gonzalez on Tuesday against the Nationals. His future lies in the team's starting rotation, and the experience that he could gain in five September starts this season can only prove beneficial in 2014 and beyond.
With the Phillies out of contention and looking towards the future, the team has nothing to lose—but more games—by running him out there every fifth day from now until the end of the season.
Regardless of how September plays out, the Phillies got themselves some insurance against another Halladay injury or defection after the season and, more importantly, a pitcher just entering the prime of his career who has the stuff to become a quality No. 2 or No. 3 starter at a middle-relief price.