The Gurriel brothers’ defection from Cuba surprised many pundits, though as Baseball America’s Ben Badler writes, there had been hints over the last year that something was afoot with the duo, particularly Yulieski Gurriel. The elder brother hasn’t always been known for playing hard, but Yulieski had been noticeably hustling more over the past year, perhaps in a deliberate effort to correct this perception in the eyes of MLB scouts. Yulieski also passed on a lucrative offer to play in Japan for the rather curious reason of wanting to rehab a hamstring injury, which raised some eyebrows. Badler notes that in the wake of the Gurriels’ departure, the Dominican government is cracking down on Cuban players in the country, with a couple of prospects already sent back to Cuba and others leaving the Dominican to establish residency in the Bahamas. Cubans still remaining in the Dominican Republic are now playing on well-maintained but secretive baseball diamonds, just adding to the overall clandestine atmosphere.
Here’s more recent news from around the international market…
- The shocking circumstances behind Charles Hairston and Agency39 dropping their representation of Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros is still the talk of the international scouting world, and Hairston shared more details with MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The mysterious “buscon” (or “investor” as he’s known in Sanchez’s piece) allegedly threatened Hairston ten days ago, and had also been working behind Agency39’s back to negotiate with teams and other agencies to arrange new representation for Armenteros. Agency39 was still working on Lazarito’s behalf as late as noon yesterday.
- Commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated his support for an international talent draft when speaking to reporters (including Jesse Sanchez) on Monday, indicating that changes to the international system will be a significant topic in upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the players’ union. These talks will be particularly interesting since the desire for altering international signing rules may vary greatly from team to team. “If you ask the teams that have been able to spend internationally, they would be happy with how [the system] is,” Athletics GM David Forst said. “There are also some teams that feel you lose some of the scouting side of it if you have the [international draft]. You lose the ability to unearth players. But with the information that is out there, I’m not sure that happens.”
- Twenty-five teams attended a showcase yesterday for Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez and infielders Yanio Perez and Alejandro Rivero, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. Hernandez, who defected last summer, is the most highly-regarded of the trio and is old enough (28) to not be subject to the international pool limits.
- The Dodgers have spent over $200MM on nine Cuban players over the last four years, a major investment that Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register notes that thus far yielded relatively little return. Yasiel Puig has delivered both all-world talent and controversy in his time with the team and Hector Olivera was flipped to the Braves, while Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alex Guerrero are now afterthoughts. “I think like any part of the talent universe there’s going to be mixed results,” said senior baseball operations VP Josh Byrnes, who also noted that the Dodgers’ big investment is still less than it would’ve cost for a similar outlay on free agent talent. The club obviously still expects much from highly-regarded prospects still in the system, including the recently-signed Yaisel Sierra.