The Brothers Gurriel defected over the weekend, and it's your indisputable right as a Giants fan to wonder if they'll fit on your favorite team. Personally, I'm comfortable with my personal response to every story about a Cuban player who defects.
The Giants should spend millions of dollars to sign him. Who is he?
Once you eliminate the critical thinking part of the job, this scouting stuff sure is easy.
Yulieski Gurriel is a Cuban baseball legend, and he's also the son of a Cuban baseball legend. In 15 seasons in the Serie Nacional, Gurriel is a career .333/.414/.577 hitter. The 32-year-old has played mostly third, and he's a veteran of the World Baseball Classic and the NPB, where he played a half-season with the Yokohama Bay Stars. In his last season in Cuba, he hit .535/.604/1.012 in 106 plate appearances, with 15 walks and one strikeout. I don't care about small samples. That's rad.
But he's an infielder, mostly, which is an area the Giants aren't looking to improve. It might be tempting to wonder if Gurriel has potential in the outfield, where he played 771 innings in 2005, but other teams will want Gurriel for second or third. And they'll pay him for the privilege. Several millions, I would guess. Maybe even scores of millions, despite his age. People have been waiting for him to defect for a long time. Unless something shocking happens between now and the time he signs, the Giants will find other ways to spend their money.
Lourdes Gurriel is just 22 years old, and he's more like a first-round pick than an immediate roster fix. That means the Giants should absolutely be intrigued, considering they gave up their first-round pick to sign Jeff Samardzija. The younger Gurriel had breakout performances in his last two campaigns, hitting over .300 with patience, bat control, and more power than he had shown in the past. He's played outfield mostly, but also has infield experience, including at short. He was listed as one of the top Cuban players before last season by Baseball America.
Gourriel is a smart hitter with a chance to get on base at a high clip and drive the ball for power. He improved his balance at the plate this past season, keeping his hands inside the ball well for someone with his long arms with a fluid swing. Gourriel has plenty of bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and the plate coverage to make frequent contact.
Did we mention that he plays outfield? Where the Giants appear to have a future and current need? In a year when the Giants have deliberately gone over their bonus pool, which gives them a sense of urgency to sign as many young international prospects as they can before June? Why, this seems to be a perfect fit.
However, there's a wrinkle! You knew there would be. It takes months and months for Major League Baseball to clear players after they defect. The odds are outstanding that by the time Lourdes Gurriel is a free agent, the Giants will be unable to sign any international prospect under the age of 23 for more than $300,000. That's part of the penalty for going over the bonus pool, which the Giants did last year to sign Lucius Fox.
However, there's a wrinkle to the wrinkle! The younger Gurriel turns 23 in October, which means that if he signs after that, teams like the Giants (and Dodgers) could enter the bidding for him and ostensibly drive the price up. The delay in approving his eligibility just might help the Giants pursue him.
The unspoken wrinkle is that every other team is going to pursue him, too, and the Giants usually don't fare well in those kinds of races.
The Unspoken Wrinkle is also the name of my mystery novel, coming out in May. I can't wait to introduce the world to Clem Huggins, the gruff ex-cop with a soft heart.
What's most likely is that the Giants are going to focus on the attainable talent, the ones who will sign for the prices they've assigned them. There's always one team willing to pay more for the premium players than the Giants are, which is why they never seem to get the Jose Abreus or Yoan Moncadas, but they'll skulk around the fringes of the premium players and come away with interesting prospects, like they did with Fox. Baseball America has a name in mind:
Now watch out for them targeting pool-eligible Cuban players, especially with ownership wanting the team to be more involved in that market. Other clubs have pointed to them as a team to watch on Cuban righthander Vladimir Gutierrez.
The 20-year-old Gutierrez was ranked as the 12th-best Cuban prospect in the above rankings, and he shaved two walks off his BB/9 between his age-18 and age-19 season. He throws in the high-80s/low-90s, but he apparently has the potential to add to that. BA describes him as the equivalent of a low-first or second-round pick. That sounds like a very Giants investment.
But if you're wondering if the buzz around the Brothers Gurriel affects the Giants, the answer is both "probably not" and "maybe," as usual. They're probably not going to get the elder Gurriel because he'll be a better fit on other rosters, and even though the younger Gurriel will likely be available to them, the competition will be fierce.
The Giants will still be active in the international market over the next three months, though. It would be quite odd if they punted the next two signing periods for Lucius Fox and no one else.