Mets Pass On Cuban Star; Prefer To Have One

In the least surprising news of all time, the Mets passed on signing free agent Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel (formerly spelled Yulieski Gourriel). He plays second base and third base and was touted as the best international talent available in the market. But the Mets don’t have a need at either of those positions. We already have our studs Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes. I mean let’s be reasonable here. We have all these infielders signed to expensive long term deals. How can we possibly fit any other infielders on our roster? And by “all these” I mean just David Wright who may never play another game again. The Mets infield logjam is a real problem. We can’t go complicating things by adding another talented body.

Instead, Gurriel goes to the Astros on a 5 year deal worth $47.5 million dollars. The Astros have an abundance of infielders on their major league roster and Alex Bregman their top position player prospect is also a middle infielder. Obviously the Astros GM has lost his mind. How will his team possibly accommodate all these talented players? There’s simply no way to do it. If the Mets have taught us anything this year it’s that maintaining a deep roster is simply too risky. A team is much better off playing short-handed every single week and being forced to address roster deficiencies during the season by trading pitching prospects for Kelly Johnson.

Plus the Mets don’t want to violate MLB’s strict “one Cuban All-Star per team” policy. I know Yo wanted Gurriel to join the Mets very much. But he just doesn’t understand that rules are rules. One star Cuban per team. That’s it. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed. Also it’s hilarious that the Mets completely ignored the plea by Cespedes. He came to them and said this guy is the real deal and the team should sign him. Cespedes is rarely vocal about anything with the media. He went out of his way to express his feelings about Gurriel. What did the Mets say to that? Nope! Pass!

This is 100% foreshadowing the Mets 2016/17 offseason Cuban relations. Don’t be fooled people. Yoenis Cespedes opting out of his current contract is an absolute lock. There is no way in hell the Mets are going to give him the long term deal he wants and deserves. And you can rest assured that some team is going to give him his money this time. If his unproven former Cuban teammate is getting 10 million a season over the next 5 years, I guarantee you some team is giving Cespedes (who’s younger than Gurriel and a major league All-Star) 25 million a year over 6 years. I know everyone said that last offseason Cespedes would get paid. But last offseason it was pretty obvious that Cespedes wanted to stay in New York more than anything. The World Series trip was so fresh. He just couldn’t get over that feeling and pass on a chance to try and get there again. I’m sure that feeling will wear off by the end of this season. Plus he’s going to need extra cash considering he’s spent his entire 2016 salary on horses, pigs, and sports cars.

Speaking of Cespedes, he tried running the bases today and his quad injury hasn’t healed. I can’t decide what’s more likely. He’s either going to sit for 15 days on the active roster and then come back, or the Mets will pinch hit him tonight and he’ll re-aggravate the injury thus making it impossible for the team to backdate the DL stint. Whatever. I’m just going to assume the Mets passed on this new Cuban to save their money for Cespedes. Because if the Mets let Cespedes walk away from the team, we all should do the same thing.

Can The Mets Please Sign Another Cuban?

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.

Weekly Roundup: Takeout Slides, Chipper Predictions, and Prayers for Maverick

MLB/Union Closer to 2B Takeout Slide Rule Change: I ranted in a January 27th post about how the league still hasn’t done a damn thing to rectify the 2B takeout slide problem. Well it seems they heard my complaining. Now that Ruben Tejada has finally shed his walking boot and Jung Ho Kang is making big strides in his daily physical therapy, the league has finally made some alleged progress. Heck, according to Buster Olney’s report, the Union and MLB claim they may make real changes before the season begins. Olney said they want to make sure runners “touch the base or make an effort to touch the base”. The planned rule change is meant to “improve safety” while maintaining “players’ aggressiveness”. In addition, they are still debating whether slides in question can be reviewed by instant replay.

So to recap, the current 2B slide rule essentially says the runner should be close enough to touch the base. The proposed new rule would say the runner must attempt to touch the base, and it wouldn’t discourage aggressive slides. I can really see the differences in the rules. Sounds like a groundbreaking reform that will really change the sport. And of course they don’t want umpires to be able to review these types of slides because it may slow down the games. This is going to go well. I will reserve judgement until the final rule is published but needless to say I’m skeptical. If it goes anything like when they changed the home plate collision rules, we are in for a long season full of confused players, managers, and umpires.

Chipper Predictions: Chipper Jones in a radio interview this week said the Mets are his early season favorite to win the World Series. Larry is really something else. From the Mets archrival to the team’s biggest booster. After the Chase Utley takeout slide he came out and ripped Chase a new one. Now he’s endorsing the Mets as future 2016 World Champions? And it’s not like he’s unemployed and endorsing the Mets from his couch. He literally works for the Braves. He just got hired as a special assistant.

