“This deal is getting worse all the time.”
Those words, spoken by Lando Calrissian in Empire Strikes Back may be something that Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. is saying to himself after watching 27-year-old Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitch.
An initial six-year deal to the Cuban righty worth upwards of $50 million was scuttled after medical reports came in and that deal dropped to a three-year deal that pays Gonzalez just $12 million. Gonzalez pitched impressively in workouts in Mexico and scouts raved abut his 94-95 mph fastball and his curveball that he could throw in different way, making it seem “like 10 different pitches.”
There are fairly big concerns coming out of Phillies camp after seeing Gonzalez throw in live batting practice. Without the benefit of a radar gun, reporter David Murphy of Philly.com wrote that Gonzalez didn’t look like a major leaguer, lacking “life, location, velocity, [and] bite” to his pitches while he “struggled to find the strike zone consistently, and rarely missed a bat when he did.” Murphy believes that the Cuban righty appears to be so rusty and so far behind the curve that “it’s really hard to see Gonzalez making up enough ground to even be in the conversation for Opening Day.”
The Phillies, however, are willing to be patient with manager Ryne Sandberg going on the record and implying that his pitcher’s arm strength is not all the way back to where it was before he signed his contract. According to Mike Axisa at CBSSports.com, Gonzalez didn’t participate fully in the fall instructional league, only playing catch and long toss.
The deal may be getting worse all the time but the risk is far more minimal than it would have been had they signed Gonzalez at the $8 million (plus) per season dollar figure that they had originally agreed to. While the Phillies may not be getting what they had been hoping for in their deal with Gonzalez, their renegotiation of the contract allows them to bury Gonzalez’s salary in the minor leagues if he’s not fully ready to compete at the major league level.
The way the rotation might shake out until Cole Hamels returns (probably in mid-April), Gonzalez may not be needed at the beginning of the season and could begin 2014 in the minor leagues. If he does, minor league fans in Clearwater, Reading or Lehigh Valley may get to know a lot more about the mysterious Cuban before those in Philadelphia do.