CBS Houston – The Houston Astros just spent nearly 50 million dollars (a reported deal worth five years, 47.5 million) for Cuban third basemen Yulieski Gourriel. The question is who exactly is he? How does the signing affect what the Astros are planning on doing for this year and the future?
The Astros had been in on Gourriel for quite some time, Baseball America reported that they had a private workout with the infielder (along with others).
By all accounts, he is a really solid hitter last year in the Cuban National Series in 49 games he had a batting average of .500 to go with 15 homers and 51 RBI’s.
“Pretty impressive offensive output both power, speed, and average,” Astros General manager Jeff Luhnow said when asked what attracted him to the Cuban slugger, “the ability to take walks and avoid strikeouts all the things we talk about being a key element of success here in the major leagues, he’s done those and done those for 15 years in the Cuban league and he’s done it very successfully.”
In his career, he is averaging a home run every 3.7 games. He has shown he can hit the baseball and was the biggest international free agent this year.
The 47.5 million dollar commitment means the Astros are going to use him and use him soon. Gourriel is a 32-year-old infielder that has experience all over the diamond.
The teams current plans will be sending Gourriel to extended spring training in Florida. After he’s gotten his feet wet, they will move him over to the team’s double-A affiliate the Corpus Christi Hooks.
The Cuban free agent has been out of baseball since last year, but the stay in the in the minors will not be a very long stint. Luhnow mentioned that he and Gourriel want to be involved in the team’s playoff run this season.
The biggest problem isn’t if he can bat, he has a proven track record. The issue is where exactly does he play in the field?
“If we were talking about a surplus of left fielders, first basemen or DH’s it’s a little bit different of a problem cause you don’t have anywhere else to put them,” Luhnow mentioned when asked about the logjam of third basemen.
Gourriel does have experience at more positions than just third and Luis Valbuena the team’s current third basemen can play multiple positions as well. The team has very few players that are just one position guys, even Evan Gattis this season added catching to his game.
So bringing in Gourriel in the short term means Valbuena will likely be moving to first base/DH.
The bigger question with the logjam is what do you do with the team’s super-prospect Alex Bregman who is in triple-A having a lot of success but also plays in the infield.
“I’ve never seen a team struggle cause they had too many good players,” Luhnow said of the potential surplus of fielders, “what I want to do is put as many good players out on the field as possible and let A.J. (Hinch) and players sort out where they play every night.”
Luhnow did not shut down the idea of Bregman potentially being added to the team as well.
If Gourriel and Bregman both get added to the team before the end of the season it would be amazing. Think of it like the Astros going out and making two massive trades for very good hitters without giving up anything. It could be a game changer the team needs while they are trying to close the gap with the Texas Rangers.
It feels like Luhnow is confident that the team can fit just about anyone in, but in reality, it could spell the end of Valbuena. The move to sign the Cuban slugger seemingly points to Valbuena not coming back next year, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Astros to go and try and move him for some pitching help or just more assets for down the road.
Valbuena is having a career year there likely could be suitors for him, it might be tough to get a big haul because he’s only under contract for this season but he is showing he can help a team.
It is clear Gourriel is on the way and will be in Houston very soon, Bregman also seems a hop, skip, and a jump away. Hinch will be able to find playing time for everyone, but the way he finds playing time for everyone that doesn’t involve lots of Advil and sleepless nights is to move the bat flipping king.
It’s possible the infield that ends the season will be Bregman (third), Carlos Correa (shortstop), Jose Altuve (second), and Gourriel (first).
The next couple of weeks for the team will be very interesting. The Astros dropped a lot of money on Gourriel, they spent a very high draft pick on Bregman. They have a plan and you should have faith it will all work out.
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