Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been drawing plenty of interest around MLB, but teams have been unable to bid on him because he had to secure an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) first. The wait is officially over.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that Gonzalez has been cleared by the U.S. government and is now free to sign with any team. The bidding is expected to move pretty quickly, as Sanchez hears that a deal could come together within the next two weeks.
Gonzalez defected from Cuba earlier this year and took up residency in Mexico while waiting to be cleared to come to the United States. The 26-year-old stands at 6-foot-3 and was described by Sanchez as having “a fastball in the mid-90s, a changeup, fork and a curveball.”
Because Gonzalez is older than 23 years old and played in Cuba’s top league for more than three seasons, he will not be subject to MLB’s international spending cap. One recent report suggested he could get a deal in the range of $40-60 million. The Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the teams expected to be in the mix.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.