Officially a free agent according to Major League Baseball, Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel will wait until his 23rd birthday to sign with a MLB team, when all 30 of them will have the capability to sign him. The Houston Astros, where his brother plays, are obvious candidates, but so are the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The reason for waiting is the spending cap for teams like those mentioned, and overall 10 ballclubs limited to no more than $300,000 for pool-eligible players, due to exceeding their pool limits in the previous two years. Once he turns 23, Gurriel will have the maximum number of suitors available, with his market open to all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Gurriel and his brother Yulieski defected from Cuba last February, while competing in the Caribbean World Series in the Dominican Republic.
The older brother is 32, playing a bit in Japan before going back to Cuba and since signing for $47.5 million over five years with the Astros, has been doing mostly well in the minors. Lourdes should expect the same treatment, as many believe he has two more years of developing in lesser competition before he can do well at a major league level. Lourdes has said he would love to be with his brother on the same team, but also knows the two are in a very different spot age-wise, so it might be difficult.
The 22-year old can play both second and first base, and has six seasons in the Cuban league under his belt, with a .277 batting average in 305 games and 1098 plate appearances, hitting 27 home runs and posting a .788 OPS. He did exceptionally well in 2015 for Industriales, batting .344 with a .967 OPS and hitting 10 home runs, playing in 59 games and making 245 plate appearances. He’s 6’2 and weight 183 lbs.
As for scouts, the opinions differ. Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked Gurriel as the fourth-best player in Cuba a year ago, noting his patience at the plate, his bat speed and command of the strike zone, seeing him becoming a high OBP hitter with a potential for 20 home runs a season. Others think he has something of a long, too long swing, and could be too much of a project for someone who is 23, although from the attention he’s getting now, it’ll probably do nothing to stop him from getting an 8-figure bonus once he chooses his MLB team.