Cuba national baseball player Lourdes Gourriel hits a pop fly and is out against Venezuela in the 3rd inning in the Caribbean Series in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on February 7, 2015. Brothers Lourdes and Yulieski Gourriel, who were stars of Cuba’s national baseball team deserted on February 8, 2016 after being poached by international sporting agents while playing for Cuba in the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic, state media said. It was one of the most high profile of countless desertions by athletes from the communist-ruled island.
By Brendan Kuty
Yulieski Gourriel, long considered the best player remaining in Cuba, has defected with his younger brother, Lourdes, and the pair will be seeing major-league employment, according to multiple reports.
And the elder Gourriel likely has his set on the Yankees.
In 2015, Gourriel told Yahoo Sports he wanted to play at the “maximum level of baseball in all the world” and would cherish a chance to play with his favorite player, Alex Rodriguez.
In 15 seasons, including one playing in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, Gourriel has absolutely raked. The 31-year-old hit .333 with 245 homers and 999 RBI. He’s a third baseman, but he’s also considered a capable second baseman.
And even though the Yankees don’t necessarily have a spot for him, considering his talent, perhaps they could make him fit.
Chase Headley is the Yankees’ starting third baseman, but he had a rough start to his four-year, $52-million contract extension in 2015, hitting .259 with 11 homers in 156 games. He also made a career-high 23 errors and there seems to be some sentiment that Headley’s days as a full-timer might be coming to a close.
And the Yankees have Starlin Castro at second base. He’s 25 years old and he’s signed through 2019, and the Yankees — especially general manager Brian Cashman’s trusted advisor, Jim Hendry — believe he’s got plenty of upside.
So Gourriel might not be a natural fit for the Yankees, who also have been adverse to spending all offseason, not spending a single dime on major-league free agents this offseason.
Still, it could be a while before Gourriel is able to sign with a club, anyway. He must establish residency in another country and MLB must declare him a free agent.
Yulieski Gourriel’s brother is 22 years old. He’s a left fielder with infield ability but likely isn’t major-league ready.
The Yankees whiffed the last time a big-time Cuban prospect hit the market. The Red Sox beat out the Yankees for the services of stud second baseman Yoan Moncada last offseason. Moncada is now considered one of baseball’s top young talents.