Breaking: My Mind, As Blue Jays Sign Cuban 23-Year-Old Lourdes Gurriel

So this is interesting, huh? The Jays, as first reported by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, and as our always excellent weekend guy, Cam Lewis, wrote about earlier, have agreed to sign 23-year-old Cuban IF/OF Lourdes Gurriel (sometimes spelled “Gourriel”) to a seven year deal.

This is not how we’re used to seeing the Toronto Blue Jays operate, but it’s interesting as hell for a bunch of reasons.

Gurriel will make $22-million over those seven years, which isn’t a tonne of money in the baseball economy. That suggests something about his market, and therefore his talent, that we might not want to get too elated about. In fact, his stock may have dropped a little over the last several months, as Rick Westhead of TSN.ca reported back in February that the Jays would be suitors for Gurriel, and noted that the expectation was that both Lourdes and Yulieski would get more than the $34-million Boston paid to get Yoan Moncada (not including the penalties for going over their international limits), and this certainly isn’t that.

But it sure is a neat trick the Jays have pulled, one that makes so much sense now that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t talked about more before this — dare I say it — little bit of ninja magic.

Gurriel gives the Jays an extra legit prospect in the high minors, something the club has lacked — especially in the eyes of the new regime — since Alex Anthopoulos’s big trades in July of 2015. Much like the acquisition of Francisco Liriano for Drew Hutchison, which included prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez, the club has used a little bit of financial heft to help build the layer of depth they have at the upper levels. And while that’s not exactly the sexiest way to spend money, that they’re flexing some financial muscle is a terrific and welcome sign.

Beyond that, a huge part of the reason that the impending free agency of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, etc., is such a mini crisis for the club is precisely because they don’t have these types of players ready to step in. In the near future, though, they will again — and if not Gurriel, then Rowdy Tellez, Vlad Guerrero Jr., etc. etc.

On the other hand, does having another potential high impact prospect this close to the majors help the Jays on the trade market? Does it make them more willing to give up some of their lower level depth? Does it make them worry just a little bit less than they might have otherwise about holding tight to every draft pick they can — specifically: does this soften the blow of keeping an Encarnacion or a Bautista and not getting a pick back, or going after someone like a Dexter Fowler, who they’d have to relinquish a pick to sign?

That’s… maybe a bit too fanciful, to be honest. The Jays’ new regime very obviously believes in depth, and we’ve seen that both how they think about the positions on the field — i.e. the way they insisted on building rotation depth for 2015 — and in terms of having a deep farm system and as big a potential pipeline as possible. This is certainly more about Gurriel himself than anyone else.

So, who the hell is Gurriel, besides the (considerably) younger brother of Astros signing Yulieski Gurriel?Cam’s post filled in a bunch of the details, but we’ve started to hear a little bit more by now, so let’s have a deeper look…

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Gurriel’s Baseball Reference page is under the name “Gourriel,” but it is indeed him. He turned 23 in October, which is an important age, as it exempts him from international signing restrictions. To reiterate some of what Cam said, in 2015 he played for the legendary Industriales, putting up an impressive .344/.407/.560 line with ten home runs in just 59 games — for whatever those Serie Nacional numbers are worth.

The bulk of those games were played in left field, though Gurriel also spent time at shortstop, and a couple games at both second and third base as well. And Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets that the Jays’ plan is to initially start Gurriel at shortstop “probably” in Double-A, though ultimately he may end up back in an outfield corner.

MLB Pipeline ranked him the sixth best international free agent available in this class. He obviously wasn’t the same kind of July 2nd player as the much younger ones, so it’s not easy to compare, but they obviously like him. “A good runner with a good glove, Lourdes is athletic enough to play infield and outfield, which is part of his appeal to scouts. He’s shown some more power potential at the plate and is still honing his overall approach.”

So he’s athletic and versatile, he has upside with his bat, he was outstanding in the Cuban league, he’s only just turned 23, and he came at a cost of just money, not talent, and not even all that much money, relatively? Sign me the hell up!