Phils reach deal with Cuban star

BY Ken Rosenthal • July 26, 2013

Are the Phillies preparing to dismantle, or building for the future?

The contract agreement Philadelphia reached with Cuban free-agent right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on Friday night might offer a hint into the team’s plans.

The Phillies could use their increased depth to trade another starter — specifically, left-hander Cliff Lee. More likely, they will attempt to restructure their team around a rotation that will become even deeper with the addition of Gonzalez.

The news of Gonzalez’s signing was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who said the deal would be for more than $50 million over six years, with a chance to reach $60 million, including bonus money.

Gonzalez, 26, impressed scouts in a series of workouts, and also drew interest from the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, among other clubs. Where he would fit into a rotation — at the top or near the bottom — is a subject of debate among baseball people.

Some scouts say Gonzalez could contribute in the majors this season, but he has not pitched competitively since 2011. Gonzalez was suspended for attempting to defect, and also underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow during that time.

The Gonzalez deal, however, was not to salvage the Phillies’ current season — that would be a bonus. No, the Phillies’ more likely motivation was to maintain a strong rotation for 2014 and beyond.

While Lee remains a subject of trade speculation, some Phillies officials have spoken privately about the possibility of retooling around Lee and fellow lefty Cole Hamels. What’s more, the chances of Lee getting moved before Wednesday’s non-waiver deadline diminished Friday night when he was scratched from his Saturday start due to a stiff neck.

Lee is signed through '15, Hamels through '18. Right-hander Kyle Kendrick is under the Phillies’ control through '14. The team also holds a $20 million club option on injured righty Roy Halladay for '14, and could re-sign him at a reduced rate.

Another option, of course, would be for the Phillies to trade from their newfound depth, and turn Lee into a package of younger prospects — a move that still would be possible during the August waiver period, though Lee’s contract includes a 20-team no-trade clause.

The scratching of Lee from his Saturday start raised suspicions that a deal might be in the works. But Lee told reporters that he planned to see a doctor for his injury, and one of his teammates described it to as “totally legit.”

As for Gonzalez, his deal is not subject to the restrictions on international spending in baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement. Foreign players who are at least 23 and play at least three professional seasons abroad are exempt from the restrictions.