Gourriel, 30, played in Japan last season and was supposed to do so again this year, but the Yokohama BayStars terminated his contract last week, according to Ben Badler. Gourriel is reportedly nursing a hamstring injury and didn’t report to the team. Cuban players are allowed to play overseas during the Cuban league offseason, though the government negotiates the player’s contract and takes a nice big cut.
In 62 games with the BayStars last season, Gourriel hit .306/.349/.536 with 22 doubles and eleven home runs. He also hit .343/.432/.577 for Industriales in Cuba. Gourriel is a career .330/.412/.570 hitter with two MVP awards in parts of 14 seasons in Cuba. He’s been a beast. Badler (subs. req’d) called him the best player in the country last August. (Recent Dodgers signee Hector Olivera was sixth.) Here’s a snippet of the scouting report:
Gourriel is a lightning rod player for scouts, many of whom see him as a disinterested, Jekyll-and-Hyde player who can blow you away at times and make you scratch your head at others … Gourriel could step in and be an immediate all-star in Major League Baseball … Gourriel has terrific bat speed, good hand-eye coordination and barrel control, which helps him make consistent contact. He does chase pitches at times but generally has a sound hitting approach, staying within the strike zone and using the middle of the field, with 65 raw power on the 20-80 scale.
Gourriel has played both second base and shortstop in the past, though he’s settled in as a third baseman recently. “Every time you see (Gourriel), you see something special,” said Rangers play-by-play man and Cuban baseball guru Eric Nadel to Isikoff. “He rises to the occasion in international tournaments. He’s no secret … He’s legitimately a Major Leaguer in any league.”
Back in December, President Barack Obama said he was taking steps to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, and reportedly the two countries started to discuss lifting the 50-year-old embargo in late-January. I have no idea if or when it will be lifted, and until it happens, the Yankees have no shot at acquiring Gourriel. “(We) are ready when they say we have permission to play. We are ready for the lifting of the blockade. Then we can come play,” he said to Isikoff.
I thought it was pretty neat Gourriel’s favorite player is A-Rod. They’re similar in a lot of ways — Gourriel is the biggest name in Cuba and he’s a very polarizing player, with lots of fans and lots of people who love to hate him. He’s already 30, so his best years are likely behind him, and since it doesn’t seem the embargo will be lifted anytime soon, it’s unlikely Gourriel will ever wear pinstripes. It sure would be fun though. He’d be one exciting player to follow.