From Cuban website

Another Cuban Pitcher... What? Braves Interested?

It would seem that Cuba is once again having serious problems in keeping its citizens on their island.  In particular, baseball players seem to be leaking out in droves.  Just yesterday, word came that pitcher Misael Silverio escaped from team control on Tuesday while attending an exhibition in Iowa (compared to most defectors, this was apparently an easy escape).

Last night, Jesse Sanchez of posted a story about fellow Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who defected from Cuba early this year.  On Monday, he was granted an “unblocking license” from the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (did you know such an agency existed?  Or that it apparently matters in terms of signing foreign-born baseball players?)This – beyond being granted free agency by major league baseball itself – allows him to sign with a professional baseball club.

I’ll cut to the chase.  The Braves are said to be interested in him.

He could be a little rusty.  Cuba suspended the 26-year-old Gonzalez from the national team a couple of years ago since he got caught trying to escape.  [ Yasiel Puig (you may have heard of him) was said to have attempted to leave Cuba close to 20 times before being successful... and there's a story that members of a Mexican drug cartel could have supplied him with the assistance needed to finally be successful.  Clearly, these people want to get out of Cuba.  And clearly, there are risky levels to which many will stoop to achieve that goal. ]  But while he is old-ish for a pitching prospect, the reports indicate that he could be major league ready – very soon.  Like “this season” soon.

What’s he got?  According to Sanchez, he’s right-handed, has a mid-90′s fastball, changeup, forkball, and curve.  He has already competed in high-level tournaments in Tokyo and in World Baseball Cup (not the ‘Classic’) games between 2009 and 2011.  Reports are that a few minor league starts might be sufficient to get him into the majors.

Who Wants Him?  Well, frankly, it’s probably anybody looking for starting pitching here at the trade deadline.  Sanchez lists these teams as the Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox for sure.  He also specifically mentioned the Phillies, Blue Jays and Braves.  Bleacher Report listed the Angels as well, which could make sense, though their payroll is bulging. The Cubs are also seriously in on him, though certainly not for help this year.  Of these teams, the Dodgers already won the bidding for Puig, and the Cubs did for Jorge Soler.

Why So Much Interest?  A couple of reasons:  the ‘major-league ready’ thing is obviously important.  The scouts seeing him in showcase events have obviously been impressed.  For a pitcher, this also means that he’s more of a ‘sure thing’ than most prospects – of any age.  That makes the money value more worth the risk.  In addition, with the number of teams seeking pitching now, the demand certainly exceeds the supply (the Ricky Nolasco deal illustrates this for sure), so Gonzalez represents years of quality without having to yield key prospects.

Ah, the money… what about that?  He’s not gonna be cheap.  Gonzalez’ age means that he is in the ‘grandfather clause’ group, and is not subject to the monetary signing restrictions now placed on new International signees (the limit just broken by the Cubs in their own 2013 signing spree). So to give you some ballpark figures…

  • Puig signed for seven years, $42 million. (Dodgers)
  • Yoenis Cespedes signed for 4 years, $36 million (A’s)
  • Jorge Soler signed for 9 years and $30 million (Cubs)
  • Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the Dodgers for 6 years, $36 million (plus a $23.7m posting fee)

I would not be surprised if Gonzalez goes for something in the range of 4-5 years and $40-$60 million.

Can the Braves afford that?  Kinda.  New money from the new national TV deals and restructured local deals help a bunch.  Honestly, the idea of bringing in a possible ‘ace’ could provide sway to help get some of the youngsters (Freeman, Heyward, etc.) into longer term deals.  Other contracts would have to come off the books for next year to help, though (McCann? Maholm? Hudson?).  But let’s not worry about that unless this actually happens.

When Will This Happen?  Could be very soon… before the trade deadline for sure.  Once the bidding starts… and it’s now “on”, these internationals typically don’t wait very long before getting inked to a deal.

