Here’s your introduction to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, a Cuban right-hander who is poised to get the next major payday among international players.
Gonzalez, 26, has taken up residency in Mexico while he waits to be unblocked by the U.S. Treasury Department. That could happen as soon as next week, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. While he can’t sign with an MLB team yet, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler hears that “about 45 scouts” were in attendance last night when he threw for the Tijuana Toros. The Cubs apparently had the largest presence, but Knobler writes that the Dodgers “badly want” to sign him. The Red Sox and Angels are among the other teams who watched Gonzalez last night.
Gonzalez is older than 23 and played in Cuba’s top league for more than three seasons, so he will not be subject to MLB’s international spending cap. In other words, there will be no restriction on what he’ll be paid. Some are saying he could get a contract in the $40-60 million range.
Gonzalez stands at 6-foot-3 and Sanchez writes that he “has a fastball in the mid-90s, a changeup, fork and a curveball.” He made a name for himself at the 2010 University Baseball Championships in Tokyo and the Baseball World Cup in 2009 and 2011, but barely pitched in Cuba over the past two seasons, as he was suspended for attempting to leave the country. He finally fled earlier this year.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.