After defecting from Cuba on Monday, Cuban third baseman Yuliesky Gourriel has reportedly expressed interest in playing for the Yankees. Gourriel, along with his younger brother, Lourdes, left their team hotel while in the Dominican Republic with the intention of playing baseball in the United States.
Yuliesky is 31 years old, and has played 15 seasons between Cuba and Japan. He's hit 245 home runs in that time, carrying a .333 career batting average. Aside from being able to play third base, he also plays second base. That's where things get a bit tricky for the Yankees.
Chase Headley is still under contract for the next few seasons. Brian Cashman swung a trade for Starlin Castro this offseason to fill the void at second base. Designated Hitter is also locked up with Alex Rodriguez. That leaves little place to play Gourriel if he is, in fact, interested in joining the team.
Gourriel's motivation to join the Yankees is because his favorite player is A-Rod. He told Yahoo! Sports in 2015 that every player wants to play at the maximum level, with that level being MLB. It's endearing that he wants to play for the team, but it's difficult to see how he'd fit into the current lineup. Although, his production (even at a lower competition level) is enough to turn a few heads.
Lou DiPietro of the YES Network claims that the Yankees may actually be more interested in the younger Gourriel, Lourdes. He's a 22-year-old left fielder that isn't major league ready yet, but would be an intriguing option as a prospect. The Yankees don't really have any openings in their outfield right now, but they might by the time Lourdes would be ready to join the big league team.
It is unlikely that either Gourriel brother will be playing major league baseball this season. The process to become eligible is a long one, and Lourdes would be subject to international bonus pools until his 23rd birthday in October. Teams who have exceeded their pool, like the Yankees, would only be able to offer a maximum contract of $300,000. The brothers have to establish residency in the United States before the ball can even begin rolling.
The Yankees have passed on their fair share of Cuban players in the past, letting Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Yoan Moncada, and Aroldis Chapman all sign with other teams. It's true that the team didn't always have a spot for those players, but that is not true in every case. It seems more like the Yankees are hesitant to drop the money required to obtain such a player.
Contracts for Cuban defectors have certainly ballooned over time, and that bubble is bound to eventually burst. No team wants to get left holding the bag when that happens. A slugger over 30 years old may not be the player who will change their mind. Perhaps his younger brother could be, but that remains to be seen.
Do you think the Yankees should take a chance on either one of the Gourriel brothers? Do you think they will succeed in MLB?