Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is the most interesting international amateur free agent currently available. He is a big, strong right hander who looks the part of a front of rotation starter. He has the mid nineties fastball to pair with an array of other offerings including a curve, change and forkball. Gonzalez is also 26 which means he is part of the last unregulated commodity on the amateur market, and part of the reason why so many teams are interested in the Cuban defector.
Last night was not the first time Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitched competitively since defecting. As part of his showcase last week he threw three perfect innings for Toros de Tijuana. He struck out 6 batters as well, and was pretty dominant with a fastball that hit 97. Also showcased a 91 mph cutter according to Yahoo! Sports. Though one scout, at least, came away with the impression that Gonzalez would not be ready to step into a major league rotation this year:
Dissenting view from an official who saw Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez: Very good stuff but probably not in a position to help a team this season.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 24, 2013
Last night was the first time I was aware that anyone could watch him pitch for free. The Toros game began at the same time as the Cubs started to play in Seattle. Jesse Sanchez was the person who alerted me to this fact, and reminded us what MRubio has said that beisbol is fun and sometimes #weird.
About to watch Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitch via an online broadcast & the pregame is nothing out of the ordinary. pic.twitter.com/Xv4b9cfHLw
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) June 29, 2013
The picture gives a good representation of what the resolution was like for most of the broadcast. It was grainy to say the least. Adding to the difficulty of watching is the fact that I am stereotypical, monolingual American who had no idea what was being said throughout the broadcast. I wasn't even sure that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was the pitcher I was watching until midway through the first inning when I finally got a clean glimpse of the last name on the back of the jersey. The angle for the broadcast did not do the viewers any favors for those hoping to catch a glimpse of Gonzalez's stuff. The camera was positioned well off to the pitcher's right side and made judging break of pitches virtually impossible. Any hopes for radar gun readings disappeared early in the broadcast, though I counted at least five radar guns popping up behind home plate with every Gonzalez pitch.
Despite all of those difficulties it was still exciting to watch what might be the next Cuban sensation. Gonzalez seems to have a simple and smooth delivery with a high leg kick. Gonzalez worked from the stretch often and in a lot of ways reminded me of Carlos Zambrano with how quick he was to the plate with his slidestep. He also looked very rusty as though he hadn't pitched competitively in years. His command was shaky for most of the night and it appeared like the San Quintin's hitters strategy was to wait Gonzalez out. Gonzalez also appears to be a very deliberate worker on the mound.
The first inning, Gonzalez fell behind the leadoff batter but managed to get a strikeout looking. The next four batters made solid contact off of him. One was a groundball single up the middle. Another was a strong double down the right field line, and the other two were deep flyouts to left center. Gonzalez managed to strand two runners in scoring position without yielding a run. The first inning it appeared that he only threw fastballs, and routinely fell behind hitters.
The second inning started off the same way with a strikeout looking. He managed to get ahead of the hitter early, but struggled to put him away. San Quintin managed to foul off a lot of Gonzalez's pitches which again seemed to mostly be fastballs. The next batter created the most drama of the night. Gonzalez made a 1-1 pitch that the umpire called a ball. It was clear that Gonzalez was upset with the call. On the 2-2 pitch, Gonzalez gave up a slicing line drive down the right field line for the second double of the night. After the pitch, the catcher, manager and trainer all came to the mound to look at Gonzalez. It appeared like they were looking at his hand, but given the resolution and inability to hear the commentary it is impossible for me to say. He took a couple of warmup tosses after that and stayed in the game. He came back with back to back strike outs. He buckled a left handers knees with one pitch, and got another strike out looking on a breaking ball.
The third inning began with a leadoff single. The runner then attempted to steal second and the throw, which beat the runner, bounced into center field. The runner advanced to third. Gonzalez got a groundball that he made a nifty play to field himself. He managed to hold the runner at third with the play, but gave the run up anyway with a very hard hit double to the next batter. That batter attempted to steal third but was thrown out on a somewhat controversial call. The throw again beat him, but I believe the runner thought he wasn't tagged. He had to be pulled away from the umpire by his third base coach. Gonzalez came back to get the next batter with another stikeout looking on a breaking pitch. Gonzalez ended the night giving up one run on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. The run was unearned because of the throwing error allowing the runner to advance two bases, but Gonzalez was less than stellar that night.
The league that the Toros de Tijuana play in is called Liga Norte de Mexico. It is a feeder league into the Mexican League which is considered AAA classification. It would probably be fair to consider this league about AA level. Gonzalez had an off night with a potential health scare, according to Bleacher Nation he is coming off of recent arm surgery as well but can't find any mention of it elsewhere. He is also likely to get a crazy amount of money for a guy to have never thrown a major league pitch. Where does this leave the Cubs?
There is no question that the Cubs are monitoring the situation with Gonzalez closely. According to Danny Knobler, the Cubs were heavily represented at Gonzalez's start last night. The Cubs could back away after the poor outing, but this was just the second time he has pitched competitively since 2011. The money is going to be key, and the fact that the Dodgers appear to be all in on Gonzalez makes the situation tricky. Estimates have Gonzalez receiving offers anywhere from 40 million to 60 million. I actually wouldn't be surprised if his deal was more like Yoennis Cespedes though, and so the total amount might be lower than Yasiel Puig's 42 million. However, that type of deal would grant the team only four years of control before Gonzalez could re-enter the market at age 30.
This will be an expensive miss for a team if Gonzalez is more Gerardo Concepcion than El Duque. However there is rarely an opportunity to add a pitcher with his stuff at age 26 for just cash. The Cubs need to be all in on this opportunity because there is no prize for second place.