The baseball community has lost its collective mind over the defection of two of Cuba's best players, Yulieski and Lourdes Jr. Gurriel. Part of this is due to it somehow still being the offseason, but it's mostly exciting because both brothers can be very, very good. And let's be real, everyone loves a good Cuban defection story. If you haven't read Slusser's piece on Cespedes's move to the US, you need to do so right now.
As an A's fan you're probably thinking, hey, I like good players. Then you look at the A's roster and think, hey, the A's can use good players. Can this thing happen?
Yulieski is the older brother, and he was considered to be the best Cuban player still in Cuba by some prior to his defection. He'll likely earn a starting role straight away at either second or his more comfortable position of third. At age 31, he's not exactly a spring chicken but should still have some years left in him with an ability to contribute straight away. With a decently powerful bat, good control of the zone, and solid defense, Yulieski profiles as an above average player. It's hard to guess exactly where his value will lie, but the elder Gurriel put up a .494/.586/.861 line in his most recent Cuban season, so his ceiling is certainly high.
Sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, the price tag will likely be a little out of the A's realm. Considering his age, a good comp might be Hector Oliveira who received a 6 year $62.5 million contract just before his 30th birthday. Oliveira's disappointing 2015 might bring the price tag down a touch on Yulieski, but the newer Cuban defector presumably doesn't have the warts that Oliveria did, and therefore the money and years might be similar. Gurriel is older of course, but his likely immediate contribution will make him an expensive asset.
It's hard to imagine Yulieski not going to a team primed to compete as his career winds down, but Cespedes signed with the A's so let's not rule anything out. Still, it's hard to see a match between an aging star with fewer valuable years left, a young and uncertain team, a limited payroll, and a less than ideal ballpark.
For you dreamers out there, it certainly is possible. The A's have a low payroll, but the team is free of contract obligations after 2017 and the roster should consist of cheap, cost controlled players. Should things go right with the youngsters, there's a lot of room to work! What I'm saying is Yulieski is as good as signed.
In the meantime, enjoy a Yulieski dinger.
Younger brother Lourdes is probably a more reasonable target for the A's. Unlike his older brother, Lourdes Jr. isn't likely to be an immediate presence on a big league roster. He'll likely start in the upper minors before making his big league debut. Predicting his contract is a little harder and as we'll talk about shortly, his free agency is a little more complicated.
What kind of player is Lourdes? The 22 year old has spent significant time at both short, second, first and the outfield. His versatility suggests he'll have no trouble finding a defensive home although it's not clear where he'll play. Lourdes is less powerful than his brother and is still filling into his lanky body, but he could develop into a 20-homer threat.
This isn't immediate
There are certainly hopes that both brothers could make their first appearance on American soil in 2016, but it's not guaranteed to happen this year. The brothers will have to first establish residency then be approved by the commissioner's office, a task that takes a bizarrely long time. Currently, there are players who have been waiting 6 and 7 months in queue with no sign of approval. A seven month wait would make the brothers free agents in September, too late to be added to a postseason roster. Stupid, yes, but this is a sport where harmful slides into second base are just becoming illegal, so get used to it. It's not guaranteed to take that long, but it's certainly a possibility.
The fact that Yulieski might miss the whole season is painful and dumb as the third baseman is entering the later stages of his career. The wait isn't so bad for 22 year old Lourdes, who is incentived to not file until he turns 23 in October anyway. Waiting until that point would increase his earning value as he'll be able to sign a Major League contract with any team. Signing prior to age 23 would limit his high paying option to teams not over the international pool bonus limit, and it's likely till he waits till October either way.
Now, we wait
The stupidly long process to be approved for free agency likely won't be resolved for these brothers for some time. We'll keep an eye on it for you, but don't expect to hear from either until the All-Star break at the very earliest.