So what if we miss out on him?  There are more coming.  Jesse Sanchez also cites Dalier Hinojosa (27 years old) who has now also been cleared to sign with any team.  Odrisamer Despaigne (26) has also defected and in in Barcelona (yes, Spain) while he is in the process of being cleared to sign.  Further out are 19-year-old Leandro Linares (he would be cheaper since he’s subject to the international monetary restrictions on signing, but would not be major-league ready) and Silverio, mentioned above.

This would be a significant departure in form for Atlanta, though the were some rumblings of interest in some of the prior defectors available.  Then again, we do have this Cuban-born manager…

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

  • carpengui

    I’d like to take a quick look at the teams said to be “in” on Gonzalez for a minute (and there are more than I initially posted):

    1. Blue Jays – possible, but their payroll explosion (with limited results) could pose a bidding problem for them. Also not sure if a Canadian city makes a ton of sense for Gonzalez.
    2. Angels – payroll issues
    3. Dodgers – payroll not an issue, but space is: Kershaw, Ryu, Greinke, Capuano, Nolasco…. and Billingham back next year. Now Nolasco and Capuano have expiring contracts (Capuano with a mutual option), so they could stash Gonzalez until 2014, so…. the idea of playing with Puig might very well be attractive to him.
    4. Phillies – not without dumping some payroll… which they could choose to do.
    5. Red Sox – Very possible.
    6. Cubs – I would call them ‘very involved’ (think Jorge Soler), but still a bit of a long shot.
    7. Marlins – geographically, this makes perfect sense. But I gotta think the agent involved would recommend another team.
    8. Twins – they just can’t/won’t compete with the money involved.
    9. Yankees – this would definitely be a “Yankees style move”. They might have a plan to shed some dollars to make this happen.

    10. Atlanta – The Braves could have as much as $38 million coming off the books this off-season (Hudson, Maholm, EOF, Venters, McCann, R. Johnson, C. Johnson). They will also have new ESPN money available.

    If they want to jump on this contract, now would be the time.

    • fireboss

      “. . . Billingham back next year.. . .” And I hear that Billingsley will be back too :)

      Wren isn’t a leading edge guy, he prefers that others take the risk, prove the concept and break ground before taking part. He wasn’t in on Cespedes or Soler but has seen the A’s success watched other teams move after Cuban defectors and seen Puigmania, Now he feels it’s safe to join the party conservatively . So the move for the “rusty” and older arm fits the Wren M.O. He will be less expensive and less sought after amongst the flood – okay steady trickle – of defectors lately. He followed a similar tack before going for older and lesser know Kawakami instead of Japanese players with a better pedigree and we know he’s a creature of habit in the marketplace.

      • carpengui

        You caught me! Yeah, Jack Billingham would be surprised to hear that, too (I did that again this morning before catching myself on a search).

        It’s kinda funny, too: Billngham was from Winter Park, FL (next door to my home town of Orlando) and BillingsLEY is from my wife’s home town – Defiance, OH).

        But yeah – pursuing Cubans is not our style, though there WERE some rumblings that the Braves were looking at a couple of recent guys – I think Soler was one. Ennyhow – check the new post: I think there’s a good argument for going after him.

        • cheadrick

          I said in another comment for another post that I’ll believe we go after Gonzalez when I see it.

        • fireboss

          I wouldn’t mind venturing into that market if I felt Wren had a grasp on it but I don’t. I wanted us to be in on Soler and we could easily have afforded him at the time considering what the Cubbies paid but I never heard anything solid that said we looked with more than a passing glance. That could have been a hangover from failing miserably with KK or it could just be bad scouting and bad intelligence on what he might want. I have no way of being sure but I feel our scouting has changed over the last 10 years or so and scouting like all management is a reflection of the attitudes and preferences of the GM. So perhaps they are the same thing.

          I always hope our FA signings are winners and I hope he finds good one to sign. If our defector is Jose Contreras because of his veteran presence I may actually got to Atlanta and kick down his door….

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