Earlier this week, Nevada Speeders GM Scott Dummler has landed one of the biggest free agent deals this offseason, signing outfielder Hugo Gonzales to a 2-year, $23.5 million deal.
This means the annual $11.75 million to 32-year-old Dominican is the biggest deal, on an annual basis, since December 16, when Jacksonville signed Roberto Castro for $12.45 million.
The right-handed batter has had an extensive and successful baseball career starting in 2006, when he played for Seattle. He played 269 games over the next six seasons, and then was traded in 2011 to California, where he won his first Bull Cup Championship the following season.
But at the end of that season, with the Tidals in transition, Gonzo left for free agency and signed a three-year contract with the Montreal Metros, where despite the short service, he put up career high numbers, like his 2014 batting average of .353, and his 33 RBIs the next season.
Though never a power hitter, the speedy center fielder has been adept at run scoring, as well as putting on an excellent defensive show which has earned him a pair of Platinum Glove Awards.
In 2017, playing for Rimouski, he finally made an All-Star Game appearance, and at age 31 scored 64 runs, knocked 114 hits, and batted in 42 runs, while maintaining a .282 average.
There is just one free agent left who is expected to sign for a deal over $10 million, Dao-zi Ling, who played for the Calgary Inferno last year. Montreal and Rimouski are said to be in talks with the power-hitting catcher, who is a 3-time MVP, and both teams are looking to improve at that position.
Of the two, Rimouski has the biggest budget available, as Montreal’s projected payroll crests at around the $140 million mark, compared to the Fighting Moose, who hover around $132 million. But the Metros have an even larger projected 2019 payroll, and about $26 million in arbitration estimates for the end of the 2018 season, leaving them even worse off when considering any multi-year deals.
The smaller market Rimouski might end up swaying a deal with Ling, joining the other big-dollar names on the roster such as Alan Isimo, Zenjiro Suga, Masamune Yamada, Rogelio Berreras, and ace starter Lou Bricknell.
With those players as the foundation of a solid power-hitting infield, LF and #1 starter, the Moose could easily replace Montreal as the dominant LL East team for the next several seasons, while the Metros phase out their ageing veterans saddled with high-priced deals.