The current location of major Cuban ballplayers Yulieski Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel is still unknown after their recent defection, but they tell MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez that they are training in secret in preparation for a move to a big league organization. As Sanchez notes, such an “underground” approach is not uncommon for players seeking to complete their journey away from Cuba.
There are many obstacles still left for the brothers to navigate, of course, but their intentions are not in doubt. “I know there are a lot of people who worried about us,” said Yulieski, “but we are working hard and training every day to accomplish our dreams to play in the Major Leagues.”
Notably, the pair does have hopes of signing as a package, which is certainly an intriguing possibility. “We would like to play together on the same team, have my brother near me,” Yulieski tells Sanchez. “But if the circumstances don’t permit it and we have to go different paths, that’s what we will do.”
As that quote hints, there very well could be a variety of practicalities that make a common team unlikely. For one thing, the elder Yulieski would likely do well to sign shortly after reaching eligibility, both to increase his value as a near-term contributor and to speed his ascent to the majors. But his younger sibling would need to wait until he turns 23 — and thereby sheds bonus pool limitations — to maximize his earnings.
Needless to say, it also isn’t clear whether the same teams that will be most interested in adding a veteran third baseman will also be best-positioned to make a more future-looking investment in Lourdes. Of course, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has recently suggested, the package concept could also provide some wiggle room for navigating MLB’s rules.
One important question is whether Yulieski has, as reported, achieved Panamanian residency. He declined to address that matter with Sanchez, but did say that he hopes to join a major league organization “this year” and has intentions “to play as soon as possible.” Notably, Panama’s top immigration officer has denied that Yulieski has current residency, per this Spanish-language link to La Prensa.