CBS Houston – With the Houston Astros latest addition to the team in rookie Alex Bregman, a shortstop turned third basemen/left fielder. The next question on people’s minds, with the Astros who are hot on the Texans Rangers heel’s for control of A.L. West, is when exactly will another addition be made?
The next guy on general manager Jeff Luhnow’s checklist would be the 47 million dollar man, Cuban star third basemen Yulieski Gourriel.
After not having any live at-bats since February, Gourriel is finally starting to get in some work as he starts his journey to the majors.
“He faced live pitching yesterday and looked pretty good, he’s going to face live pitching again tomorrow and he’s feeling good,” Jeff Luhnow said, “the first guy he faced was (David) Paulino (top 10 Astros prospect per MLB.com) he’s throwing 90-94 miles an hour so that’s not the easiest guy to get out there and face.”
Right now the only thing blocking Gourriel from really speeding up his accent to the Astros is a work visa. After he gets that his next likely stop is the Astros double-A affiliate the Corpus Christi Hooks. When he gets there then it could be just a matter of days before he joins the major league team in Houston.
Gourriel at 32 years old is in the prime of his career and considered someone who can help the team right now. Luhnow himself called him a five-tool player during Gourriel’s introductory press conference.
On the New York Post last month, New York Mets star Yoenis Cespedes a close friend of Gourriel’s, shared the same conclusion Luhnow came to.
“At the time that I left that was the best ballplayer in Cuba,” Yoenis Cespedes shared with the Post about Gourriel,“he is a five-tool player.”
Another former Cuban star in Chicago Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman told sportsradio610.com that Gourriel is a special kind of talent.
“He’s a very seasoned player,” Aroldis Chapman said, “he can run, he can hit, he can catch, it’s just a matter of him adapting to the work of MLB and the teams up here and (learn) what they do, once he does he’s going to be great.”
The Astros expect Gourriel to be a key part of their run to the playoffs. Chapman is unsure if he will be an instant impact when he does join the Astros. He does know that Gourriel is ready to contribute.
With major league baseball’s trade deadline quickly approaching. The Astros find themselves among the “contenders” looking to add talent.
With the team starting to hit its stride, 47-28 since May 11th, they find themselves with few glaring holes.
“Our rotation’s been good, our bullpen’s been good, our lineups been good,” Luhnow said, “we got (Yulieski) Gourriel coming, we got (Alex) Bregman here, we got guys in the minors that could be here.”
This year the teams out there who are clear sellers, are looking for a reported “king’s ransom” so it might behoove the Astros to stand pat during this deadline.
Last year the Astros added three pieces, Oakland Athletics starter Scott Kazmir was the first guy the team went out and it cost them two top prospects in starter Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. The team also added Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers for four of the teams best prospects in outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana and starters Adrian Houser and Josh Hader.
The Astros did end up making a playoff run but fell six outs shy of making the American League Championship Series. A year later, Kazmir did not re-sign and Gomez and Fiers while contributing, just are not lighting the world on fire or living up to expectation.
The hot names of this year’s deadline are starting pitchers like Chicago WhiteSox Chris Sale and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer. Each would make great adds to the Astros, but with both under team control for more than this season, the offer is going to have to be very large just to get a general manager to listen to your trade proposal.
Starting pitching just doesn’t seem to be the need this year. Dallas Keuchel has found his groove, Lance McCullers is blooming into an ace, Doug Fister is having a bounce back year and the rest of the rotation is giving you enough to keep you in games.
What we do know is Luhnow makes moves, during the past couple of years he has had no problem of making trades at the deadline. But this year the Astros might be able to fill any needs the team has with in-house additions.
While they have very holes the one thing any team could use is more offense. Gourriel when ready will provide that offensive punch that will make the lineup even tougher to face. In 15 seasons of International baseball Gourriel only once hit below .300 and in 2015 his last season before defecting Cuba he hit .500.
By the time the season ends the Astros will have pulled off two massive trades, and it will have cost them nothing, no assets, just money. Bregman, the hottest prospect in baseball has gotten the call from triple-A, and Gourriel Cuba’s best baseball player won’t be too far behind.
“There is a real argument to be made, if you’re healthy, you’re playing well, and you got guys at triple-A that you can bring up, maybe it’s foolish to go out and take a piece out and add a piece,” Luhnow said.
Even if a need does arise down the road Luhnow has proved over and over this season that he will not hesitate to bring someone up if he feels they can help the team.
What the Astros do know for certain is they have a big boost to the team in Gourriel on the way. There will be few to no teams adding a talent like his for the stretch run.
While he’s yet to take an at-bat in the major leagues, every person you talk to that has seen Gourriel play, says he is a very special talent.
“What I do know,” Chapman said, “he’s a really good player and I am sure the fans (in Houston) will enjoy to see him play.”
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