So it’s official, the next potential Cuban stud Yulieski Gourriel has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and is now free to sign with any team. The guy is 32 and he’s touted as arguably the top dog in the international market. Not just the top talent in Cuba but in the world. Also for the record, I checked with MLB and the Mets do qualify as “any team” so they technically are eligible to sign him despite never getting involved in the market for Cuban players or for international talents in general. I’m not talking about the international market for amateur players. The Mets do a ton of scouting and signing of amateur international players that are subject to the international bonus pool restrictions and signing process. I’m talking about international talents that are over 23 and are exempt from the definition of an amateur player. Typically to be exempt from amateur status you need to be 23+ and you need to have played in a league recognized by MLB as a pro league for a prescribed period of time. Because of his age and experience in the Cuban pro league, Gourriel is not subject to international spending limitations. The Mets can just sign him on the open market like any old free agent. And they should sign him.
The guy hits right handed and has played 15 seasons between Cuba and Japan. He has a career hitting line of .335/.417/.580 with 250 home runs in 5491 plate appearances. He’s supposedly a plus defender at his natural position of third base. Do the Mets need a third basemen? Can somebody help me with this one? Last I heard David Wright has been frozen in carbonite to help him maintain his posture and Wilmer Flores is booting grounders at third base left and right.
Signing international guys is never cheap. The Dodgers signed Hector Olivera to a 6 year 62.5m deal at 30 years old. Yasmany Tomas signed a 6 year deal with Arizona worth 68.5m at 24 years old. Rusney Castillo signed a 7 year 72.5m deal with the Red Sox at 27 years old. Alex Guerrero signed a 4 year 28m deal with the Dodgers at 26 years old. Yes I realize it’s a risky move. Guerrero just got released by the Dodgers and was a total bust (although they never really gave him a chance to play full time). Rusney Castillo is in the Red Sox minor league system and has struggled at the ML level. That being said, he has so many talented players in front of him in the Sox organization, that it’s hard to call him a bust until he gets a real opportunity to play regularly. Tomas has been decent for the D-backs with a .270/.309/.411 line so far at the ML level. Olivera got arrested for a domestic violence incident after being traded to the Braves. So it’s fair to say he’s been a disaster.
But how can we ignore the success of Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu and even Yasiel Puig in the majors. They have essentially been winning lottery tickets for their respective teams. Puig’s production has declined since his breakout 2013/14 seasons and Chapman has turned out to be a jerk off the field but their talent is undeniable.
My point in all this is the Mets should have the resources to take a risk on a promising Cuban player that fills a position of need. Sure he may need some seasoning at Triple-A. Maybe he won’t even have a big impact in 2016. But we need a replacement for Wright in the long term. And do we really expect Wright to just retire at the end of the season? It’s more likely that he lingers and tries to play another season or even beyond that. What proven major league free agent third basemen is going to join the Mets to be Wright’s understudy? Do we really want to give up a bunch of prospects for some stopgap solution like Danny Valencia or Aaron Hill? Do we want to give up Zack Wheeler for Jonathan Lucroy or overpay for someone having a career year like Yangervis Solarte? Listen, we may need to do one of those things anyway to compete this season, but there’s nothing prohibiting the Mets from signing a Cuban talent and pursuing trade opportunities for short term solutions in the infield. Plus who better to help Gourriel get acquainted to life in the majors than Yoenis Cespedes, someone who’s made the adjustment from Cuban ball/life to the MLB.
I’m sick of watching other teams sign these Cuban studs. If the Mets don’t sign him, he’s just going to wind up on the Dodgers, Yankees, or some other team that isn’t afraid to open the wallet and take a risk. If the Wilpons have actually loosened the purse strings, then let’s see it. Sign another Cuban please.