May 20: The Phillies will also have a scout in attendance when Maya throws tomorrow, writes the Philadelphia Daily News' David Murphy, though he adds the team doesn't currently consider Maya a serious option for either the bullpen or rotation.
May 19:The latest model from Cuba is now officially on the showroom floor. Nine months after defecting, pitcher Yunesky Maya* has been cleared to sign as a free agent, reports Jorge Ebro at El Nuevo Herald (link in Spanish). Maya's agent, Bart Hernandez, tells Ebro that interest has been "tremendous" thus far in the 28-year-old longtime anchor of the Cuban National Team rotation. Count the Yankees at minimum among the interested, as the New York Post's Brian Costello and George A. King III reported this morning that senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman will be on hand to watch Maya at a workout this Friday in the Dominican Republic.
The obvious starting point for scouting Maya is through comparison with another former Cuban National Series standout who stepped from the 2009 World Baseball Classic to defection and the Major League auction block: Aroldis Chapman. Maya is at least six years older and right-handed, but on the other hand, boasts far more competitive experience and, by all accounts, a fuller arsenal of secondary pitches. Maya told Terreno de Pelota's Uziel Gomez last September he alternates between a 94-mile-an-hour heater, slider, change-up, curve, and sinker, a repertoire which scouts backed up after seeing Maya in action at a workout late last year.
In the 48th National Series that ended last year, Maya ended second to Chapman in strikeouts, 119 to 130, but outdistanced the younger pitcher in the league's equivalent of the Cy Young, thanks to Maya's superior overall stats: 13-4, seven complete games, and a 2.22 ERA in 145 IP. In six Cuban campaigns, Maya managed a 48-29 record with a 2.51 ERA and was also lights-out in both of his brief appearances at the WBC.
Among potential suitors Ebro mentions the Mets and White Sox, two teams that showed early interest in Chapman but didn't stick around to the final stages of the sweepstakes. The Red Sox have been known to be interested as well, though Rob Bradford at WEEI quoted a source in February indicating that Maya was more likely to choose a team where he had a better shot of immediately cracking the rotation. While it's true that Maya worked largely as a starter in Cuba, he told Gomez in September that he is open to relief work and willing to do "whatever the team that signs me needs." What is seemingly more important to the player and his agent, judging by their respective quotes to the Spanish-language press, is that teams approach Maya as a polished talent who is big-league ready right now.
* Maya has been dubbed Yuniesky, Yunieski, Yuneski, and Yunesky with almost equal frequency in published reports both stateside and in Cuba. Terreno de Pelota's Uziel Gomez gave some clarity to MLB Trade Rumors in an e-mail this morning, saying that Yunesky Maya Mendiluza is the name on the player's official documents.