Sanchez: Astros sign Yulieski Gurriel to five-year, $47.5M deal

(El Nuevo Herald)
(El Nuevo Herald)

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Astros agreed to sign Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a five-year contract worth $47.5M yesterday. The deal is expected to become official later today. Houston’s infield is full, plus they have infielder and top prospect Alex Bregman knocking on the door, so this is a case of add talent and sort it all out later.

The Yankees were among the teams to bring Gurriel in for a private workout. International scouting director Donny Rowland is said to be a longtime fan of the former Cuban league star. It’s unclear if the Yankees were outbid or simply didn’t even make an offer. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. He got less money than I thought. Five years and $9.5M a year strikes me as a pretty good deal for the Astros given other recent contracts for Cuban players. Rusney Castillo, Hector Olivera, and Yasmany Tomas all received $10M to $12M annually across six years. They all kinda stink though, plus Gurriel is a few years older, so I guess his contract is something of a market correction.

2. I get not going after a 32-year-old. Well, like I said, we don’t know what the Yankees offered, but I think you catch my drift here. Gurriel is not young. He’s 32 and he’s at the age where you’d expect his skills to decline anyway, so Gurriel is not someone you bring in if you’re rebuilding. He’s a win-now addition, and the Yankees are not a win-now team. Would he make them better in the short-term? Almost certainly yes. But the Yankees have focused on the short-term for too long. They have to take a step back and thing long-term now.

3. Where is the offense coming from the next few years? The Yankees are averaging only 4.20 runs per game this season, so they’re one of the lowest scoring offenses in the league. Next year they figure to lose Carlos Beltran (and Mark Teixeira) to free agency, and others like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Brian McCann will be a year older. Unless Greg Bird doesn’t miss a bit following shoulder surgery and youngsters like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez hit the ground running, the offense might be worse in 2017. Even the very best prospects can need an adjustment period, after all. Gurriel would have given the Yankees a much-needed bat going forward.

4. Don’t forget, Lourdes is the real prize. Yulieski and his brother Lourdes Jr. defected over the winter, and given his age (22) and skill set, Lourdes is the more promising player. He’s not Yoan Moncada, but his best years are ahead of him. With Yulieski you’re just hoping to get one or two peak years right away and a manageable decline. Lourdes is the better long-term buy. He’s not going to sign until his birthday in October — once he turns 23, he’ll no longer be subject to the international spending restrictions — and the Yankees should be all over him, though their recent track record with big name Cuban players suggests they’ll fall short.

Saturday Links: Midseason Prospect Lists, Miller, Gurriel

The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)
The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Four Yankees make BA’s midseason top 100

The Baseball America crew released their midseason top 100 prospects list yesterday. The entire piece is free. You don’t need a subscription to see the list or the write-ups. Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada sits in the top spot (groan) and is followed by Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford in the top three. The Yankees have four players on the list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 19), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), OF Aaron Judge (No. 42), and RHP James Kaprielian (No. 99).

Both Mateo and Judge have climbed the rankings since BA’s preseason top 100 — Mateo was No. 26 and Judge was No. 76 coming into the season — though at least part of that is due to the graduation of prospects ahead of them. Still nice to see such a big jump for Judge. Sanchez stayed in the same spot (No. 36) and Kaprielian makes the midseason top 100 after not making the preseason top 100. He did that despite his elbow injury. It should be noted 2016 draftees were not eligible for the midseason top 100. OF Blake Rutherford will definitely be in the top 100 mix next spring.

Two Yankees make BP’s midseason top 50

Baseball Prospectus released their midseason top 50 prospects list earlier this week as well, and again, it’s free. It’s not behind the paywall. That’s always cool. Crawford, Moncada, and Dodgers LHP Julio Urias sit in the top three spots in that order. Players selected in the 2016 draft are not eligible for this list either.

The Yankees landed only two players on BP’s midseason top 50: Judge (No. 25) and Mateo (No. 29). Judge dropped a few spots while Mateo climbed many spots from the preseason top 101. Judge was No. 18 before the season and Mateo was No. 65. Sanchez was No. 92 before the season, so the BP crew is lower on him than BA. Jumping from No. 92 before the season into the top 50 at midseason is tough to do.

