TORONTO—Somewhat lost amid the Blue Jays’ more pressing offseason business was the signing of Lourdes Gurriel, and how he might factor into the club’s 2017 picture.
The 23-year-old from Cuba’s most prominent baseball family is one of the farm system’s few on-the-cusp players as spring training approaches. While he isn’t expected to head north with the big league team at camp’s end, he certainly has a chance to break through.
“One of the best attributes that we’ve acquired is his aptitude and his pedigree,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “He’s been in an incredible baseball family his whole life and around some of the best Cuban baseball players ever. Excited about his aptitude, about the person. Excited about the athleticism, and obviously the performance.”
Certainly Gurriel’s pedigree bodes well, as his father starred in Cuba’s Serie Nacional and won Olympic gold in 1992, while brothers Yunieski, who played 16 seasons in the Serie Nacional, and Yulieski, who starred in Cuba and signed with the Astros last summer, also found great success.
Gurriel signed a $22 million, seven-year deal with the Blue Jays—he didn’t count against their bonus pool because he was 23 when he signed—and one of the priorities will be finding him a position.
For now, Atkins says the plan is to “most likely” play him at second, third or shortstop, though he has experience in the outfield. It’s also possible he develops into a utility player who sees time all over the diamond.
“He’s a very, very good athlete and a lot of the decision will come down to how we view his athleticism once we get a more objective view of that,” Atkins said.
Gurriel is the Blue Jays’ first significant international signing out of Cuba since 2010, when they landed Adeiny Hechavarria for $10 million over four years.
• Lefthanders Brett Oberholtzer, T.J. House and Jeff Beliveau, righthanders Casey Lawrence and Jarrett Grube and catcher Mike Ohlman were signed to minor league deals with invitations to big league spring training, as the Blue Jays look to build depth for Triple-A Buffalo.
• The free agent departure of slugger Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland gave the Blue Jays and new scouting director Steve Sanders a compensatory first-round pick in the June draft.