Cuban Defectors Find New Homes

See also: Cuban Defectors Attract Interest In Dominican 

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Agent Jaime Torres said that three of his most recent Cuban defector clients have reached agreement with major league organizations, and the two who received significant money–righthander Yuslan Herrera and shortstop Yohannis Perez–signed not with the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox or Dodgers, or any other large-revenue clubs.

Perez, 24, signed with the Brewers on a minor league contract. Herrera, 25, has finalized a deal on a major league contract with the Pirates, though the deal is not official pending Herrera passing a physical. A third defector, infielder Yunesky Sanchez, signed with the Diamondbacks on a minor league contract. Baseball America has learned Perez received a $450,000 bonus, while Sanchez signed for $40,000.

Herrera has had success in Cuba, with a career 18-7, 3.72 record. Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said nothing was official with Herrera, though Torres said the physical is the only legal obstacle to the signing. He confirmed the organization’s interest in Herrera, saying the Pirates have “seen him a few times in the Dominican. I know there’s interest from other clubs. I just don’t want to comment until it’s really official.”

6-foot-2, 200-pound righthander, who is still working out in Santo Domingo in the Dominican, has
shown command of a fringy fastball and what Torres termed an
above-average curveball, and one scout liked him a lot.

“He’s got an
above-average split-finger
(fastball) and was 88-92,” the scout said after seeing Herrera pitch in a workout in August. “I could see his velocity
jumping up to 90-94 once he gets into a system and he could very easily
be a No. 4 starter in the big leagues.”

Perez has earned comparisons to Mariners shorstop Yuniesky Betancourt for his speed and build. He’s also an above-average runner. Because of his defection, he hasn’t played in an organized league in two years.

Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash confirmed that Perez has agreed to terms with the organization, though he still has some red tape to get through. “We hope to have him in our winter program in Arizona and then in big league camp (in spring training),” Ash said.

Both players had trouble being “unblocked” by the U.S. Treasury Department (a process Cuban players must deal with due to cool American-Cuban relations and Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism), and neither was able to obtaining a visa in time for instructional league. Torres said neither has plans to play winter ball either. They are expected to come to the U.S. and begin play in February in spring training.