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.
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
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.