Tuesday, July 30, 2013

PHILLIES: Gonzalez signing signifies retool instead of rebuild

July 26, 2013

By Nick Tricome

At this point, the Phillies will probably be sellers at the trade deadline, after losing their sixth straight game to Detroit on Friday night to fall to 49-54.

Although the 2013 season may be lost, that didn't stop the Phillies from spending nearly $60 million while they struggled to get hits off the Tigers.

The Phillies signed Cuban righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, 26, to a six-year deal with $48 million guaranteed, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Gonzalez will also have an option for a seventh-year worth $11 million.

Gonzalez fled Cuba and defected to Mexico in February and impressed scouts when he pitched in Tijuana, Mexico last month.

With a mid-90s fastball and a changeup, curveball, split-finger fastball and cutter in his arsenal, scouts view him as an immediate contribution in the middle of a Major League team's rotation.

Gonzalez will start out in the Phillies' minor league system, but is expected to be called up to Philadelphia in mid-August.

The fact that the Phillies went out and got the 6'2", 185 pound pitcher, reportedly outbidding Boston to do it, shows that starting from scratch after this season isn't what the team has in mind.

Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz are in the final years of their contracts, Ryan Howard, who has struggled with injury, is under contract for three more years, Jimmy Rollins, who will be 35 next year, is also under contract for 2014 in the last guaranteed year of his deal. Plus, Ruiz, Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee have all been involved in trade rumors as the July 31 deadline quickly approaches.

The core that helped the Phillies win five straight division title continues to get older and some of the pieces that Amaro brought in to keep the team in contention for the NL East crown could be on their way out.

And although the Phillies face missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Gonzalez signing implies that they won't rebuild. Instead, they could be looking to retool and stay competitive in the near future. Going out and spending almost $60 million, the most the Phillies have ever spent on the international market, on an immediate contributor like Gonzalez wouldn't have made any sense otherwise.

Cliff Lee was scratched from his start on Saturday night with a stiff neck, suspiciously coinciding with a report that the Phillies are listening to offers on him.

But with Gonzalez expected to be a middle of the rotation pitcher, perhaps the Phillies will hold on to Lee to have him fill out the rotation's top three with Cole Hamels, him and Gonzalez.

Next season and 2015 have a chance of being down years as well, but Gonzalez's deal could foreshadow things to come.

The Phillies' TV contract with Comcast will expire in 2015, giving them a chance to get a multi-billion deal that will give them a lot more money to spend on players.

So maybe a complete rebuild isn't in the front office's thought process like the fans and media, maybe it's an approach that gets them ready to spend like teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers.

With that said, they really should strengthen up their minor league system. A team can never have too many good prospects and the long-term future will never be unimportant.

(Image from The MLB Nation)

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