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While both Yulieski Gurriel and his younger brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hoped to leave Cuba legally now that relations between the United States and their home country have warmed, they apparently didn't want to keep waiting. The two reportedly defected from Cuba following the conclusion of the Caribbean Series that finished this past weekend, and as Jesse Sanchez reports, they're now looking to sign with MLB teams. This is going to be a fascinating process to watch unfold.
By the way, before you wonder why it's "Gurriel" and not "Gourriel", as it used to be: Sanchez reported that it was changed to Gurriel for the Caribbean Series.
Yulieski is considered big-league ready right now, so whoever signs him could plop him in the majors immediately if they chose. Lourdes, on the other hand, is still a prospect, but he's a shortstop and center fielder who would go very early in the 2016 draft were he eligible. The question isn't if they'll be signed, so much as when, and by whom. It takes time for Cuban players to be declared eligible to sign in MLB, given the political implications of defection and baseball's need to "unblock" players. Yoan Moncada, for example, signed last February after leaving Cuba the previous summer, and he left the island legally with a visa before establishing residency elsewhere.
So, while Yulieski would be a straight-up free agent given his age and professional service, Lourdes, as of now, would be restricted to the international signing rules and budgets. That's bad news for teams who can't offer bonuses of more than $300,000 at present due to previous overages -- like the one that got the Red Sox Moncada, or the Yankees' buying in bulk, and so on -- but if he waits until after his 23rd birthday in October to sign, he'll be a standard free agent, as well. With the potential wait to be unblocked, October might very well be the first month they're available to be signed, anyway. Thing could change, and maybe even in a hurry, but if the wait is long enough, next winter's free agent offerings might have just improved with these defections.
- The Royals supported the Panthers' quest to return and win Super Bowl 51 next year like they returned to the World Series to win. That made the Chiefs understandably jealous.
- The Cubs tried to get into a Twitter battle with the Yankees. Maybe next time try an organization with fewer rings than you, because this was embarrassing.
- Speaking of the Yankees, it won't just be them and the Dodgers hovering over Bryce Harper when he's a free agent in 2019: a lot can change in three years, and basically anyone could make room for him in the budget if they wanted to.
- The Red Sox could go from worst to first again after an offseason that saw them make some shrewd, high-impact moves.
- The Orioles have spent this offseason, and if the Yovani Gallardo rumors are true, they might not be done spending.
- The Cardinals missed out on their outfield targets, so should they pursue Dexter Fowler while he's still available?
- The Tigers signed J.D. Martinez to a two-year deal that secures his final two years of team control. The Blue Jays did the same with reigning MVP Josh Donaldson, and gave him a raise over what they offered in arbitration to boot. Next up, figuring out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion's extensions.
- Nathan Eovaldi is the key to the Yankees' rotation, as his performance could determine whether it falls short or drives them to the top of the AL East.