Astros introduce Cuban slugger Gurriel

Luhnow: 'We're delighted to be adding a talent of this caliber'

Astros introduce Cuban slugger Gurriel

HOUSTON -- The Astros announced the signing of Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel on Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

Gurriel, 32, is considered one of the most celebrated players from Cuba. He was an Olympian in 2004 and represented Cuba in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments.

"We're delighted to be adding a talent of this caliber," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "This player has had an incredible history of success … and we're very delighted that he's going to be able to play for the Houston Astros and help us win championships. That's why he's here. That's why we're here."

During his 15-year career with the Cuban National Series and Japan Central League, Gurriel racked up 1,585 hits, 308 doubles, 48 triples, 250 home runs, 1,018 RBIs and 974 runs while batting for a .335 average with a .997 OPS.

The veteran defected from Cuba after the Caribbean Series in February. He was then declared a free agent on June 13 and had private workouts with the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Padres and Yankees along with the Astros in the past month before signing with Houston.

MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported Friday the five-year deal between Gurriel and the Astros is worth $47.5 million.

Gurriel said he became a fan of the Astros during the team's postseason run last season.

"The spirit these guys bring is the spirit of playing great baseball," Gurriel said through a translator.

Luhnow said the plan for Gurriel may be to let him get a few at-bats with the Astros' Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi before coming to Houston. That said, Luhnow expects Gurriel to join the Astros this season.

"Clearly, the goal is to get him in uniform and get him playing at Minute Maid Park as soon as possible," Luhnow said. " … One of the reasons [we] worked so hard to get this deal done as timely as we could is I want and Yuli wants him to be part of a playoff run this year."

Gurriel will start working out at the Astros' complex in Kissimmee, Fla., while he waits to obtain his work visa, Luhnow said.

While Gurriel mainly played third base in Cuba, he said he doesn't have a favorite position and would be open to moving around if need be. The Astros have a pretty crowded infield with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Luis Valbuena, Marwin Gonzalez, A.J. Reed and up-and-coming Triple-A prospect Alex Bregman.

"He'll be out there somewhere," Luhnow said.

Gurriel signing with the Astros may open the door to also sign Yulieski's younger brother, Lourdes Jr., a top outfield prospect. Lourdes Jr. hasn't been declared a free agent yet, but he turns 23 in October and can be an unrestricted free agent at that time without operating under the international assignment guidelines.

"[Lourdes Jr.] is a tremendous prospect," Luhnow said. "We're going to be fighting to get him, as well."

Yulieski said it would be "incredible" to play with his brother in Houston, considering the two have played together at every level.

"To have him here would be helpful, mostly for him," Gurriel joked.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Having posted an eye-popping stat line during his final season in the Cuban National Series (15 homers, 51 RBIs, 55 runs and a .500 average across 224 plate appearances), Gurriel should be added in 12-team leagues right away. He should become a regular in the Astros' talented lineup in the coming weeks, at which time owners in shallow leagues will want to scoop him from the waiver wire. Gurriel's arrival in Houston's system may not be a positive for those who own Bregman and have been anxiously awaiting his debut. While Bregman may still beat Gurriel to the Majors, Gurriel will give Houston another high-upside bat that is capable of handling third base -- Bregman's presumptive position at the Major League level. As such, there could be fewer at-bats for Bregman later in the season, although the Astros could deploy either player at multiple positions.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.