Free-agent infielder enjoyed success in Cuba, could help big league club immediately
By Andrew Simon
As teams scramble to add stretch-run reinforcements ahead of the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, there is one significant player who will cost only money, rather than top prospects. That would be infielder Yulieski Gurriel, a longtime star in Cuba who was officially declared a free agent last week.
The 32-year-old right-handed batter played mostly third base but also some second in recent years, and he posted an absurd .500/.589/.874 line with 15 home runs in 49 games last season. A career .335/.417/.580 hitter, Gurriel also has extensive international experience and should be ready for the Majors sometime this summer.
MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported that Gurriel worked out at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, and the Mets will hold their own private workout next week, according to assistant general manager John Ricco. The Astros, Giants and Yankees are among the others that have expressed interest, a source told Sanchez.
As for the price, MLB Trade Rumors has estimated that Gurriel could land something like a four-year contract worth $40-44 million.
With that in mind, here is a by-the-numbers analysis of where Gurriel fits best among the teams already tied to him, plus another that has reason to join the fray.
1. Mets David Wright is likely out for the season after undergoing neck surgery, and the defending National League champs have filled his spot mostly with Wilmer Flores, who has a .653 OPS.
There are other options (free agent Jose Reyes, Oakland's Danny Valencia), but Gurriel might make the most sense, despite the financial cost and the fact that he would need some time in the Minors to shake off rust. Beyond 2016, Gurriel would give the Mets insurance against Wright's ongoing health concerns and could spend time at second, with Neil Walker set to reach free agency.
Los Angeles, chasing San Francisco in its division, ranks 11th in the NL in OPS+ and ninth in runs per game. That's a lot to overcome for a potential playoff team, even one with Clayton Kershaw.
Third baseman Justin Turner has caught fire of late, with a 1.020 OPS, seven homers and 16 RBIs over his past 17 games. Yet 37-year-old second baseman Chase Utley has fallen off his early pace, batting .203/.292/.266 in June. Both players are headed for free agency, but even this season, the Dodgers could find Gurriel regular playing time between those positions.
The defending World Series champs have not been tied to Gurriel, but the pairing would make sense for a team fighting to make it back to October. Mike Moustakas is out for the season with a torn ACL, and his replacement at third base is 23-year-old Cheslor Cuthbert, who owns a below-average 87 OPS+.
The Royals will have to see if Moustakas returns next year with no ill effects from a serious injury. Even if he does, there could be room at second (though 27-year-old rookie Whit Merrifield has played well), in the corner outfield or at DH, where Kendrys Morales has a mutual option for 2017.
As they pursue another even-year championship, the Giants could use a hand at third base, where they rank 24th in OPS (.695). Matt Duffy, last year's NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, hit .253/.313/.358 before going on the disabled list Monday with a strained left Achilles.
On the other hand, Duffy easily could return before Gurriel is ready. Presumably, that would leave Gurriel to share time with Duffy and second baseman Joe Panik, who also has seen a dip in production from 2015. With both of those homegrown players under club control for four more years, it's possible San Francisco is only a fit if the club sees Gurriel converting to the outfield in the long term.
Houston, which has climbed back into the playoff chase, is set with Jose Altuve at second but could put Gurriel at third, pushing Luis Valbuena across the diamond to pair with Marwin Gonzalez.
The question is whether the Astros want to commit three years or more to a 32-year-old free agent when their top prospect, Alex Bregman, is tearing up Double-A and looms as a possible third baseman of the future. The organization's No. 2 prospect, first baseman A.J. Reed, also is close to the Majors.
At a game under .500, in fourth place and six games out in the AL East, it's far from clear that the Yankees will sell. But even if they buy, it's not entirely clear where Gurriel would fit this season -- or going forward.
Third baseman Chase Headley has hit a stellar .291/.353/.437 since a miserable April and is signed through 2018, while 26-year-old Starlin Castro is under club control for even longer. The Yankees might not be keen on another multiyear contract for a player in his 30s.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.