Yankees sign Cuban prospect

Yankees ink Cuban prospect

NEW YORK -- The Yankees added another name to their growing farm system on Friday, signing Cuban prospect Juan Miranda to a four-year contract worth a little more than $2 million.

General manager Brian Cashman does not consider Miranda as part of the first-base competition this spring, although he doesn't think Miranda is "very far from the big leagues." The 23-year-old left-handed hitter will begin the 2007 season with Class A Tampa in the Florida State League.

The contract is a Major League deal, which means that Miranda must be placed on the 40-man roster and will take part in the Yankees' big-league camp during Spring Training.

"Because of where he played, it's an advanced level of play in Cuba," Cashman said. "But we'll play it safe, start him at the Florida State League level as we introduce him to pro ball in the United States. We'll let his performance carry him up the ladder."

Miranda was born and raised in the Cuban town of Consulacion del Sur and currently resides in Santiago, Dominican Republic. A former teammate of ex-Yankee Jose Contreras, Miranda, who is six feet tall and weighs 220 pounds, played with Pinar Del Rio in Cuba's Serie Nacional from 2002-04, where he batted .303 with 27 home runs and walked 73 times while striking out just 87 times.

"Juan Miranda has impressed our scouts with his talent and his strength," said Yankees Dominican Republic scouting supervisor Ramon Valdivia. "He is capable of playing the outfield and first base, but his biggest asset is his bat. He has the ability to hit for power while showing excellent plate discipline. We're excited to see what he can contribute to the future of this ballclub."

Andy Phillips and Josh Phelps are the current in-house candidates for first base, while the Yankees may also continue to pursue another player on the free-agent market, such as Mark Loretta or Doug Mientkiewicz.

Miranda would become the 13th Cuban-born player to appear in a game for the Yankees, and the first position player since infielder Orestes Destrade played with the Yankees in 1987.

Miranda, who plays both first base and outfield, will be developed in the Yankees system as a first baseman.

"He's got big juice from the left side, which we like," Cashman said. "We'll plug him into the system and let him make a name for himself. He gives us more depth."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.