Juan Yasser Serrano Rumors

Cubs Reach Agreement With Juan Yasser Serrano

5:57pm: Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald has some updated information on the signing (in Spanish), thanks to an interview with Serrano's agent, Jaime Torres.

Torres confirms that the deal is for $250K, and Ebro writes that Serrano is actually 22 years old. Contrary to previous reports, Ebro writes that Serrano has passed a "rigorous physical examination." He will report to extended spring training in Arizona before heading to the Cubs' single-A affiliate in Dayton.

12:43pm: The Cubs reached an agreement with Serrano, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.  She notes that the deal is not expected to be finalized for another month, because paperwork must be completed and Serrano must pass his physical.

8:54am: The Cuban baseball news blog cubanballplayers.com reports that right-handed pitching prospect Juan Yasser Serrano "may have signed" a $250K contract with the Cubs.  MLBTR has learned that while Serrano has not signed, the Cubs are in discussions with his representatives. 

Serrano defected from Cuba in April of 2009, but as a reminder of what that term signifies, he was also arrested for attempted illegal departure in January. Upon finally arriving in Miami, he took up with popular Cuban agent Jaime Torres in time to see his name pop up in a few stretch run signing rumors. This winter, Serrano has been connected to at least 10 teams.

When reporting Serrano's defection in April, Jorge Ebro at the Miami-based Nuevo Herald mentioned that the pitcher had been 16 when he appeared in his first Cuban Serie Nacional, in 2006 for the Villa Clara Orangemen. That would make him either 20 or 21 now.


Red Sox Still In On Ruiz

Earlier this week, the Blue Jays appeared to be taking the lead in the race to sign Cuban first base prospect Jose Julio Ruiz. But don't count out the Red Sox yet, says ESPN's Jorge Arangure, Jr. in a recent blog post.

Arangure cites a "source knowledgeable about the situation" as saying that the Red Sox are still actively pursuing Ruiz as a low-cost preemptive replacement for David Ortiz, and that the interest is mutual. Ruiz is eyeing Boston, the source says, because he believes he would soon have the opportunity to take Ortiz's spot, even if it means playing in the minors in the short term. This seemingly conflicts with Ruiz's agent Jorge Luis Toca's quote earlier this month that "the idea is to find a team where he'll have the best opportunity to rise the quickest," but on the other hand, Ortiz's slow start in 2009 didn't make him look like a huge roadblock. The team holds a $12.5MM club option for Ortiz in 2011, which if declined could make for an easy transition.

The Red Sox are said to be looking at the 25-year-old defector much in the same way that they looked at Ortiz when he was released by the Twins at age 28: a big (Ortiz is 6'4"; Ruiz is 6'3") lefty masher whose stats "augur an eventual breakout season." To wit, Arangure quotes the Latin American scouting director of a National League team as saying, "Ruiz is a David Ortiz-looking dude." Ruiz was also favorably compared to Carlos Delgado when he first defected in June of 2009. 

Of course, none of this is to rule out the possibility that the Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Arangure quotes "sources close to" the Padres first baseman as saying that while the Red Sox are not actively pursuing him at the moment, Gonzalez considers a trade to Boston "inevitable."

Other links from the threshold between major league baseball and world baseball…

  • The Braves signed 21-year-old Nicaraguan shortstop Ivan Marin to a minor league contract on February 10, reports Oscar Gonzalez at La Prensa.
  • Cuban pitcher Juan Yasser Serrano held a private tryout for the Rays last Wednesday, according to the Cuban baseball blog Las Avispas.
  • Former major leaguer Randall Simon has signed with the Rockford Riverhawks of the independent Northern League, reports baseballdeworld.com. Simon hasn't logged a big league PA since 2004, but he has remained active in Europe, most recently in the Italian Baseball League and for the upstart Dutch national team in last year's World Baseball Classic.

Cuban Links: Ruiz, Anderson, Serrano

Get out the Spanish-English dictionary and put on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

  • Morgan Campbell at the Toronto Star posits that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos' recent scouting trip to the Dominican Republic could mean the team is "closing in" on Jose Julio Ruiz. Yesterday, Ruiz's trainer told the Nuevo Herald that the first baseman's most recent tryout, his "last before signing," was against Blue Jays players. The blog cubanballplayers.com also reported on Tuesday that Ruiz had a private tryout with the Jays. Both the team and Prestige Sports Agency, which represents Ruiz, remain mum on any communication.
  • Cuban first baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson tells Angel Mazariego of the Mexican newspaper Sipse that he is willing to play in Mexico this season if nothing materializes for him in the majors. Anderson lists the Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, Giants and Brewers as the teams he knows to have scouted him recently. Mazariego adds the Dodgers and Tigers to the list.
  • Amaury Perez Torres at the Cuban baseball blog Las Avispas cites a "source close to" pitching prospect Juan Yasser Serrano saying that the right-hander has worked out for 10 major league teams this winter. Most recently, the source says, Serrano struck out four in a two-inning simulation for the Cubs on February 19, with a fastball that touched 93.
  • If it seems like there is more chatter about Cuban defectors than ever before, that's no coincidence, writes Campbell in the Toronto Star. In a lengthy article, he outlines how more Cuban players are now aiming at the major leagues thanks to the success of Kendry Morales and Yunel Escobar, neither of whom was a starter in Cuba. Equally significant was the contract that third base prospect Dayan Viciedo signed with the White Sox in 2008. A Cuban baseball expert in Canada tells Campbell that Viciedo made players on the island think, "If he can get $10 million, then what am I worth?"
  • Speaking of Morales, Jorge Arangure Jr. adds a new dimension to the first baseman's recent switch from Hendricks Sports Management to Scott Boras in an article in ESPN the Magazine. Rodney Fernandez, who recruited both Morales and Aroldis Chapman for Kendricks, is being investigated by the MLBPA and Florida police in regard to $300K that disappeared from Morales' bank account.


Odds And Ends: Cubans, Waivers, Indians, A’s

A few more links to look through…