The Philadelphia Phillies and right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez agreed Friday night on a six-year deal that could be worth up to $59 million, the richest contract ever for an international player, a club source told Yahoo! Sports.
Gonzalez, 26, wowed scouts after defecting to Mexico in February and rode the success of recent Cuban ballplayers as well as a change in international free agency rules to a payday that with bonuses would exceed the $56 million given to Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish. The guarantee alone beats the previous high for a Cuban, $42 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers to Yasiel Puig.
The deal is worth a guaranteed $48 million over six years with a seventh-year vesting option for $11 million, the source said.
The Phillies are expected to send Gonzalez to the minor leagues for some seasoning before summoning him to the major leagues by mid-August.
Bolstered by the prospect of a new television deal that could reach more than $5 billion, the signing of Gonzalez shows the Phillies are taking a retool-over-rebuild approach and still harbor aspirations of winning the National League East this season, even amid a six-game losing streak that has them at 49-54 and 8 ½ games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.
With a fastball that sits around 93 mph and recently topped out at 96, a split-fingered fastball and changeup that serve as his off-speed pitches, a cut fastball and a slow curve ball, Gonzalez's varying array impressed scouts and executives who flocked to Tijuana to watch him pitch in workout showcases and games. During a handful of starts in the low-level Liga del Norte, talent evaluators saw the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Gonzalez as a mid-rotation piece who could contribute immediately, a factor that no doubt motivated Philadelphia.
The Phillies are believed to have outbid the Boston Red Sox as negotiations were finalized Friday. More than a dozen teams showed significant interest in Gonzalez, though as his price skyrocketed, the market thinned.
"We liked him a lot," one American League general manager said. "That's just a lot of money for someone we didn't know enough about."
The deal matches the length and is around the same money as Boston gave Daisuke Matsuzaka when he came to the United States from Japan. The total outlay, of course, is not close to Matsuzaka or Darvish, for whom the Red Sox and Rangers paid more than $50 million to their Japanese teams to negotiate. The contract is closer in total value to the $61.5 million the Dodgers paid this offseason for six years of pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is 8-3 with a 3.25 ERA.
Because he is older than 23 and played more than three professional seasons in Cuba, Gonzalez was not subject to international bonus rules that severely limit how much money players can receive.
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