Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is set to sign with a MLB team at some point in the very near future, possibly even this week. As a hard-throwing 26-year old who has thrived in international play and is widely considered to be someone who could slot into a big league rotation the second he signs his contract, just about every team in baseball wants Gonzalez. The Angels are amongst that group, but they don't just want him, they NEED him.
As you might have heard, the Angels farm system is the suckiest thing that ever sucked. It is largely devoid of top talent and what little high upside talent they do have is on the position player side of the ledger. When it comes to starting pitcher prospects that can be anything more than a back-end starter, the Angels have very little to offer. There are guys like Austin Wood, Mark Sappington, Reid Scoggins and Michael Clevinger, but two of those guys are injured and the whole lot of them project as being more likely to end up as relievers than rotation members and none of them have advanced beyond Advanced-A ball yet. In other words, what little high upside pitching they do have is fraught with risk and years away from being ready. So you see, there is a reason that Jerry Dipoto has been forced to cobble together a rotation with the Joe Blantons and Tommy Hansons of the world and will likely need to continue to do so for years to come unless something changes drastically.
Well, that drastic change is possible and it is named Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. He is the one chance the Angels have at injecting a high-end young arm into their rotation. They don't have anyone they can trade to land a pitching prospect with that kind of profile. Their best trade asset is probably Peter Bourjos and when he was being prominently mentioned in trade rumors he was mostly linked to being involved in swaps for relievers or inning-eater type starting pitchers. Trade pieces just aren't assets that the Angels have.
What they do have is money. Alas, with the new restrictive spending rules in the amateur draft and international signing market, the Angels can't use their financial clout to gobble up top prospects. But Gonzalez is an exception to those rules as he is being considered a free agent, not a prospect. This is the exact scenario where the Angels should be going all out to bolster the foundation of their roster with young talent. Thus far though, they haven't shown much interest in doing so, at least not publicly. We know they scouted Ryu Hyun-Jin, but it isn't clear if they made a bid. Aside from Ryu and Fujikawa, they've shown almost no interest in any other international free agents.
There is certainly risk involved in pursuing Gonzalez and paying him $60 million or more with him having virtually no track record. But should that really scare off the Angels? They've taken big risks with the contracts they gave to Pujols and Hamilton already. An offer to Gonzalez would arguably be safer considering it is a fraction of the money Hamilton and Pujols got and that Gonzalez is actually, you know, entering his physical prime rather than exiting it. Much like Dipoto, oh who am I kidding, Moreno thought when he signed Pujols and Hamilton, the Angels were addressing a need. Pujols and Hamilton met the need of having big bats in the middle of the order. Gonzalez fills a need too.
Just look at the Angels' current rotation options. Weaver is the de facto ace, but he has shown some frightening signs of decline. C.J. Wilson is 32 years old and hasn't lived up to his billing as a top-end pitcher. Jason Vargas is a nice inning eater who is also going to be a free agent after the season. Tommy Hanson is young, but his arm appears to be deteriorating at a rapid pace, which could lead the Halos to non-tender him after the season. Joe Blanton is, unfortunately, Joe Blanton. Jerome Williams has been decent this year, but is nothing more than a number five starter. You could also factor in Garrett Richards and his impressive velocity and stuff that has translated to him repeatedly blowing his shot in the rotation and pitching poorly in relief. That group has a pretty bleak outlook three years from now. Heck, that group has a pretty bleak outlook six months from now.
Gonzalez can help change that. He'd be the only member of the rotation that is both under 30 and improving. Even if he never reaches his ceiling and settles in as a mid-rotation guy, that is still filling a HUGE need for the Angels. They aren't going to get another chance to land a player like that for a few years and who knows what state this roster will be in by then. The time for them to strike is now.
Obviously, the Angels can only control what offer they make. Other big budget teams like the Red Sox and Dodgers are said to be very interested in Gonzalez and will be making large offers. In fact, the prevailing opinion is that the Dodgers are going to use their deep pockets to make an offer that blows everyone else out of the water, just to make sure they get him. That may strike some as reckless, but that is what the Dodgers did with Yasiel Puig and that has worked out pretty well so far. Of course, one could also say that the Angels were reckless with their spending on Pujols and Hamilton and that those haven't worked out well. But if making high-risk, high-reward moves is part of your philosophy, it would only make sense to apply that same logic to pursuing Gonzalez. Sometimes you lose on those risky bets but sometimes you win and the Angels badly need a win. A win that could take the form of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.