2023 SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards: Voting Open Now!

Gurriel brothers defect from Cuba
In something of a stunning Monday morning development, the Gurriel brothers—the 31-year-old Yulieski Gurriel and the 22-year-old Lourdes Gurriel Jr.—are reportedly defecting from Cuba. The El Nuevo Herald had the story first, and’s Jesse Sanchez, the go-to source for news on soon-to-be Cuban free agents these days, expanded on it yesterday. The Gurriels defections come as a surprise mainly because the two were not expected to leave Cuba without permission from the government. It appears, however, that the allure of the majors proved too strong to resist.

Yulieski Gurriel is a veteran infielder, considered one of the elite players in Serie Nacional, and would not be subject to the international bonus pools. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a shortstop and outfielder regarded as one of the top amateur talents in Cuba, would put his first big-league employer in the penalty—assuming he signs before turning 23 on October 19th. Sanchez pointed out that “it could take several months” for the Gurriels to receive clearance from Major League Baseball, by which point the younger Gurriel might be tempted to weigh the benefits of waiting until the fall to secure a major-league contract.

Given the prodigious talents involved, this will be a story worth following in the coming weeks and months.

Diamondbacks could tweak their outfield arrangement
Arizona’s starting outfielders this year will be A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Yasmany Tomas. That much—following the exportation of Ender Inciarte to Atlanta in the Shelby Miller trade—we know. We also know that Pollock, an exceptional defensive player, will be the center fielder. The only lingering question, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic wrote Monday, is which of his mates will flank him on which side.

Last year, the answer would’ve been Tomas in right and Peralta in left, in part because of the Cuban’s hose. But while plus arm strength is a handy tool to have in right field, manager Chip Hale noted that Tomas’ arm played down because of poor accuracy, and the edge in that department might actually belong to Peralta. Since defensive metrics prefer Peralta overall, assuming the D’backs would prefer to have the superior defender in right, as Piecoro suggested, switching the two would be a logical move.

The decision is likely to come in the next week or two, because Hale and general manager Dave Stewart want both outfielders to become comfortable in what would be their new primary positions early in spring training. Arizona initially worked Tomas, an outfielder in Cuba, at third base, in hopes that he could transition smoothly to the hot corner. Cynics of that plan proved prescient, as the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder returned from the dirt to the pastures, after 31 games at third and four at first.. He’ll come to camp as a full-time outfielder this time around and should learn which side of Pollock he’ll be playing on soon enough.

Cliff Lee seeking about $6-8 million in guaranteed salary
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, teams aren’t gung-ho about the idea of committing $6-8 million to Cliff Lee. That’s newsworthy because, for one thing, it gives us an idea of what the left-hander is seeking as he looks to vie for Comeback Player of the Year accolades.

Lee hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2014, when he allowed 100 hits in 81 1/3 innings, in part because of diminished stuff, but was still his typically excellent self in the K:BB department, racking up six punchouts for every free pass. He’s 37 now, and coming off a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, and looking for “a perfect fit.” That last criterion, evidently, means a team willing to guarantee him a $6-8 million paycheck.

Earlier this offseason, the A’s tendered a one-year, $6 million contract to another aging southpaw teeming with question marks—namely, Rich Hill, who’ll turn 36 before Opening Day. Hill is the opposite of Lee, in that he’s healthy and dominated in a few late-season rotation opportunities last year, but given the former’s incredibly short track record of recent success, the risk Oakland took on isn’t much greater than what a team would assume by agreeing to agent Darek Braunecker’s price tag for Lee.

Nonetheless, teams are “reluctant” to go there, even with the market for reliable starters diminishing. Yovani Gallardo is, by most accounts, the top option still on the board. Teams angling for a flier but unwilling to meet Lee’s ask could instead wait for Tim Lincecum, as the Orioles are reportedly inclined to do, per Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
It will be interesting to see how PECOTA decides to use the Cuban league data to make a prediction about Yuliesky. We have had an influx of power hitting Cubans coming over recently and strong performances out of many. Super high risk to predict, but it should be fun.