Gurriel brothers get player-agent representation

Cubans move closer to negotiating deals with big league clubs

Gurriel brothers get player-agent representation

Cuban stars Yulieski Gurriel and his younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have taken another step in their paths to the big leagues.

The brothers will be represented by Andy Mota and Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group, and they will join a client list that includes fellow Cuban stars Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers and Kendrys Morales of the Royals. It was Katz and Mota who negotiated Yoenis Cespedes' first contract -- a four-year, $36 million deal with Oakland in 2012 that led to him becoming a free agent after the '15 season.

The brothers are training in Miami and staying with family. They are in the United States on visitors visas.

"We met with a few firms, looked at our options and decided that this was a good fit for us," Yulieski Gurriel said. "We trust that they'll do a good job in guiding our path to MLB and our careers."

The Gurriels defected from their Cuban team during the early morning hours of Feb. 8, after the conclusion of the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Yulieski, 31, has established residency in Haiti. It's unclear whether Lourdes, 22, has established residency in a country outside of Cuba and the U.S., which is the first step to becoming a free agent and being eligible to sign with a Major League team.

Yulieski Gurriel, one of Cuba's most celebrated and decorated players, is considered to be Major League-ready and could possibly make it to the Majors this season. The infielder was an Olympian in 2004 and has represented Cuba in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments. He's been part of Cuban championship teams at the Pan American Games, Central American Games, World Baseball Championships, International Cup and Caribbean Series.

Gurriel projects to hit .285 with 15-18 home runs and 85 RBIs. He can play second base, third base and shortstop. He's a clutch player with some pop -- a more fluid and athletic Jeff Kent, some say.

Gurriel Jr., who plays shortstop and outfield, was hitting .321 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs and a .924 OPS in 43 games for the Havana Industriales this season. A good runner with a good glove, he could project as a center fielder. Gurriel Jr. is comparable to Buddy Reed of the University of Florida, who is expected to be a top-15 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.

Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are exempt from the international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, effectively allowing them to be free agents once they are eligible to sign with a big league club. Cuban players who leave the island and go directly to the U.S. are subject to the signing guidelines of the MLB Draft.

Lourdes, who has played six seasons in Cuba, will turn 23 in October. It could take several months for him to become eligible to sign with a Major League club, and he will not be subject to the guidelines if he signs after he turns 23. Therefore, he stands to have more negotiating leverage if he signs after his birthday.

Defection -- either abandoning a national team during an international tournament or escaping Cuba to ports in Haiti or Mexico -- has traditionally been the only way for players to make it to the big leagues since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Because of the U.S. embargo, any defector who wants to do business with an American company must first establish residency outside Cuba and the U.S. Players must also petition MLB for free agency before they can enter into a contract with a Major League club.

Those processes can take several months. It's unknown if the Gurriels will be declared free agents before the All-Star break, after they complete their paperwork.

The brothers -- whose surname had previously been spelled Gourriel but appeared as Gurriel during the past two Caribbean Series -- are the youngest members of the first family of baseball in Cuba.

Oldest brother Yunieski, 33, played 16 seasons in Cuba's Serie Nacional and the past two seasons for Quebec in the Canadian-American Association. Their father, Lourdes Gurriel Sr., played for the national team for 15 years and won a gold medal, two batting titles and a Most Valuable Player Award in Cuba. He was also a national team manager.

The brothers also had an uncle, a great uncle and a cousin who starred in Cuba.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.