James Schmehl of MLive.com has the fascinating story of Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias’s defection from Cuba. Just 18 years old at the time, Iglesias acknowledges being scared — not just of the act of escape, but of the broader uncertainty. As Schmehl explains, the risks of the undertaking extend beyond making it out and not being able to get back in. The fact is, many ballplayers ultimately do not receive significant bonuses and/or do not ultimately make it in professional baseball. You’ll want to give the whole piece a read to learn more about Iglesias.
Here’s more from the Cuban scene:
- Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel, 30, says that he aspires to play in the big leagues (for the Yankees) but will not attempt to defect, Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff reports. Long one of the island’s most coveted players, the infielder has dominated Cuba’s Serie Nacionale with a mix of power and on-base ability. Playing last year in Japan, he slashed .305/.349/.536. “This is the dream of all players — to play at the maximum level of baseball in all the world,” Gourriel said. “… We are ready for the lifting of the blockade. Then we can come play.” Gourriel himself has obviously reached an age where his appeal is waning, though his younger brother Lourdes Gourriel is an intriguing talent whose future could be impacted significantly by changes in the political climate (if any).
- 20-year-old righty Carlos Sierra is one of several Cuban players who will be worth learning about in the months to come, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Interestingly, Sierra has been permitted to leave Cuba legally to play in Spain, with plans to come stateside, because he was able to achieve Spanish citizenship. Also in the process of looking for a professional deal is 24-year-old righty Jorge Hernandez, who is presently showcasing for teams. And infielder/outfielder Alejandro Ortiz, 25, is also now eligible to sign.
- And, of course, the most prominent names — Yadier Alvarez and Andy Ibanez — remain unsigned at present. The league has yet to act upon Alvarez’s request for a waiver that would allow him to sign in this or the following July 2 signing period.