Huge Risk for Phillies in Gonzalez Deal
Late last month, Ruben Amaro Jr. sat in the visitors dugout at Dodger Stadium and answered a few questions about the Phillies’ interest in Yasiel Puig.
He said they took a look and had some interesting conversations with his people, but in the end the Dodgers took a “huge risk” and signed him to a $42 million contract.
“It paid off, so far,” Amaro said.
It turns out $42 million is nothing. A source told MLB.com last night the Phillies have agreed to terms with Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a six-year, $48 million deal, which includes an $11 million option in 2019. Yep, that’s more than Puig got from the Dodgers. It is also more than the A’s gave outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal, and the Cubs gave outfielder Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract.
It’s a considerable risk. The Phillies have never paid an international player more than $1.2 million, and that happened in 2001 with South Korean right-hander Seung Lee. He proved to be an enormous bust, and just from being around the team since 2003 I always got the feeling Lee’s failures (as well as the failures of South Korean right-hander Il Kim, who got $800,000 from the Phillies in 2001 and also bombed) made the Phillies reluctant to go big on international players.
This is a sign the Phillies don’t plan to go into a true “rebuilding” phase or “blow up” the roster and start from scratch, even if they sell a couple pieces before Wednesday’s trade deadline. They still plan to spend money to help them win next season and beyond. That might be what Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and other potential free agents need to see as they consider their options for the future.
But there certainly is plenty riding on this. The Phillies have not had a great run recently with personnel decisions. No team is perfect, but this is a results business and talent evaluations big and small haven’t worked out particularly well: the talent acquired from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, releasing Jason Grilli, letting Nate Shierholtz walk, choosing John Bowker over Brandon Moss, Chad Qualls, Danys Baez, betting Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. could be everyday outfielders, not developing a player in the minors that can help them more than Michael Martinez or an outfielder that would be better than carrying three catchers out of the All-Star break, etc. They certainly have had some successes, but the team is on its way to missing the postseason for the second consecutive year. Now would be a great time for Amaro’s scouts to hit big.
“You hope those things work out,” Amaro said last month. “Hideki Irabu didn’t work out. [Jose] Contreras worked out on certain levels. [Rey] Ordonez. Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka]. It’s a risk.”
Which way will Gonzalez fall? It will be fascinating to find out.