Miller atop Cubs’ wish list

According to Jon Heyman, Andrew Miller is believed to be atop the Cubs’ wish list as they look for bullpen help. That’s no surprise. Miller is awesome and signed to a favorable contract, plus Theo Epstein had him with the Red Sox too, so I assume there’s still some affinity there. The Cubs also would like Dellin Betances but “wouldn’t even ask,” says Heyman. Why not ask? You’re not doing your job if you don’t ask.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

In a separate piece, Heyman says someone with the Yankees put the chances of a Miller trade at “less than one percent.” That could just be posturing though. Also, apparently the Nationals made an offer for Miller over the winter. That makes sense, though we didn’t hear about it in the offseason. The Dodgers and especially the Astros were the two clubs most connected to Miller over the winter. The Yankees wanted Lance McCullers Jr. from Houston, but no dice.

Gurriel done with private workouts

Free agent Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel finished his private workouts with teams this week, reports Jesse Sanchez. Gurriel did indeed work out with the Yankees at some point. I know this because he posted it on Instagram. (Journalism!) Sanchez says Gurriel worked out with the Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, and Padres in addition to the Yankees. I’m surprised it wasn’t more teams.

With the workouts over, I assume Gurriel and his agents will shift into contract negotiation mode. I really have no idea what to expect. I could see him getting big money (five or six years at $12M+ annually) or just a moderate short-term deal (three years at $10M per year). His age (32) and the usual concerns associated with the transition to MLB complicate things even though Gurriel has mashed everywhere he’s played.

Red Sox get Ziegler

Late last night the Red Sox picked up reliever Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks for two low level prospects, both teams announced. This is good for the Yankees if you’re on #TeamSell. It’s simple supply and demand. The supply of available relievers has now shrunk by one while the demand, as far as the Yankees are concerned, is unchanged. They weren’t going to trade with Boston anyway. The Red Sox took an available late-inning reliever away from the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, and whoever else. Now the Yankees just have to, you know, sell.

Trade & Free Agent Notes: Cubs, Beltran, Red Sox, Gurriel

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

It has been three days since Yankees president Randy Levine told reporters any talk about selling was “nonsense,” and boy, it would be much easier to make a snarky comment right now had the Yankees not come back to win that game last night. Still, their postseason odds are 9.0% per FanGraphs, and that’s not good. Regardless of what Levine says, the Yankees have to seriously consider shifting focus from this season to the future before the trade deadline. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, with one free agent note thrown in for good measure.

Cubs continue to scout Yankees’ bullpen

The Cubs had multiple scouts at Yankee Stadium over the weekend to see the Yankees’ big three relievers, reports George King. Chicago had scouts on hand to see those guys earlier this month too. While I’m sure the Cubbies would love to get their hands on Dellin Betances, my guess is they’re focusing on Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman given their need for a late-inning southpaw.

For what it’s worth, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) hears the Yankees will tell the Cubs they have to part with Kyle Schwarber to get Miller. Chicago doesn’t want to do that, but they have plenty of other prospects and young big leaguers though, so when the time comes to field serious offers, Chicago can make a very competitive bid. Other contenders like the Nationals, Rangers, and Giants figure to be involved too, which is good news for the Yankees. Hooray bidding wars!

Beltran willing to waive no-trade clause

Carlos Beltran is one of the few big name Yankees without full no-trade protection — he can block deals to 14 teams — and he told Brendan Kuty that if the team comes to him to ask for approval for a trade, he’d be willing to okay the deal. “If they came to me about it, we would have a conversation,” he said. “When the team is looking to trade you, there’s no other decision to make other than go.”

The Yankees received a bit of a scare earlier this week when Beltran left a game with hamstring injury — that’s after receiving a scare when he needed his knee drained a few weeks ago — but thankfully he is only day-to-day. There don’t figure to be many impact bats available at the deadline, so even with Beltran’s defensive limitations, I imagine he’ll generate a ton of interest. The Indians and Royals are two obvious fits. The Giants and Nationals could have interest too. Hunter Pence is out long-term with a torn hamstring, so right field is open in San Francisco. Ben Revere hasn’t hit all year, so the Nats could put Beltran in right and slide Bryce Harper to center.

Dombrowski willing to trade with Yankees

Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

I wouldn’t count on this actually happening, but Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told Brian MacPherson he is open to making a trade with the Yankees this summer. “I have made trades within our own division,” said the longtime exec, “… and the only time I’ve generally done that is when one club is in it and the other club is not. In that way, if they get the best return on their value, they don’t really care. If they’re in it and we’re in it, probably the odds are longer.”

