Among the next wave of Cuban players that are defecting to play Major League Baseball is 23-year-old Lourdes Gurriel. He is the younger brother of Yulieski, who signed a five-year deal with the Astros in mid-July and then made his major league debut in late August. Lourdes, who is nine years younger than Yulieski, played left field for Industriales of Cuba last season. Both Gurriels defected from Cuba in February of this year.
Gurriel is a 6’4 shortstop who also has the ability to play third base and the outfield. As Jon Heyman reports, Gurriel is ready to start setting up private workouts with teams and will assumedly sign sometime early in the offseason. Heyman also lists four teams that are known to be interested in the talented Cuban. As you may have guessed, the Tigers were not mentioned.
However, Heyman did mention that are thought to be two other teams that are interested in the younger Gurriel. Still, given their recent history in the international market, it’s fairly safe to assume the Tigers aren’t involved. On the flip side, the teams that are involved really aren’t that surprising. The Red Sox, Astros, Marlins, and Cardinals all have a known international presence, particularly Boston who signed Yoan Moncada prior to the 2015 season.
When Al Avila took over for Dave Dombrowski, he stated that he wanted to increase the Tigers’ presence in the international market. It’s been over a calendar year since Avila took over, and he has not at all lived up to that statement. This season the Tigers had the ninth-highest international bonus pool, but did not pursue any of the premium international free agents. As we pointed out earlier, the Tigers haven’t made a key international free agent signing since before Dombrowski’s days with the Tigers. Whether it be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or Cuba, the Tigers do not have nearly as strong of a presence there as they should.
While the Tigers would most likely have had to gone over their bonus pool to attract multiple premium players, it would’ve been well worth it. Besides two top pitching prospects, the Tigers farm system is depleted of any talent with high upside. Going all-in on the international market might be expensive in the short run, but it’s a quick and effective way to restock the farm without solely relying on the draft. Despite breaking a few rules along the way, the Red Sox have had a major presence in the international market, and now have arguably the best farm system in the majors to show for it. The Tigers shouldn’t commit the same violations that the Red Sox did, but Al Avila should put his money where his mouth is, and he can start by getting involved in the Lourdes Gurriel sweepstakes.
With his versatility, by the time he is ready to be called up to the majors, Gurriel would be a perfect fit on a Tigers team that not only needs depth, but could be in need of outfield and infield help within the next two years. Although he only has 27 homers over his last six seasons, with his size and age, many scouts think that his power will develop.
While he won’t come cheap, Lourdes Gurriel could prove a worthwhile investment. The Tigers are in need of a youth movement, and while they have that going on in the rotation, their lack of high end position player prospects might prove costly as contracts expire. It’s no secret that the Tigers need more young talent, and Gurriel could end up being a difference maker.