He’s got to be working an angle. Still trolling us after all those years of crushing the franchise. It started with him naming his kid Shea. Now he’s taking it up a notch by pretending to be our biggest fan. I completely understand why Chipper would love our team. It’s designed exactly like his 90s Braves squad. A potential juggernaut built around young pitching. However, I think Chipper’s “love affair” with the pitching rich Mets is kind of like Eli Manning’s “love” for his brother Peyton. Right now, Chipper has the championship swag like Eli did before last week’s Super Bowl. So he’s “rooting” for the Mets like Eli was “rooting” for Peyton. The Mets are just a similarly designed team with aspirations to be as successful as the 90s Braves. We want to win 14 consecutive division titles like the Braves did between 1991 and 2005. We want to advance to the World Series 5 times like they did in the 90s. But the second we win one lone championship like Chipper did with the 1995 Braves, his cheerleader routine will stop. If we ever found a way to win two, Chipper could have twins named Citifield and Shake Shack, and he still wouldn’t get his championship mojo back.

Pray for Maverick (and Wright): Sandy Alderson conducted an interview with Steve Serby of the NY Post. First off, in the interview Sandy talked about how he was diagnosed with cancer four days after the Mets clinched the NL East last season, and he is still undergoing chemotherapy. The guy is a front office legend and clearly tough as hell. I hope the Wilpons actually give him some time off this season so he can recover instead of making him face the relentless media day in and day out. But it’s more likely the Wilpons remain in the panic room they had built in 2008 after Madoff was arrested and just let their lackey John Ricco deal with the press. Either way, pray for Sandy.

And while we are at it, pray for David Wright. Sandy said he hopes David and his titanium spine can play 130 games next season. Honestly, I will take anything we can get from David. 100 games would work for me. Quite frankly, we’d be better off keeping Wright cryogenically frozen until 2017 when the NL institutes the DH so he can take that job full time. Although considering our trainer Ray Ramirez can barely administer an X-Ray, I’m not sure I’d trust him to handle the freezing procedure.

Two New Cubans: This week, two new Cubans defected from the motherland. 31 year old 3B Yulieski Gourriel and 22 year old SS/OF Lourdes Gourriel Jr. were supposedly two of the top players remaining in Cuba. Are they brothers? Noooooo…….Yes!!!!

These two brothers are expected to be impact players in the major leagues. Pretty much like every Cuban player that has defected to date. The older brother Yulieski is supposed to have an immediate impact while the younger brother may need some minor league seasoning. It’s hard to complain about the Mets lack of interest in Cuban players considering we just signed the best one in the business. That being said, John Ricco should have a welcome party on standby in Florida, and we should be signing every Cuban player that comes ashore. Especially a Cuban star that plays 3B considering Wright is our biggest question mark. But I’m sure he’ll just wind up a Yankee as they are one of the teams rumored to have interest.

Clippard Departs, Mejia Promptly Banned: I wrote earlier this week about the departure of Tyler Clippard for a 2 year deal in Arizona. And of course, four days later Jenrry Mejia is promptly banned from the game for life due to a third positive PED test. Mejia getting banned for life makes too much sense. Things were too quiet in Mets land. It was inevitable that the first bad thing of 2016 was going to happen. I also think it’s hilarious that at the trade deadline we acquired Clippard and immediately afterwards Mejia received his second steroid suspension. And now once again, Clippard’s move and Mejia’s suspension happen simultaneously.

Mejia wasn’t part of the team last year, and we replaced Clippard with Antonio Bastardo, so I suppose our pen will be fine. But it still isn’t good that two relief options for 2016 have evaporated in one week. And speaking of Bastardo, he has to be next on the Mets steroid watch list right? He’s been suspended before, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see our primary set up man go down for a second time.

Royals Plan Two World Series Celebrations: The Royals announced this week that they plan to have a World Series celebration in both games against the Mets to start the season. Banner raising the first game and then ring presentations on night two. Really just rubbing our faces in it. Well that’s just perfect. At least this doubles the chances for former Royals Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto to catch the ceremonies on TV. But in all seriousness, screw the Royals. I hope this fires the Mets up and helps them keep their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Minor League Notes: This week the Mets signed Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. He may play all 3 outfield positions but he’ll never fill the void left by Triple A Vegas legend Kirk “3 Dingers” Nieuwenhuis.

Also, the Texas Rangers have officially signed former Met Ike Davis to a minor league deal. Oh how the mighty have fallen. From first round pick to Quadruple-A All-Star. I’m not sure how smart it was for him to take the deal considering Texas is just over an hour flight from Arizona where he contracted his Valley Fever. Although I suppose he had no real choice. Maybe another fresh start will finally cure him of the Valley Fever aka Mets disease. Nothing worked for Jason Bay, but perhaps there’s still hope for Ike. Not bloody likely.