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.