Gonzalez is just 26, and scouts who have seen him throw said he is close to Major League ready.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has bristled at the notion the Phillies might "blow up" their roster or enter a rebuilding phase. He said with players like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and others under contract next season, they will not start from scratch.
Gonzalez's imminent arrival certainly drives home that point.
The Phillies typically have not made big splashes on the international market, at least not like this. Their largest signing bonus at the international level came in 2001, when they signed South Korean right-hander Seung Lee to a $1.2 million signing bonus. He never reached the big leagues.
Amaro said recently teams that paid big money for Cuban players -- like the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who received $42 million -- did so with considerable risk.
"Good for them; they did the right thing," Amaro said of the Dodgers. "It's a huge risk. It's paid off, so far. We looked at them and had interesting conversations with their people. But people decided it was worth the risk to go and throw big-time money at guys. You hope those things work out. Hideki Irabu didn't work out. [Jose] Contreras worked out on certain levels. [Rey] Ordonez. Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka]. It's a risk."
This certainly would seem to fall in that same category.
Gonzalez threw for scouts twice last month in Tijuana, Mexico. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s and touched 97 mph. He also throws a changeup, forkball and curveball.
Gonzalez's signing is exempt from new international signing limits because he is at least 23 and played in Cuba for more than three seasons.
Gonzalez fled Cuba earlier this year. He ended up in El Salvador and worked out for a month in Mexico City before getting to Tijuana.
Representatives for the 6-foot-3 Gonzalez submitted paperwork to the United States Department of Treasury for the purposes of unblocking him in February and began petitioning Major League Baseball for free agency a month later. Gonzalez filed a copy of his residency card from Mexico -- the final step to becoming a free agent -- to the Commissioner's Office at the end of May and was cleared by the U.S. government to enter into an agreement with a Major League club last week.
The Phillies jumped at the opportunity to sign him. Some scouts say he is a middle-of-the-rotation starter. If that is true, he could be a nice complement to Lee, Hamels and possibly Roy Halladay, who is a free agent after the season.