With the World Series and then the rush of the immediate part of the offseason, I’ll confess this slipped off my radar a bit.
To quickly reset: the top active player in Cuba, Yulieski Gurriel signed earlier this year with the Houston Astros after defecting. He had a mixed debut with the Astros in the second half, and, at 32, many wondered if he was already past the window when he could be a truly impactful player in Major League Baseball.
Gurriel did not defect alone, however, leaving Cuba with his much younger prospect-age brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Because he was, at the time, subject to international free agent restriction, it was expected that Gurriel would wait until after he’d turned 23 in October to sign with a big league team. That’s the part that fell from my radar. Probably yours, too.
Well, it’s back on the radar, but it’s already reportedly over:
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) November 11, 2016
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 11, 2016
As you know, it can be hard to get a great gauge on how teams are valuing a Cuban prospect until after he signs (and even then, you hear about wildly varying valuations because of the difficulty in getting extensive scouting in), but that contract indicates the Blue Jays, at a minimum, believe Gurriel is an excellent prospect. That’s been the expectation all along, but there’s the signing to confirm. (On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the very best IFA prospects get deals in that range, despite the signing restrictions. So, Gurriel is probably not believed to be a Yoan Moncada uber-prospect-type.)
It would have been nice to see the Cubs land another top positional prospect, especially one who is not subject to the IFA restrictions (the Cubs are in the penalty box), but only one team can get the guy. Perhaps the Cubs simply weren’t as high on Gurriel as the Blue Jays (there were never any explicitly reported connections between the Cubs and Gurriel). And perhaps Gurriel wasn’t keen on signing with a team where his immediate starting future in the big leagues was not at all clear.