Yuneski Maya Rumors
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.
A rumor by any other name smells just as sweet. Links are in Spanish...
- Pedro Martinez has largely been linked in rumors to National League teams this winter, but Vladimir Guerrero thought recently his former Expo teammate might join him in Arlington. "Early in March, when I reported to Texas' spring training, I heard a fair amount about the possibility that Pedro was going to sign here, but it didn't happen," Guerrero told Juan Mercado at the Dominican paper El Dia. Martinez showed last year he wasn't afraid to pitch the stretch run in a hitter's park, as National League batters actually fared significantly better against Martinez on the road (.322/.362/.517 in 20 IP) than at Citizens Bank Ball Park (.225/.274/.701 in 24 IP) during his two months with the Phillies.
- The flurry of activity this offseason in regard to Cuban prospects is likely "the tip of the iceberg," Rangers scout Juan Alvarez tells the Nuevo Herald's Jorge Ebro. The latest signings from the island, of pitchers Reinier Roibal by the Giants and Sergio Espinosa by the Rays, were relatively low on fanfare, but Ebro quotes a source saying interest is quickly heating up for 27-year-old Cuban right-hander Yuniesky Maya. Maya has been linked this winter primarily to the Red Sox, who reportedly view him as a starter.
- In an interview with the Venezuelan paper El Tiempo, Max Ramirez clarifies recent reports that he is focusing on first base as his quickest route to the Rangers' major league roster. While he admits to taking some grounders, "They still consider me as a catcher and I think that's where I have more opportunities now," Ramirez says. Earlier this week the 25-year-old's name popped up once again as a possible trade chip for Mike Lowell, but that window likely closed for the time being when the Rangers claimed Ryan Garko off waivers yesterday. Nevertheless, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Gil LeBreton recently noted, Ramirez is the odd man out at any position in Texas, especially after the team acquired catcher Matt Treanor from the Brewers.
- Kelvim Escobar is throwing again and will stay in extended spring training for the Mets, but the team isn't counting on having him in the bullpen any time soon. A day before his previously stated April 1 deadline to decide whether to sit out 2010, Escobar told Lider en Deportes' Carlos Valmore Rodriguez that neither he nor the team are throwing up their hands on his one year, $1.25MM contract. Escobar says of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, "They always tell me not to worry, they don't want me in April or May, because that's not when you win the World Series. (They tell me) they need me for a long time, to take my time and not rush myself, to be patient about things."
Monday night linkage..
- Jon Heyman of SI writes that the Dodgers and Rockies have watched Eric Gagne throw and both teams have shown the willingness to take a chance. A few weeks ago we learned that Colorado was thinking about extending a non-roster invite to the 34-year-old.
- The Red Sox might not be close to signing Cuban pitcher Yuniesky Maya, a source familiar with the negotiations tells Rob Bradford of WEEI. There's a good chance that Maya will instead choose a team that offers a better opportunity to immediately enter its starting rotation.
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes that Gary Sheffield would not be a good fit for the Nationals as he wants to play every day. Ladson spoke to a major league source who believes that Sheffield will not accept a role as a backup.
- Jason Beck of MLB.com fielded a question from a reader, asking why the Tigers dealt Curtis Granderson, only to pursue Johnny Damon instead. Beck says that the Granderson trade brought Detroit financial flexibility and prospects. He also credits agent Scott Boras for helping to create an opportunity for Damon.
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told 620-AM WDAE that the club's payroll will drop below $60MM in 2011, despite having a payroll north of $70MM this season. Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times points out that while the club didn't plan to make any big additions this year, they found room for Rafael Soriano after dealing Scott Kazmir and Akinori Iwamura.
- If Mike Jacobs doesn't make the Mets major league roster, Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News doesn't expect him to play for the club's Triple-A affiliate. Even though his minor league deal doesn't have an out-clause, Rubin is "virtually positive" that the Mets would accommodate him with a trade or release.
- In his latest mailbag, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch supports Yankees GM Brian Cashman's decision to wait to negotiate with upcoming free agents Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Hoch believes that both players should be confident that they'll both be taken care of eventually.
Links for Monday...
- With catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia recovering from shoulder surgery, the Rangers are interested in free agent catcher Jose Molina, industry sources tell T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Molina would be the seventh catcher in camp for Texas if he is willing to sign a minor league deal and compete for a job.
- WEEI's Rob Bradford says the Red Sox are in preliminary negotiations with Cuban pitcher Yuniesky Maya. Sox president Larry Lucchino appears to say the Sox "would soon sign" Maya, in this Terreno de Pelota column by Uziel Gomez (translation credit to Nick Collias).
- Joe Morelli of the New Haven Register has plenty of quotes from Yankees GM Brian Cashman regarding Johnny Damon (hat tip to River Ave. Blues).
- Jack Moore of FanGraphs suggests that the Marlins' quiet offseason could cost them a shot at the playoffs.
- SI's Jon Heyman names his biggest offseason surprises, led by the Mariners' moves.
Saturday night linkage..
- In his latest mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is asked about the Tribe's inactivity this winter. Hoynes says that there are two reasons for this. First, the team is rebuilding. Secondly, ownership has little, if any, money to spend on free agents. Hoynes says to look for the Indians to do something in January and February after the first and second-tier free agents have signed.
- Cuban pitcher Yuniesky Maya put himself on display in the Dominican Republic last week. Jorge Arangure of ESPN spoke to a scout in attendance who said the 28-year-old threw in the range of 88-92 MPH while showcasing a fastball, two-seamer, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to a report from Globedia.com, passed along by Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog, the Mets and White Sox are the frontrunners to sign him. Arangure notes that Deinys Suarez, who was also on display, has not generated as much interest as Maya.
- Former Giants pitcher Ryan Sadowski has signed a deal to pitch for Korea's Lotte Giants in 2010, according to a report from The Korea Herald passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. Sadowski signed with Houston earlier this offseason, so it appears that the Astros have let the 27-year-old out of his contract.