The Houston Astros have some holes to fill this offseason.
The Houston Astros will most likely look to the free agent or trade market to fill some of these needs. The other needs, they might fill from in-house options. The team now has George Springer and a bunch of young guys set to fight for the other two outfield spots.
I wouldn’t rule out Teoscar Hernandez from earning a full-time role in 2017. He showed some potential in his cup of coffee in 2016. Then you have Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp, but I see them more as 4th or 5th outfielders. Then you have a group of minor leaguers in Andrew Aplin, Jon Kemmer, and Derek Fisher who could rise in 2017.
One name that we could see possibly joining the competition is Yulieski Gurriel‘s younger brother Lourdes Gurriel. The younger Gurriel did defect with his brother, but unlike Yulieski, Lourdes was not quite 23 years of age yet. Lourdes had to wait till his 23rd birthday, which was October 10th, to sign onto a major league team, not under the international bonus pool rules. If he signed before, he would only be able to sign with 20 teams, lowering the demand.
In other words, he couldn’t get the amount of money that he would want to sign with a team. Teams trying to sign him would not have the salary pool room to sign him. Should they go over the salary pool, they would forfeit being able to sign international free agents next year.
Though he was declared an MLB free agent back in August, he has patiently waited for his birthday to pass, it has. He held his showcase in September, so the Astros know what he can offer. Now he just needs to decide what team to sign with.
When the Astros signed Yulieski, their agent said that there were mutual interests between both sides. The two brothers have played together for the past few years, and they wouldn’t mind playing on the same team in Houston. However, Lourdes impresses everyone in his private workouts. Houston is not the only team willing to throw money at the younger Gurriel.
Some scouts and experts feel that Lourdes is the better overall player and hitter than Yulieski. Others say that he is not quite the hitter, but teams made their own evaluations during the September showcase. The only problem for him signing with the Astros is that he plays shortstop and second base. Lourdes is young and athletic enough to play the outfield, but will it be with the Astros?
Lourdes Gurriel’s Suitors.
Any team will be able to sign him, but Jon Heyman writes that there are three teams interested. He listed that the Marlins, Astros, and Red Sox are interested in signing Lourdes. Heyman said, “the Astros will look at his (Yulieski) brother Lourdes in a private workout.” The Cardinals are also looking at him as well.
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While you can never count the Red Sox out of an international free-agent, the Astros have something no other team has. Houston is the home of his older brother and the Cuban connection in the organization is expanding. GM Jeff Luhnow has signed many international free-agents, many of them from Cuba. Could they be trying to get the attention of Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes?
While the Astros will have some competition for Lourdes, there is mutual interest there. It is a total Stros move to sign Lourdes, but he may not make the team come opening day if he does. He will most likely need some time in the minor leagues but could be necessary at some point in 2017.
As a Houston Astros’ blogger, it would be rather difficult to have both Gurriel’s on the team. We will have to refer to them by their first names, but it might be a sacrifice that is worth it.