It wasn’t the move people were expecting, but the Toronto Blue Jays have still started off the 2016-2017 offseason with a big splash in International Free Agency.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 11, 2016
Gourriel defected from Cuba last year with his more famous brother, Yulieski, but unlike his older brother, waited to sign his deal (Yulieski agreed to a deal with Houston last year). The reasoning is pretty simple. By waiting until after his 23rd birthday, he was no longer subject to MLB’s bonus limits on international free agents.
This was especially useful to the Blue Jays, as they would have been unable to sign him otherwise, having been limited to $300K this year thanks to the signing of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. during the 2015 signing period.
While he may be no Vladdy with the stick, Gourriel is not slouch. As a 21-year-old in Serie Nacional, the newest Blue Jay hit .344/.407/.560, with 10 HR and 17 2B in 59 games. He doesn’t run much (just 8 SB), but that bat is very exciting. The scouting reports agree with the numbers, as well. From Baseball America’s report on Gourriel in 2015 when he defected:
“[Gourriel] has good strike-zone discipline and a patient approach, giving him a chance to be a plus hitter with a high OBP. Gourriel flashes above-average raw power with the swing path to generate backspin and leverage the ball for loft in games, making him a 20-homer threat.”
If he can reach that ceiling, his bat will play pretty much all over the diamond. That’s a good thing, too, as it’s unclear where he’d play in the big leagues. While he has played mostly shortstop in Cuba, his defensive reputation suggests he’d be better off either at second, third or in the center field (he’s apparently quite fast – 6.65 second 60 yard dash time – despite the low stolen base totals). Those spots are currently filled, but Gourriel will likely need some minor league seasoning.
The expectation is that he will start the year in Double-A New Hampshire, helping to form a dynamic outfield with top prospect Anthony Alford. Depending on how the Jays fill out the rest of the roster this season, Gourriel could move very quickly and really help the Major League club.
On the more general side of things, this is yet another signal that the Blue Jays are willing to spend their money. Lourdes was a highly sought after commodity, and Toronto did what was necessary to bring him into town. Considering they were willing to make this level of commitment to a player who may not get a single plate appearance in the big leagues in 2017, it also suggests there really is some nice room in the budget this year, as Shi Davidi suggested earlier this week.
Welcome back, Transaction Friday. We missed you. And welcome to Toronto, Lourdes, we can’t wait to see what you can do.
Lead Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports