Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is the hot name on the international free agent market, and, because he’s 26, he’s eligible to sign with the highest bidder, irrespective of any international signing pool restrictions. Throw in the fact that he’s a talented starting pitcher, and you’ve got a guy that the Chicago Cubs were a lock to be in on long before rumors connecting them to the righty surfaced.
Now he’s one step closer to signing with a team, having been declared a free agent by MLB, according to Jesse Sanchez. The final step is an unblocking license from the US Government, which Sanchez reports could come this week. Sanchez adds that Gonzalez is expected to throw for scouts again on Friday in Mexico.
Gonzalez threw last week in a performance that Jeff Passan says “wowed scouts,” working in the mid-90s and touching 97 mph. Although the price tag on Cubans is always tough to pin down – I’ve read that the professional range of opinions on Yasiel Puig’s value topped out at $42 million by the Dodgers, but sat as low as less than $1 million by other teams – Passan suspects Gonzalez is going to get a huge sum of money, potentially the biggest deal ever for a Cuban. It seems like it would be tough to top Puig’s deal, but who really knows?
Passan frames the pursuit of Gonzalez as an opportunity to change a race this year, though he adds that a team like the Cubs could bid on him as a long-term piece (which, yes, is exactly what the Cubs would be doing). If Gonzalez is indeed ready to pitch in the big leagues immediately, the battle to sign him does take on another face – not to mention the fact that it would impact the trade market for pitching.
In that respect, perhaps the Cubs would help themselves doubly by landing Gonzalez: they lock down a big-time pitching talent (if, indeed, that’s what Gonzalez is) and they ensure that a team desperate for a pitcher for the stretch run can’t pick one up without exploring the trade market (in which the Cubs will be heavy sellers).
Then again, if Gonzalez can help a contender in 2013, wouldn’t his value to a contender be much higher than it would be to the Cubs, and wouldn’t that hypothetical team’s bid reflect that value? It’s all very hard to say right now, and, unless more whispers emerge, I don’t think you can be surprised by anything that happens. Maybe the Cubs land him for a lot less than people think. Maybe the Cubs bow out because the bidding becomes insane. Maybe the Cubs are the insane-iest, and sign him for an unthinkably large number. Or maybe the Dodgers SIGN-ALL-THE-PITCHERS and give him an amount no other team can touch.
Or maybe all of this is hype, and he signs for a reasonable deal with whichever organization pays him the most/he likes the best.
However it plays out, it could be a very interesting next few weeks.