Cuban INF Yulieski Gourriel Available For Hire

According to MLB.com, Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel has been cleared to become a free agent and could sign with a team as early as this season. The 32-year-old has primarily played third base over his career (13 in the CNS and two in the JPL). He has also played at second base and short stop.

Gourriel has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave Cuba with permission of the Cuban government. He and his younger brother Lourdes (22-years-old) left Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following its Caribbean Series back in February of this year in search of MLB contracts (per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com).

Gourriel is regarded as the best baseball player in Cuba and it’s easy to see why when you look at his numbers.

Last year with the Industriales, Gourriel slashed a ridiculous .500/.589/.874 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in just 49 games. Throughout his professional career Gourriel has a slash line of .335/.417/.580 with 1,585 hits, 250 HR, 1,018 RBI, and 611 BB.

Given that Gourriel is considered by many to be Major League-ready right now, I thought I would provide a look at one team from each division who could potentially sign him.

 

National League East: New York Mets

According to ESPN, the Mets may pursue Gourriel aggressively (and understandably so).

With perennial third baseman David Wright likely sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a herniated disk, the Mets could use someone with Gourriel’s experience who’s ready to make an impact.

Gourriel would also have a clubhouse friend in countryman Yoenis Cespedes, so this would seem like a match made in heaven on paper for both sides.

 

National League Central: Pittsburgh Pirates

Sitting at third place in the NL Central and two-and-a-half games back for one of the two NL Wild Card spots, the Bucs could use a potential offensive boost and change of pace in their infield.

Currently Pittsburgh is comfortable at third base with David Freese and Jung Ho Kang. They also seem comfortable at second base with Josh Harrison, but Gourriel could possibly platoon at short stop with Jordy Mercer.

If nothing else, Gourriel would be welcomed infield depth and could add some needed pop into the Pirates’ lineup.

 

National League West: San Francisco Giants

I’ll admit, the Gigantes are a bit of a stretch here when you consider their more than serviceable starting infield comprised of Matt Duffy (3B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Joe Panik (2B), and Brandon Belt (1B).

However, it wouldn’t hurt to have Gourriel behind any of those guys or allowing them to rest come the dog days of August.

With Hunter Pence possibly out of the everyday lineup until after the All-Star break with a torn hamstring, San-Fran could use a batter of Gourriel’s caliber.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

 

 

American League East: Baltimore Orioles

The O’s aren’t exactly in dire need for an infielder either (see Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Jonathon Schoop, and JJ Hardy).

Nevertheless, with JJ Hardy still out and rehabbing a fractured left foot and the flexibility of the DH position, Baltimore could use Gourriel as infield depth in a platoon with Alvarez. The O’s could also put him at the hot corner over current starter Ryan Flaherty (while Machado covers at SS in Hardy’s absence).

As you can see, Baltimore would have options by signing Gourriel. And when you are trying to stay atop the AL East, having options is quite the luxury.

 

American League Central: Cleveland Indians

The Tribe, in my opinion, is the AL team who would benefit most by signing Gourriel now. Cleveland currently has a solid middle-infield with short stop sensation Francisco Lindor and veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis. However, the corners of their infield are getting a bit old (Mike Napoli, 34) and worn out (Juan Uribe, 37).

At 32 with 15 seasons under his belt, Gourriel isn’t young either but would seem more serviceable than Uribe at third. Though the Indians do have another promising young talent in Jose Ramirez (currently starting in left field but a third baseman by trade), the addition of Gourriel would give the Tribe more flexibility.

Cleveland is on top of the AL Central by a thin margin and Gourriel could offer assistance in helping distance that lead (you’re probably sensing an AL pattern by now).

 

American League West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have been red hot lately and have a seven-and-a-half game first place lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners. A large part of that success stems from one of the more crowded infields in the majors (see Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar).

However, they could make room for Gourriel at first base by rotating with Mitch Moreland.

At the very least, Gourriel could share DH responsibilities with Prince Fielder while also acting as infield insurance.

 

Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees

 

Final Thoughts:

While I feel the Mets or Indians will make the most aggressive run at Gourriel, you never know who might throw their hat in the ring.

This development will be one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. It would be surprising not to see Gourriel on a Major League roster by the All-Star break.

Chicago White Sox Busy Offseason Builds A Contender

Photo credentials to The Associated Press

The White Sox are stuffed in the middle of a very competitive AL Central division, but they are normally left out of the conversation when baseball analysts argue over which team is the best team in the AL Central. With the efforts of White Sox GM Rick Hahn this winter, the team’s manager Robin Ventura is confident that the 2015 Chicago White Sox are not a team to take a lightly. He even goes on to say in ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla’s article that he “expects [the White Sox] to make the playoffs.” 

November 25: Signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a two year contract

In 2014 Adam LaRoche batted .259 with 26 HR’s and 92 RBI’s. (Photo credentials to DC Pro Sports Report)

On November 25, 2014 MLB Trade Rumors reported that Adam LaRoches signed a two year $25M deal with the Chicago White Sox.

