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Yuliesky Gourriel Rumors
Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gourriel and his brother Lourdes, a shortstop, have agreed to deals with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan, Baseball America’s Ben Badler notes. 30-year-old Yulieski, long considered one of Cuba’s best players, hit .305/.349/.536 for Yokohama last season.
Badler notes, though, that it’s Lourdes who might be more interesting to Major League scouts right now, since he’s clearly talented and yet less of a known quantity. Lourdes, who’s 21, has hit .326/.402/.486 this season in 214 plate appearances for Industriales in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. Badler writes that teams are keenly interested in getting a closer look at Lourdes, who would be a key player to them should relations between the U.S. and Cuba keep improving. For now, the Cuban government brokers deals for some players (such as Alfredo Despaigne) to appear in Japan, with those players coming back to Cuba each offseason.
In addition to the news on a pair of Korean southpaws, the Angels made major international news earlier today by reportedly agreeing to an $8MM signing bonus with 20-year-old Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin. That signing will prevent the Angels from signing any player from the next two international signing periods for more than $300K and will also require them to pay a 100 tax on each dollar spent over their $2.383MM international bonus pool.
Here are some more international notes from around the league…
- Ben Badler of Baseball America has updates on his Top 10 Cuban prospects (which will eventually be re-ranked with second basemen Jose Fernandez, Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez leaving the island). Badler notes that top stars Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne have reinforced their status as the most talented players in the league by dominating this past season in Nippon Professional Baseball. He also discusses right-hander Norge Ruiz‘s recovery from a rough first outing and an injury to well-regarded righty Vladimir Garcia.
- Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani is expected to attempt to jump to Major League Baseball this season, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post within his Top 10 Free Agent predictions. (Toritani doesn’t rank among Sherman’s Top 10.) The 33-year-old shortstop is perceived as a slick fielder, though his .285/.371/.412 batting line offers a bit of upside as well.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Cuban free agent Yasmany Hernandez will be reported by Charles Hairston (the cousin of big leaguers Jerry Hairston and Scott Hairston). Hairston works with the agency Culture 39.
Two-time Serie Nacional MVP Yulieski Gourriel has signed a deal with the Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars, according to a report from Nikkan Sports (hat tip: NPB Tracker’s Patrick Newman). Gourriel’s base salary and signing bonus add up to roughly $1MM, according to the Nikkan report.
Gourriel, 29, was one of the top prospects in Cuba last decade and was rumored to be considering a defection to America multiple times. In February 2013, Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote that it is “hard not to imagine what kind of career Gourriel would have had if he had been in the United States when he was 18,” when he was already one of Serie Nacional’s best hitters prior to consecutive MVPs at ages 20 and 21. In a separate piece last August, Badler called Gourriel one of the “most divisive and frustrating players for scouts,” noting that some felt his best days are already behind him.
Badler notes that Gourriel hit .325/.400/.500 last year and still looks like a star when he’s at his best, but he did little to impress in the Caribbean Series and the friendship series against the U.S. college national team last August. Gourriel won’t be the only notable Cuban player in NPB this season. Longtime Major Leaguer Yuniesky Betancourt and former Rays farmhand Leslie Anderson are both currently in the league as well.
Though plenty of good arms are still free on this year's open market, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs proposes a look ahead at next year's crop of starters. By Cameron's reckoning, the current market price to buy out a free agent year of a top-level starter is between $20MM and $28MM, over a five or six year term. There are two tiers among the five best starters, according to the ZIPS and Steamer projection systems: Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Jon Lester in the first grouping, and Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson, in the second. Of course, several of those hurlers could be locked up by the time the market opens anew next fall. You can find a fully updated list of players set to become free agents next year right here.
Here are some notes on some other free agent situations around the game:
- The Mariners appear to be "very much in [the] mix" for right-handed reliever Fernando Rodney, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Seattle was recently said to be showing strong interest in Rodney, who stands as the last of the premium late-inning relievers on the open market.
- Fellow reliever Carlos Marmol is in talks with three teams and could soon reach agreement on a deal, tweets Heyman. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported a month back that the talented-but-turbulent Marmol had been speaking with three clubs and that a big league deal was being discussed.
- Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gourriel hopes to have a chance to play outside of his native island, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The 29-year-old looked to be a major international target after the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but never defected. (Last MLBTR checked in on Gourriel, there were incorrect rumors that he had done so.) Gourriel still has MLB-caliber ability, Pirates international scouting director Rene Gayo tells Sanchez, though his luster has faded somewhat as he has exhibited signs of "playing a little bit bored" in his current setting. Gourriel says he is hoping for Cuban authorities to permit him to play abroad, as was allowed Cuban star Alfredo Despaigne, but was not granted permission when he tried last year.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune notes that the ’06 World Baseball Classic was the coming out party for Kosuke Fukudome and Alexei Ramirez, and gives us a list of players that could be playing for big league contracts in this year’s WBC.
Rogers lists Yu Darvish (Japan), Hyun-jin Ryu and Suk Min Yoon (Korea) along with Albertin Chapman, Yuniesky Maya and Yuliesky Gourriel (Cuba) as the players that could be playing for future millions.
Remember how we thought Cuban superstar Yuliesky Gourriel had defected? Not so, according to a couple of sources.
Prensa Latina indicates that Gourriel returned to Cuba on Thursday. And the Westchester Journal News calls the rumor "untrue" (scroll down). Thanks to RotoWire for the tip. Looks like one of the most intriguing free agents is not available, after all.
According to Will Carroll, Cuban third baseman Yuliesky Gourriel has defected. I’ll try to relay what I’ve learned about Gourriel, who is likely to become quite the hot commodity in short order.
Gourriel is approximately 21 years old. At least, that’s his reported age. He’s a third baseman but has experience at second as well. Last winter he flashed immense power at the baseball World Cup with eight home runs in eleven games; he also performed well in the WBC.
Baseball America indicates that Gourriel would certainly be a first-round pick if he came up through the American system. A scout describes him as "a championship-caliber third baseman in the big leagues." BA likens him to Chipper Jones or Ernie Banks as far as body type and gushes over his bat speed.
Gourriel accomplished his defection via Colombia. That country’s Bogota Times said "it appears that his next destination would be the New York Yankees."