Dodgers Reportedly Closing in on Cuban Righty Yaisel Sierra

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Dodgers Reportedly Closing in on Cuban Righty Yaisel Sierra

Chicago Cubs

cuba feature[Brett: Michael wrote a lovely post, below, which was due to publish in just a few minutes. Because the information therein is still accurate and useful (albeit now in a totally different context), I’ll leave it.

But the big news is now a completely different take:

Jeff Passan reports that the Dodgers – of course – are nearing a deal with Yaisel Sierra for something close to $30 million over six or seven years.

And now the original post …. ]

The influx of talent from Cuba over the past year and half has been nothing short of astounding. There are more talented players available than its possible to keep up with. Lately, for the most part, our attention has been directed towards Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros, the 16-year-old phenom with a huge body and even larger expectations. The connection isn’t hard to understand, of course: he’s young, available now and, because of the IFA restrictions, the Cubs might be in an especially good position to land him.

The newlydeveloped wrinkle in this story, though, is that his first MLB workout didn’t go as well as everyone hoped. So much of his expected, future value was tied to his ability to play plus defense in center field, which might no longer be the case. If he was relegated to a corner spot, for example, the Cubs’ interest might begin to wane. But like I said, there are so many talents coming in from Cuba that were previously unobtainable; it’s hard to keep up with all of them.

One of the biggest talents left, Yaisel Sierra, might actually be the better fit and overall talent, and is a true free agent – meaning that he is not tied to any IFA restrictions. Unfortunately, that means he’s available to each of the 30 MLB clubs, potentially making him even more pricey.

Sierra, Ken Rosenthal reports, is being pursued by the Marlins, among other teams, and is expected to beat fellow Cuban righty Raisel Iglesias’s healthy seven-year, $27 million deal, which was inked in June 2014 with the Cincinnati Reds. A deal which, while positively received , is certainly a significant commitment for a bit of an unknown. In that respect, the two pitchers actually have quite a bit in common. Other than their expected price tags, both were, of course, Cuban pitchers in their early twenties with equally sparse scouting reports, having played at a unique level of competition. Also, both have the potential to be starting pitchers long term, but have questions regarding the likelihood of that outcome.

Perhaps most importantly, though, both pitchers came into the fold as unrestricted free agents. That alone would necessarily increase the cost of their contracts, because all 30 teams could participate in the bidding. Additionally, a lack of IFA restrictions means that the signing team will not have to pay any overage taxes.

If the Cubs were to sign Sierra, you might expect him to follow a similar path to the majors as Iglesias. Iglesias, who signed in June of 2014, spent 36 innings in the minor leagues across 2014 and 2015, before ultimately making 16 starts (95.1 innings) at the major league level last season. Although Iglesias didn’t have the best rookie year (4.15 ERA) his peripherals were a lot stronger (as suggested by his excellent 3.28 xFIP), and he projects to be about a 3-win pitcher in 2016.

Sierra, like Iglesias, features three main pitches: a fastball, slider and change-up. The biggest difference, though, is that Sierra’s fastball (96MPH) is much faster than Iglesias’s (91-92 MPH), but comes with far less control. Christopher Smith has a nice write-up on Sierra, his scouting reports, and his past performance here, that you should check out for more detail.

In short, Sierra performed only so-so over the past five seasons in Cuba, but his potential remains very high. If he can learn to control his pitches better and limit his walks, he might realize that very potential (although, that is an extremely common issue with high upside pitching prospects). According to scouts, the best thing for him, might just be getting more experience against high-level competition.

Sierra feels like an excellent target for the Cubs, specifically. The rotation is relatively full in the short term, but is expected to have plenty of vacancies a year or two down the line that might not be filled internally. If signed, the Cubs could send Sierra to the minors in 2016, where he could work on harnessing his potential before either a) stepping in midseason if needed or b) becoming an option in 2017 and beyond.

For now, though, there haven’t been too many connections between Sierra and the Cubs (though Rian Watt has reported that the Cubs are at least monitoring), so this is mostly theoretical. Still, young pitching has been an open target for the Cubs over the past year, and Sierra is a unique talent.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami