Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez has reportedly defected from his home land, though his exact whereabouts are unknown. The 26-year-old is listed at five-foot-ten, 185 pounds, and he is a left-handed hitter. Fernandez played seven seasons in Cuba for the Matanzas in Serie Nacional before he disappeared from the country in early October. There are several steps that need to be taken before he could be considered eligible to sign with a team, but he is likely to draw a lot of interest around the league when that time comes.
He has had several good seasons over the past few years, including his performance in the World Baseball Classic in 2013, where he hit .524/.545/.667 with 11 hits through 21 at bats. During the 2013-2014 season, Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 with 10 strikeouts (!) and 65 walks in 314 plate appearances. The 2014-2015 season started in September, and in 65 plate appearances, Fernandez hit .315/.415/.426. Back in August, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that Fernandez was one of Cuba's three best players who was currently unavailable to MLB teams. According to Badler, he has excellent on-base skills and plate discipline. However, he's considered to be just adequate as a second baseman, and he does not hit for much power. He hits a lot of ground balls, and even lead the league in most double-plays hit into back in 2008. Fernandez is also considered to have below-average speed and an unconventional swing.
On the plus side, Fernandez has been considered by some to be ready to take on an everyday job in the big leagues. He also will not be subject to international spending limits because of his age and how long he played for Serie Nacional in Cuba. Unfortunately, Fernandez will need to establish permanent residency in another country before he can even be considered for free agency. He would then need to be cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before he could be eligible to sign with a team. There is no set timetable for how long all of that could take, but it took fellow countryman Yasmany Tomas three and a half months, so Fernandez could possibly be cleared to sign around the time of spring training. The Yankees don't necessarily have a pressing need for the second baseman, since Martin Prado looks to have the starting job next season, unless the Yankees decide to go with Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela instead. Still, it wouldn't hurt to check on him.
Would you like to see the Yankees pursue Fernandez if he becomes a free agent?