COMMENTARY | Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Get used to that name. The 26-year-old Cuban defector will soon cash in on his talents.
The Dodgers sent three of their top scouts -- including Bob Engle, vice president of international scouting -- to watch his workout. Boston Red Sox's general manager Ben Cherrington was the only GM in attendance -- not an uncommon occurrence when it comes to scouting international prospects. Boston really must like Gonzalez because they also sent eight scouts to the showcase. Other teams likely to be in the Gonzalez running include the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and others.
Under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, the Dodgers have $2.9 million to spend on international free agents this year. Unlike the draft, there are more severe penalties for overages here. However, since Gonzalez is 26 and has played in Cuba's top league for at least three years, he is exempt.
Translation: Gonzalez will go to the highest bidder. After the Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig $42 million for seven years almost a year ago to the day (June 28), there's speculation they could be in on 6-foot-3 Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was declared a free agent on June 22, but the U.S. Treasury Department hasn't granted him the right to negotiate a contract with MLB teams just yet. Once that happens (and it will happen soon), it'll just be a matter of time before Gonzalez is pitching in professional baseball.
Gonzalez's situation mirrors that of current Dodger 26-year-old Hyun-Jin Ryu, except the Major League team that signs him won't have to pay a posting fee. The Dodgers signed Ryu to a six-year, $36 million contract and paid a $23.7 million posting fee to his Korean team.
The history of Cuban-born pitchers in the majors has been less than impressive. Luis Tiant is probably the best of the lot, posting a career 3.30 ERA and 2,416 strikeouts in 19 seasons. Adolfo Luque pitched for 20 years in the majors. More recently, Jose Contreras was signed by the Yankees and won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Aroldis Chapman was signed to a $30.25 million, six-year deal by the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and is one of the best relievers in the game.
Gonzalez has fastball that sits in the low-90s and routinely touches 94-95 MPH. He also has a changeup, curveball, cut-fastball and the rare forkball. Dodger fans remember a great forkball thrown by Hideo Nomo oh so many years ago.
Many believe Gonzalez is near-MLB ready. He might need a month or so in the minors to get back into the rhythm, but he should pitch in the majors this season. He profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with No.2 upside.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports wrote on June 26 that Gonzalez could land a contract in the neighborhood of $60 million over five years. I don't see the bidding going that high, but if it does, the Dodgers would have no problem paying that amount -- if they truly want him.
I don't think Gonzalez will land a Puig-esque contract, but a Chapman-esque contract isn't out of the question. An addition like Gonzalez to the Dodgers' farm system would allow them to use a prospect like Zach Lee in a trade more comfortably than they would if they didn't have Gonzalez. Gonzalez would likely be the team's No. 1 prospect without even throwing a pitch (ala Ryu with Baseball America's preseason rankings).
The Dodgers landed Puig and were in on Jorge Soler who eventually signed with the Cubs. The Dodgers, surprisingly, don't have a rich history when it comes to Cuban players, so pairing Gonzalez with a fellow countryman could have its benefits.
If the Dodgers can sign Gonzalez, they'll have made up for a lackluster draft (although, Chris Anderson's debut was something else). And because they aren't rumored to be in on many of the top international free agents (who fall into the spending limit), landing Gonzalez would be an even bigger deal than it appears on the surface.
Forget Miami Marlins' righty Ricky Nolasco, to whom the Dodgers are unfortunately connected, Gonzalez would be a better investment for the future and quite possibly for the remainder of the 2013 season.
My prediction: The Dodgers edge out the Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers and ink Gonzalez to a five-year, $40 million deal, because why the hell not?
Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
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