The Toronto Blue Jays have made their first free agent splash.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com was first to report that the Blue Jays have signed highly-touted Cuban infield prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel who signed with the Houston Astros earlier this year.
Joel Sherman reports that the deal is worth $22 million over seven years.
Gurriel turned 23 years old in late October, and the timing of this signing is meaningful. Waiting until he was 23 made him exempt from international spending limits, allowing him to appeal to a broader market of teams.
MLB.com ranked Gurriel as the number six International prospect this off-season.
“Some evaluators believe Lourdes could be considered the top overall player in this year’s class, because he has a shorter path to the Major Leagues due to his age and experience.”
Standing six-foot-four, 205 pounds, Gurriel has the natural athleticism to project at multiple positions. He has played at second, third, shortstop, and in the corner outfield, so the Blue Jays will have a level of flexibility with Gurriel when he moves into their system.
In the 2015-16 season with Industriales de La Habana, Gurriel broke out with an impressive .344 batting average that included 10 home runs and 53 RBI in just 59 games. He walked 21 times and struck out just 23, showing an advanced plate approach that was evident throughout his time playing in Cuba.
The Blue Jays can afford to be patient with Gurriel given the team control that this contract offers them, and the likeliest outcome is him beginning the season in the upper-minor leagues with a clear path to advancement.