I definitely understand why teams shy away from intradivision trades, but when you take the plunge and decide to sell, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t consider all offers. I mean, teams don’t make trades unless they believe they’re coming out ahead, so theoretically an intradivision trade would make your roster stronger and a rival’s weaker. A Yankees-Red Sox trade — a big trade, I mean, not something like Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew — might get squashed at the ownership level. The prospect of losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make folks squeamish.

Yankees not believed to have much interest in Gurriel

Let’s end with a note about a free agent, not a trade. At some point soon the Yankees will hold a private workout for Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel at their Tampa complex, assuming it hasn’t happened already. Despite that, George King says the team’s interest level is “not believed to be high.” I would expect nothing less. Even if the Yankees have interest, they’re not going to say so publicly. There’s nothing to be gained by doing so.

Most see Gurriel as an impact middle of the order hitter, something the Yankees really lack. That said, he is already 32 years old, so he’s at the age where you’d expect his game to start to slip. You’re buying mostly decline years. Gurriel is a player you add if you’re a contender right now and are looking for someone to put you over the top. He doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team that is years away from contention. The Yankees have the resources to avoid a long rebuild and the plan for the offense going forward can’t simply be “hope the prospects work out.” I get why teams would shy away from a 32-year-old with no MLB track record even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

King: Yankees to hold private workout for Yulieski Gurriel in the coming days

(Donald Miralle/Getty)
(Donald Miralle/Getty)

According to George King, the Yankees will have Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel in Tampa for a private workout either this weekend or early next week. He also has private workouts scheduled with the Dodgers and Mets, among other teams. Gurriel will not hold an open showcase for scouts. He’s doing private workouts only.

The Yankees have brought pretty much every big name Cuban player to Tampa for private workouts in recent years, including Yoan Moncada and Aledmys Diaz. Obviously they didn’t sign any of those guys. Bringing Gurriel to Tampa does not necessarily mean the team has serious interest in signing him. They could just be doing their due diligence.

I wrote about Gurriel and the Yankees last week, so check that out. I’m not going to repeat it all here. He projects to be an impact bat and gosh, the Yankees sure could use one of those. There are three main questions here: one, where does he play? Two, how much will his age (32) work against him? And three, what’s is going to cost? Lots, probably.

Dave Cameron wrote a interesting post yesterday explaining why Gurriel may not command a huge contract like Rusney Castillo and Hector Olivera, who received six-year deals worth $11M+ annually. I’m not so sure. It only takes one team to love the talent and pay huge. We’ll find out soon enough. Gurriel could sign soon and make his MLB debut in second half.

Badler: Yankees favored to sign Dominican righty Roancy Contreras

The Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)
The Yankees’ academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)

Although the Yankees are still dealing with the penalties associated with their 2014-15 international spending spree, the team is still favored to land one of the top pitching prospects in Dominican Republic when the 2016-17 signing period opens on July 2nd. Ben Badler (subs. req’d) reports the Yankees “look like the favorites” to sign highly touted right-hander Roancy Contreras.

Contreras has “a fastball that has reached 92-93 mph, a sharp curveball with tight spin and a delivery that should allow him to be a starter,” writes Badler. He’s a little guy at 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., so surely the Yankees are hoping Contreras grows a few inches at some point. Remember, we’re talking about a 16-year-old kid. Chances are an awkward growth spurt is coming at some point.

The Yankees can not hand out a bonus larger than $300,000 during the upcoming signing period, though apparently that won’t be a problem. I wonder if the Yankees were on to Contreras early — teams scout 14-year-olds in Latin America, if you can believe that — and locked him into a verbal agreement at some point, then bam, he showed up to the park one day with some extra velocity and improved his prospect stock. Something like that.

The 2016-17 signing period is the last signing period the Yankees will have to deal with the penalties from their 2014-15 spree. Chances are the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement will change the system — we might see an international draft going forward — so we’ll just have to see what happens in 2017-18, when the penalties are lifted. Either way, it sounds as though the Yankees are still going to be able to add a top pitching prospect in the upcoming signing period.

King: Yankees have interest in Cuba infielder Yulieski Gurriel

(Eyder Peralta/NPR)
(Eyder Peralta/NPR)

According to George King, the Yankees have interest in Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, who was recently declared a free agent by MLB. Gurriel will reportedly work out for teams privately rather than hold open showcases. No word on whether the Yankees will bring him in for a workout. They probably will. They always do.

