The San Diego Padres have spent this season on the international market like they have never done before. Once the signing period opened on July 2, the Padres were active and they have not stopped.
Upwards of $65-million dollars has been spent on talented young players like Adrian Morejon, Luis Almanzar, Jorge Ona, Gabriel Arias, Jeisson Rosario, Jordy Barley, Ronald Bolanos and Tirso Ornelas. These eight were just the most highly touted, but the team in all reality signed about a dozen or so more players on top of these youngsters. A huge haul for the Padres and a great building block for the future of this franchise.
Cuban baseball has a rich history and the Gourriel name runs deep through the veins of the country. Lourdes Gourriel Sr. is a former baseball star in the country. He won numerous gold medals in the Pan-American Games, Baseball World Cup and Goodwill Games. He also won a gold medal as a member of the Cuban baseball team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. His sons are both well decorated Cuban baseball stars as well and each recently defected. The Gourriel brothers are very well-known for their abilities and each should progress to the major leagues eventually.
Yulienski Gourriel (the elder brother) recently signed a deal with the Houston Astros in which he will be paid $47.5 million for the next five years. The 32-year-old is considered to be in his prime and ready for major league service now. The Astros are easing him through their system and he should eventually be in Houston, perhaps as early as this September. The right handed hitting power hitter has a quick bat but the Astros are really gambling on this man. He is no prospect and it remains to be seen how he will adjust to major league pitching.
His younger brother Lourdes Gourriel Jr. has not signed yet and there could be some issues leading up to potentially signing him. He is not a young player by any means. Lourdes Gourriel Jr. is 22 and if he waits until he turns 23 (in October) he will not be subject to international signing period restrictions. With that being said, there could be a bidding war on him and teams that are currently restricted like the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox will be able to bid. It seems more and more likely he will sign after his 23rd birthday.
What would it take to sign him? His brother got $47.5 million, but is considered a better hitter. Lourdes Gourriel does have youth on his side, but with that comes tons of inexperience. Gourriel should sign in the winter and there is a decent chance he starts next year in High-A Ball. His previous Cuban Baseball League experience dictate he will be more advanced than most recently signed international players.
What Kind of Player is Lourdes Gourriel?
There are some pretty decent numbers to look at in order to gain an assessment of who Gourriel is as a player. He has had over 1,000 at bats in the Cuban leagues and played in over 350 games. He has a batting line of .284/.369/.446 with 35 home runs and 193 RBI. He has struck out 152 times and walked 130 times. He did all this playing in the league from the ages of 16-22. Starting your career at that young age is pretty impressive. Looking at his key numbers, you will see they have increased each baseball season. He was hitting .321 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 43 games this 2016 season before defecting in February along with his brother.
He has the ability to play multiple positions and there are varying reports on which position will be best for him in the long run. This past season he played mostly second base and left field but his representatives claim he wants to play shortstop at the major league level. In 2015 he played 12 error-less games at shortstop for his Cuban team so it is not completely out of the question. Though scouts will need a closer look at this young man to determine his abilities. Look at this video of him in left field making a great catch. I have seen several videos of him int he outfield. He has good speed and tracks the ball well.
The Padres could use him in multiple positions. His defense does not seem to be an issue as it is reported he has a well above average arm and plays excellent defense at multiple positions. His bat and his ability to hit major league pitching is what will determine his fate in professional baseball. His right handed swing is interesting and he does have ability.
His swing is a bit long at the moment. Gourriel has blossoming power potential and could be a third baseman if he continues to drive the ball. Take a look at this video of an impressive home run the opposite field. His swing may be long but he does use the whole field and that bodes well for his advancement. His also does make pretty decent contact and draws a decent amount of walks. He could be a productive player at the highest level and the very least should be a decent utility player some day.
Padres Chances of Signing Him
He will be a hot topic very soon and once it passes his October birthday, the heavy hitters will come out to play. The Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox would all love to add this guy and they are all ready to spend. It will take at least $15 million to sign Gourriel and that price tag will likely get much higher. He could approach the $47.5 million his brother got, but that seems unlikely at this point. He is still a bit of an enigma. Still you never really know. With no international restrictions, teams could get crazy with the bidding.
Do the Padres have the money to spend on him? The answer is yes, but if they are going to spend tens of millions of dollars on one player, they are going to be certain he fits the mold. Gourriel can play multiple positions and that is useful, but the team needs a shortstop. If he proves to A.J. Preller that he can handle the position, then the team will be very interested. Expect this to heat up after his 23rd birthday and for Gourriel to sign before the end of the calendar year. The Padres will be keeping close tabs on him and if his price tag is within reason, the Padres will be players. Stay tuned.