— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) November 11, 2016
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 11, 2016
The Blue Jays got their offseason kicked off today by signing tightly-touted Cuban infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to a seven-year contract worth a reported $22 million. Gurriel was considered to be one of, if not the best, Cuban prospects available this year. He slashed a .344/.407/.560 line with ten home runs in 2015 in the Cuban league and also features an above average glove and speed.
Though there are other international free agent prospects who are considered to have high upside (Gurriel Jr. is currently ranked sixth among international FAs), some suggest that he’s the most intriguing player on the market this year because, being a 23 year old with multiple years of professional experience, he could be much closer to making an impact on a Major League roster than the others.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) September 14, 2016
Though there’s an obvious risk attached to signing Cuban prospects to large contracts such as this one, signing Gurriel Jr. is an excellent way for the Blue Jays to replenish their prospect cupboard that took a major hit in 2015 when Alex Anthopolous went completely in on breaking Toronto’s playoff drought.
It was widely assumed Gurriel Jr. would join his older brother, Yulieski Gurriel, in Houston, who signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with the Astros earlier this summer. As of right now, there isn’t a statement from Gurriel as to why he opted to sign with the Jays, but if we let what 2016 draft pick Bo Bichette said in regards to why he opted to sign with Toronto be any indication, it could suggest that the organization has a growing positive reputation around baseball for young players.
Or, hell, maybe Gurriel Jr. saw an empty system he could climb quickly. Who knows! Who cares, really! The Jays added an exciting prospect who perfectly fits the mould of what Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been talking about, which is a skilled, athletic, multi-tool player who can play in a variety of different situations and can ultimately help diversify the offence of a team who is arguably too reliant on the home run.