I covered everything you need to know about Gurriel and the Yankees the other day. He’s said to be a Yankee fan because his favorite player in Alex Rodriguez, plus he’s close friends with Aroldis Chapman, though who knows if that will influence his decision. I imagine money will be Gurriel’s top priority. It is for most, after all.

“This is a veteran player with a lot of experience. This is not a rookie. He has all the qualities needed to be a good player at this level,” said Chapman to King. “He is a really good player and a really good person. He is a great contact hitter with power, a quality swing.”

The Yankees need to rebuild their offense because the guys they’ve been counting on for so long, like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, aren’t going be around a much longer. We saw the other day what the lineup looks like without them. Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius batting 3-4-5 is just … no. It’s just no.

In recent years the Yankees have brought pretty much every big name Cuban free agent in for a workout. They just haven’t signed any of them. Gurriel is not a kid, he just turned 32, and he’s been a star in Cuba for a long time. Everyone expects him to be an impact bat right away, and boy, the Yankees sure could use one of those going forward.

Yulieski Gurriel is the right player at maybe not the right time for the Yankees

(Icon Sportswire)
(Icon Sportswire)

Yesterday morning, Jesse Sanchez reported Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel has been declared a free agent by MLB and is now able to sign with any team. Yulieski and his younger brother Lourdes Jr. defected back in December. Sanchez says Lourdes is still waiting to be declared a free agent, though he’s going to wait until his 23rd birthday in October to sign anyway. That way he won’t be eligible for the international spending restrictions.

Gurriel, 32, is a longtime Cuban star who is widely considered the best position player in the world not under contract with an MLB team. His numbers in Cuba last season are straight out of a video game: .500/.589/.874 with 20 doubles, 15 homers, 38 walks, and three strikeouts in 49 games and 224 plate appearances. Gurriel played the 2014 season in Japan, during which he hit .305/.349/.536 with eleven homers in 62 games. He’s been a monster his entire career.

Last year we heard Gurriel wants to play for the Yankees, partly because his favorite player is Alex Rodriguez. How about that? Gurriel is also close friends with Aroldis Chapman dating back to their time on the Cuban National Team, and Gurriel recent told Chapman he would be “super happy” to sign with the Yankees. Now that Yulieski is free to actually sign with a team, I have some thoughts on this.

1. Where would the Yankees play him? Gurriel has primarily been a second and third baseman in his career, and while the Yankees are contractually locked into Starlin Castro and Chase Headley at those positions, they shouldn’t stand in the way of signing him. The Yankees would be able to carve out regular playing time for Yulieski at both positions, and he could even fill-in some in the outfield. He has experience there.

Also, the Yankees have a need at first base, both immediate and long-term. They could try Gurriel at first, and if that doesn’t work, they could always fall back on playing him at third and Headley at first. It’s not ideal, but it could work. Point is, the Yankees can find ways to get Gurriel into the lineup rather easily. It’s not like he’s a catcher who would have to share time with Brian McCann or something. The Yankees have a collectively below-average infield and Gurriel would help correct that.

2. Forget about his position, they need his bat. Whoever signs Gurriel is not buying his glove (not that he’s a bad defender). He’s a legitimate middle of the order hitter. Here’s a piece of Baseball America’s latest scouting report, which does not seem to be behind the paywall:

Gourriel has all the attributes to be an above-average offensive player. He has plus bat speed and squares up all types of pitches with good hand-eye coordination and barrel control. He wraps his barrel behind his head, angling the bat toward the pitcher, but he gets the barrel into the hitting zone quickly and has good plate coverage. He stays within the strike zone and uses the whole field, and with plus raw power on the 20-80 scale, he offers a balance of being able to hit for average, get on base and hit for power.

The scouting report goes on to compare Gurriel to Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, and while that doesn’t sound too exciting these days, it was referring to peak Hanley and Wright. Yulieski is not someone you bring in to hit seventh or eighth. He has the ability to be a third or fourth place hitter.

The Yankees need offense. Very desperately, in fact. Both right now and going forward. They’re 24th in runs per game this season (3.92) and their best hitter is a 39-year-old impending free agent. Even if the Yankees were to re-sign Carlos Beltran — I think the odds of that are extremely small — how could you expect him to hit like this next year? And who knows what the young replacements (Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, etc.) can do?

Ken Rosenthal says Gurriel is going to need a few weeks in the minors to get ready, but he should be able to help a team in the second half. It’s not like he’s going to sign and be in the lineup tomorrow. He needs a Spring Training, basically. Gurriel can still help this year though. Simply put, he’s someone you can build their lineup around going forward. The Yankees don’t have another player like that right now.

