The Philadelphia Phillies added an arm to their organization on Friday night, signing Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez as a free agent. It is a six-year contract, worth $48 million, with bonuses and options that could bring the final value over $60 million. Since Gonzalez is 26 years old, the money will not count against Philadelphia's international bonus pool.
Gonzalez has been a fixture on the international circuit for years and scouts are more familiar with him than the typical Cuban talent. Despite this, there is an odd mix of opinion about him. A 6-2, 185 pound right-hander, he offers a wide arsenal of pitches including two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a changeup, a splitter, and a breaking ball that varies with speed and break. He throws strikes and has a reputation for solid command.
Reports on his velocity vary: for most of his career he's worked in the 89-94 range, but recent reports have him clocked as high as 95-97. Ben Badler at Baseball America has a detailed report for BA subscribers.
The Phillies believe Gonzalez can be a top-of-the-rotation starter and paid accordingly. This opinion is not universally shared; as Badler points out, some teams see Gonzalez as more of a number three or four starter, and pessimists think he'll fit best in the bullpen. This probably boils down to how likely he is to maintain his peak velocity. All agree that he will be ready to pitch in the majors soon; he just needs to get himself fully into game shape after the defection layoff with some Double-A or Triple-A outings.
My take here is that Gonzalez will be an above-average pitcher but not a genuine ace. Whether that's worth $60 million or not depends on your point of view. My personal gut feeling is that they overpaid, which means that he'll probably win 20 games next year. Ken Woolums at Beyond the Boxscore has additional thoughts.