Last week, Yulieski Gourriel, the latest Cuban baseball phenom, was officially declared a free agent by MLB. The 32-year-old third baseman defected from his home country this past February and has been waiting to be officially announced as a free agent. Teams are already lining up for Cuban baseball’s biggest star.
Yoenis Cespedes, Cuban defector turned multi-millionaire player in the for the Mets, says his former Cuban National Series rival was “the best player in Cuba.” Gourriel has amassed a line of .333/.414/.577 with 239 home runs and 988 RBI across 15 seasons in Cuba. While Cespedes did have a bit more power than Gourriel while playing in Cuba, Cespedes did not have the ability to hit for as high an average as his counterpart. He batted .300 his rookie year at the age of 17 in 2001, and would to bat over .300 in 13 of his 15 seasons in Cuba.
Just because he hasn’t played in the big league does not mean that Gourriel is not a veteran– he’s 32 years old. The Diamondbacks could really use a sturdy veteran bat in the middle of the lineup. Arizona has a very young offensive core made up of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Jake Lamb. A consistent and seasoned bat like Gourriel in the lineup can only do good for this team in terms of taking the next step towards a championship.
His bat seems to be fine, so the only issue is where to put him on the baseball diamond. Gourriel has spent almost his entire career at third base, but Jake Lamb is already has a firm hold on the position. It also does not seem likely he will move to the outfield, with the team expecting Pollock back at the end of the season and top prospect Peter O’Brien possibly taking over the starting left field job. This is the biggest obstacle in the way of acquiring the latest Cuban defector. Giving him a corner outfield spot for the time being probably isn’t the worst idea, considering his potential at the plate.
Regardless of if Gourriel becomes a Diamondback or not, the team should at least look into him. He may not fit with Lamb at third base but Arizona needs to somehow squeeze in at least one veteran hitter around all the young core to truly get this lineup to compete with the best in the NL. Gourriel would be ideal if only they could find a spot for him.