Blue Jays sign Cuban defector Lourdes Gurriel

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Yunielki Lourdes Gurriel #91 of Cuba and teammates celebrate their 10th inning 3-2 victory over Puerto Rico in the San Juan Serie Del Caribe on February 4, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

First reported at MLB.com, Lourdes Gurriel signed a seven-year, $22 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The 23-year-old shortstop defected along with his older brother, 32-year-old Yulieski Gurriel, during the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic in February. Yulieski Gurriel signed a five-year, $48 million deal with the Houston in July. He hit three home runs and had 15 RBIs in 130 at-bats this season.

Blue Jays sign Cuban defector Lourdes Gurriel

Lourdes Gurriel also played for the Havana Industriales before defecting, putting up a .321 batting average with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 43 games. He was declared a free agent in August and has held private workouts over the past few months.

By waiting until after his 23rd birthday, he was no longer subject to MLB’s bonus limits on international free agents. This was specifically useful for the Blue Jays, as they would have been unable to sign him otherwise. They had been limited to $300K this year thanks to the signing of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. during the 2015 signing period.

While he played mostly shortstop in Cuba, his reputation defensively suggests he’d be better off at either second, third or in center field. Those spots are currently filled, implying Gourriel will likely need some minor league seasoning. The expectation is that he will start the year in Double-A New Hampshire, helping to form a  very dynamic outfield with top prospect Anthony Alford. Depending on how the Jays fill out the rest of the roster this season, Gourriel could move very quickly and really benefit the Major League club.

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