Latin Link: Los Angeles Dodgers look to land another Cuban phenom
While several top teams are preparing for crunch time in an effort to improve their postseason hopes, the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t too concerned about the July 31 deadline. And that’s understandable.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, arguably the best team on paper in the National League, are starting to get healthy. Players with superstar egos, like the talented but moody Hanley “El Nino” Ramirez, are starting to learn the meaning of the word team. And who can forget about Yasiel Puig, the electric rookie right fielder with the rocket arm and flashy style?
Puig, as we know, was a free-agent gift from Fidel and Raulito Castro. Now, Los Angeles Dodger general manager Ned Colletti is counting on his “Cuban Connection” to deliver a coveted pitcher who will put his team over the top. As usual, money is never an obstacle.
It has been reported from reliable sources that the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to acquire the services of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, a free-agent right-handed pitcher, in a five-year, $50 million deal. Gonzalez had been pursued by heavyweight teams like the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers, and that’s not the complete list. The word is out, though, that Los Angeles had the inside track because Gonzalez, whose agent, Jaime Torres, also represents Puig. And it’s interesting that Yasiel’s pact was for $42 million over seven years, less lucrative than what has been offered his countryman.
A lanky athlete who has a high leg kick, a la Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, the hard-throwing Gonzalez has a lively, moving fast ball to go along with a plus breaking pitch and a fork ball. He was a key pitcher on the Cuban national team during the World Cup and the Pan American Games through 2009-11. Defecting to Mexico via El Salvador earlier this year, Gonzalez has been living in Tijuana while his visa is being processed, and has occasionally played for the local Toros club.
I saw Gonzalez pitch one evening in Tijuana when about 50 major league scouts and baseball people were present. The guy is a bit rusty and has some delivery issues, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a short stint in the minor leagues. Like all Cuban players of esteem, he seems to love the limelight and attention.
Can Gonzalez help the Los Angeles Dodgers, or any top major-league team for the stretch run? Absolutely. And nobody is throwing in the towel. But Magic Johnson, the Dodgers point man, has set the bar very high in the bidding war, and the NBA icon usually gets his way.