The Houston Astros have signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel to a five-year, $47.5 million contract, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
Gourriel, 32, defected from Cuba in February and has been in search of a Major League contract ever since. He is expected to be Major League ready this season and can fill in at third base, shortstop and at second, though third was his primary position in Cuba. He played for Cuba's 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams.
The Astros currently have Luis Valbuena at third base, and the left-handed hitter could use a compliment on the other side of the plate, which is where Gourriel hits. Houston also has top prospect and former 1st round draft pick Alex Bregman waiting in the wings, and many have speculated that he will be called up soon.
Valbuena has been serviceable out at third, hitting for a .269 batting average and a .838 OPS in 297 plate appearances. As previously mentioned, however, Valbuena does not hit left-handed pitching all that well, making just 19 starts against southpaws this season. He has a career .669 OPS against lefties.
That's where Gourriel should come in. Though it does not compare to the Major Leagues, Gourriel hit for an absurdly great .500/.589/.874 slash line in his last season in Cuba. In 224 plate appearances, he hit 15 home runs, drove in 51 RBI and posted a 38 to 3 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
No matter what league one plays in, those are some impressive numbers, even considering Gourriel was playing in the Cuban National Series, Cuba's professional baseball league. He will need some at bats in the minor leagues before coming to the Astros.
According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Gourriel will make $3.5 million this season, $14 million in 2017, $12 million in 2018, $10 million in 2019 and $8 million in 2020. The Mets, Dodgers and Royals were among the teams also interested in Gourriel.