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cubaAt this time last year, the Draft was taking place against the backdrop of the Cubs’ hot pursuit of Jorge Soler. We’d been hearing about Soler for months – remember those three hours when he and the Cubs had a deal back in February? – and it would be another week before a deal was¬†finally¬†done.

This year, there’s another hot Cuban name making the rounds, though it’s unclear whether he’s in the Soler/Yasiel Puig/Yoenis Cespedes class of Cuban players, or a lesser tier. It often takes time for that distinction to come out, as these players are scouted only infrequently, and rarely with a wide enough audience (or enough of a sample) for the public to draw broad conclusions. Hell, just look at Yasiel Puig. Until he signed for $42 million, folks were still unsure whether he was even in the same class of prospect as Jorge Soler, let alone worth $12 million more.

One thing that’s clear is that the player – 26-year-old Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – is different from that crew in at least one respect: he’s a power pitcher, not a big-time outfielder. And the Cubs are interested.

According to Jesse Sanchez, the righty has been throwing in Mexico as he awaits an unblocking license to come into the United States. At least seven teams, including the Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, and Red Sox, have been watching Gonzalez since April, and have expressed “serious interest.”

Gonzalez, who hasn’t pitched too much competitively in the last two years as he tried to defect (and had bone spurs removed from his elbow), throws in the mid-90s, while mixing in a curveball, changeup and forkball.

Gonzalez could be unblocked as soon as next week and officially become a free agent, with a showcase to follow thereafter. Dylan Hernandez reports that it could come around June 20. Because he is 26, Gonzalez is not subject to any international signing restrictions, and teams can go hog wild on the bidding.

I expect that once Gonzalez becomes a free agent, we’ll get a better sense of what kind of player he is, in terms of hype and value.

The Cubs have already signed another top Cuban righty over the past year, inking 25-year-old reliever-type Armando Rivero to a $3.1 million deal. The last big-time Cuban pitching prospect the Cubs signed before Rivero was lefty Gerardo Concepcion, whom the Cubs signed to a $6 million deal in January 2012, and who subsequently struggled/got mono. He’s currently assigned to Kane County, but hasn’t been pitching, presumably because of an injury. No one really seems to be sure what’s up with him. Rivero had been pitching in Extended Spring Training after only recently arriving in the States.

  • CubFan Paul

    If the checkbook is open, spend it.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Excuse my ignorance. What is the difference between a splitter and a forkball?

    • corey costello

      I believe it’s speed.

    • ETS

      lmgtfy?

      • Cubbie Blues

        Yeah, that’s what I ended up doing.

    • #1lahairfan

      The fingers on a forkball are in a full split with the ball between them. While the fingers on a splitter are less split and motioned down after the release.

      A splitter is faster than a forkball IMO.

      In addition a forkball slowly kind of tumbles while a splitter quickly sinks.

    • Chance Riley

      A forkball acts as a knuckle ball and is not supposed to have spin. It tumbles down like a splitter but occasionally has knuckling action. It’s faster than a knuckle ball but slower than a splitter. A splitter is supposed to look like a fastball coming out of the hand, and it should have spin on it. It just drops and falls off the table right before reaching the plate. It is looked at as a change-up alternative, whereas the forkball is looked at as a gimmick pitch.

  • Njriv

    Still no Paniagua?

    • Ron

      Dude should walk across the border. If illegals can visit the president why cant theyplay baseball.

  • Alex

    Had some hope for concepcion, but when a prospect like that clears waivers and you barely hear anything about it, you know something’s wrong.

    • Eric

      A team claiming him would have to take on his salary. We paid around 8 million for him, that’s the “something” that is wrong. He’s not dying of Cancer or anything.

      • Alex

        There were multiple teams that were after him with similar offers and not one took a chance on claiming him a year already paid in that contract.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Thompsonville, Il_Cubs

    Just like I said over on Facebook, should be a free agent in a couple of weeks really means 3 months of full on obsessing

  • Alex

    And would love to see cubs grab denney and try and change his mind. He was the top ranked catcher if I’m not mistaken, so teams must be convinced he won’t sign, but if we do save $ on both picks, it’s a move we should make regardless of how wellys doing, it’s pretty bare down there for catchers.

  • Mr. Gonzo

    If Gonzalez is for real and we land him, it could make it much easier for the Cubs to give up a Baez/Vogelbach/Maples+ for G. Stanton in the off-season. That would potentially give the future Cubs a helluvah-lotta power to back up a slowly stabilizing future rotation. Man I love wearing my speculation pants on Fridays…

    • Eric

      You will have to add Almora in that + if you expect Miami to stay on the phone.

      • Mr. Gonzo

        but… but… but…I don’t wanna! What if the Cubs offer to buy some their season tickets for a few years? Stock the soda machine?! Is there any realistic package the Cubs can send them that doesn’t include more than one of the big four?

      • Dynastyin2017

        Not saying the Cubs make that trade or not, but don’t forget what the Marlins got for Cabrera. And Cabrera > Stanton.

    • praying the cubs get ready to win

      Any chance we give up Vogelbach, Maples, Vitters and BJAX for Stanton?

      • BT

        Yes. Just no chance the Marlins say yes.

  • X the Cubs Fan

    I love this FO. They never stop trying to make this organization better.

    • Dave

      If they arent constantly trying to improve a team thatz rebuilding than they should be fired .

  • Kyle

    Recent injury, 26, Cuban league stats that seem pretty similar to Concepcion’s.

    Pass.

    • Whiteflag

      I’m going to agree.

    • JB88

      What injury?

      • JB88

        Never mind. I either missed the bone spurs the first time I read the article or that was added after I read it.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          (No post-publish edits on this one from me, except a little more on Concepcion.)

          • JB88

            So “missed it” it is! Huzzah.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Seems like there might be a little more information about him to be had.

      • Kyle

        Well, I’m hoping the front office is a little more thorough to me. But at first glance, he looks awfully awful to me.

        This ain’t my first time at the rodeo. If a guy claims he can throw mid-90s straight-up in a workout situation, he’s working 89-90 in games.

  • Tremendous Slouch

    Isn’t 26 the cut off for the international signing restrictions? Good thing he “qualifies”… Strange how now we have to be concerned about these guys lying about their ages in the other direction!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      23.

      • Tremendous Slouch

        Thanks… but my point remains! Just not in this particular case… :)

        • JB88

          You don’t usually have to worry about Cubans on the age thing. There are problems in some Latin American countries, but Cuba usually isn’t an issue.

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