3. What will it cost to sign him? This is the big question. I assume Gurriel won’t come cheap. These are the last three big name Cuban position players to sign with MLB clubs:

  • 3B Hector Olivera, Dodgers: Six years, $62.5M.
  • OF Yasmany Tomas, Diamondbacks: Six years, $68.5M
  • OF Rusney Castillo, Red Sox: Six years, $72M.

Gurriel is better than every one of those guys, and in the case of Olivera, he doesn’t have the same scary injury history either. Between general inflation and the fact he’s a better player than that trio, I can’t help but wonder if Gurriel is going to push for a $100M deal. Why not ask? It’s not like this upcoming free agent class is loaded with good hitters.

I suppose an opt-out could be a factor here. There seems to be some evidence opt-out clauses save teams a little bit of money. Perhaps Gurriel could sign for, say, Castillo money ($12M per season) with an opt-out after the second year. If he’s an impact hitter, that’s a bargain. With so much money coming off the books the next two years, the Yankees could afford Gurriel at $12M per year without blowing up their plan to get under the luxury tax.

For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland has long held Gurriel in high regard, so if nothing else, Rowland figures to give his bosses the hard sell. The Yankees bid for Cuban players like Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yoan Moncada, Jorge Soler, and Aledmys Diaz in recent years and fell short each time, and surely there is some level of regret. They don’t want to fall short again.

4. Is his age a problem? This is an interesting question and it makes me wonder if Gurriel is the right player at the wrong time for the Yankees. He’s 32 — he just turned 32 last week — which means he fits best for a team ready to win right now. You don’t sign Gurriel if you’re a rebuilding team looking ahead to the future. You sign him because you’re a contender looking for the final piece to put you over the top this year and next year and the year after.

The Yankees say they’re trying to win and that’s all well and good, but the team on the field suggests it might not be in the cards this year. They’re not a game under .500 in mid-June by accident, you know? Does it make sense to add Gurriel when winning this season is a long shot? He’s already at the age where his game might begin to slip as it is. So you’re talking about adding a player nearing the end of his prime to a team that might not be a true contender until he’s 33 or 34. That is sort of tricky.

At the same time, you could argue the Yankees shouldn’t need two or three years to turn things around because of their resources. They have a bunch of prospects at Double-A and Triple-A and all that money is coming off the books. The 2003 Tigers were the worst team I’ve ever seen and the 2006 Tigers won the pennant, so it’s certainly possible for the Yankees to turn things around in a hurry, while Gurriel is still producing big time.

There’s also the contract length angle. He’s 32 now, so a six-year deal takes him to age 38, and signing a guy deep into his 30s is always risky. Sometimes it works out, like the Beltran deal. Most of the time it doesn’t though. It’s impossible to project how Gurriel will age, so in addition to the question of whether the Yankees will be ready to win during whatever is left of his prime years, there’s also the risk of signing him beyond the age of 35.

5. Don’t forget, Lourdes Jr. is the real prize. Yulieski is unquestionably the better player right now and that figures to be the case for the next few years, but Lourdes is the Gurriel brother teams are going to fall all over themselves to sign. He’s another potential middle of the diamond impact hitter, except he’ll be only 23 when he signs, so you’re getting him for his entire prime. That’s pretty huge.

I’ve seen folks talk about the possibility of a package deal, though who knows if that’s possible. Both Gurriels may take the highest offer no matter what. Assuming Lourdes is declared a free agent soon, he could work out a deal and simply hold off on signing until October. That would allow teams to negotiate with Yulieski and Lourdes at the same time, which is certainly better than trying to work out a package deal when you have to negotiate weeks or months apart.

* * *

I’m of the belief that impact bats are very hard to find, especially those capable of playing the middle infield. Because of that, I think the Yankees should be in on Gurriel even though he is 32 and even though he might cost them $12M+ a year. The future of the offense is very much a question and this is a chance to add a cornerstone type hitter for nothing but money. No draft pick. Nothing. There’s never a “wrong” time to add good players.

Of course, it’s easy to say that when it’s not my money. I wouldn’t be assuming the risk. I definitely understand why someone would be hesitant to sign Gurriel deep into his 30s, especially with no MLB track record. Pretty much everyone agrees this guy can be an offensive force though, including the Yankees’ international scouting director. If Gurriel is as good as advertised, or is even 75% of what is advertised, he could end up a real bargain.