At the age of 35, it’s impressive to see the amount of power LaRoche still has. Coming over from a National League team in the Washington Nationals where he patrolled first base and hit 26 homeruns, it can be expected that LaRoche and teammate Jose Abreu will split time at first base this season and alternate at designated hitter.

LaRoche, a 2012 Golden Glove winner, Silver Slugger and MVP candidate (finished 6th in 2012) according to Baseball-Reference.com , gives the White Sox some power to the lineup led by Jose Abreu and his powerful swing that belted out 36 homeruns last year.

Overall, I think this was an excellent move on paper. The White Sox needed some protection for Jose Abreu in the lineup, and the team needed insurance in case Abreu catastrophically went down in his sophomore year in MLB. It’s also always great to add a golden glove first baseman to your roster.

Adam LaRoche should be a great fit in Chicago. In fact, he’s off to a great start as the team already regards him as a “new team leader” according to the Chicago Tribune .

December 9: White Sox acquire starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland Athletics

Jeff Samardzija will be the number two starter for the 2015 Chicago White Sox. (Photo credentials to USA Today)

On December 9, 2015 Yahoo Sports reported the Chicago White Sox acquired 2014 NL All-Star Jeff Samardzija along with pitching prospect Michael Ynoa from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, and prospects first baseman Rangel Ravelo and pitcher Chris Bassitt.

This move gave the White Sox a solid number two man in their starting rotation as without question Chris Sale is the White Sox ace. However, Samardzija had some great numbers in 2014 with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. In 2014, Samardzija posted a 2.99 ERA, and 202 K’s in 219.2 IP. He’s a strikeout pitcher and workhorse to say the least.

The White Sox should enjoy this addition to their pitching staff as this acquisition may have been their single most important move of the offseason. With the Royals losing James Shields to the San Diego Padres, and the Tigers losing Max Scherzer to the Washinton Nationals, the White Sox improved their staff while two of the top contending teams in the AL Central lost some big arms.

December 10: Signed closer David Robertson to a 4 year deal

David Robertson will no longer be closing the game for the Yankees, but instead for the White Sox in 2015. (Photo credentials to NY Post)

On December 9, the NY Daily News reported that Mariano Rivera’s successor David Robertson signed with the Chicago White Sox for a 4 year $46M contract.

Robertson was third in the AL in saves last year with 39 and posted a 3.08 ERA and 96 K’s in 64.1 IP according to Baseball-Reference.com

Robertson will give the White Sox an excellent closer, something every contending team needs. However, the trend over the past four years that the Yankees may have noticed was his numbers were starting to fall off slightly more and more each year. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, explained by FanGraphs ) has slightly increased since his super 2011 season where he posted a FIP of 1.84. Over the past three seasons, Robertson posted a FIP of 2.49 in 2012, 2.61 in 2013 and then 2.69 in 2014. This simply shows that Robertson’s “nastyness” is slowly fading. That could be why the Yankees let him walk this winter.

Nonetheless, Robertson is still one of the best closers in the game and should be regarded as nothing, but an improvement to the pitching staff for the White Sox.

December 14: Sign OF Melky Cabrera to a 3 year deal

OF Melky Cabrera will be expected to be a table setter for his new team in 2015. (Photo credentials go to the Toronto Sun)

On December 14, 2015 USA Today reported that OF Melky Cabrera signed with the Chicago White Sox to a 3 year $42M contract.

Overall, Melky Cabrera is a very good ballplayer. In 2014 he batted .301 with a .351 OBP, 16 HR’s and 73 RBI’s with the Toronto Blue Jays according to Baseball-Refernce.com .

Cabrera should be batting second behind OF Adam Eaton giving the White Sox a legitimate top of the order with Eaton, Cabrera, Abreu and LaRoche each following each other in sequence. This looks good on paper according to their stats, but again, is this enough? The top of the lineup is gonna be important for the White Sox, and as a table setter, Cabrera needs to get on base and score if the White Sox are going to have any chance of making the playoffs in 2015.

Other transactions from the offseason can be found on ESPN .

Expectations

While it can be argued the White Sox improved their roster, making the playoffs is a lot easier said than done, especially when you’re in the AL Central. The White Sox will have to get past the contending Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals along with the re-building Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

Besides the fact that the Royals are the defending AL Champions and the AL Central Division winning Detroit Tigers won 90 games last year, the Indians, Royals and Tigers each had over 85 wins last year, while the White Sox had only 73 wins. This means that not only do the White Sox need to improve tremendously in 2015, but they need at least two of the other three contending teams to tank in 2015 if they want a chance to make it to the playoffs. Is this unlikely to happen? Yes of course, but this is baseball and we’ve seen some wild things happen before, like 2005 White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik hitting a walk-off homerun in Game 2 of the World Series after hitting 0 homeruns in 568 plate appearances during the regular season.

Relive the magic below.

The Windy City had a busy winter in the baseball world as the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox both improved their rosters to dare I say, make a playoff push in 2015. But the question to ask heading into 2015 for the White Sox is: was GM Rich Hahn’s efforts enough this winter? Will the White Sox be a contender in 2015?

The White Sox organization has the confidence that they can win 2015, but what will the Baseball Gods have to say?