Free agent outfielder Guillermo Heredia arrived at Mariners' camp on Saturday. He must pass a physical before his Major League contract becomes official.
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners should have another outfielder added to their workouts in the next few days.
Free agent outfielder Guillermo Heredia was in the clubhouse on Saturday morning in workout gear and preparing to take the mandatory physical.
Heredia, 25, reached an agreement with the Mariners earlier in the week on a Major League contract with a signing bonus of $500,000. But until Heredia passes the physical and some other documentation is finalized, the club will not announce the deal and he won’t participate in team workouts.
“I would assume in the next two or three days he’ll be in uniform and ready to roll,” manager Scott Servais said. “I’ve not met him yet.”
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Heredia defected from Cuba in January of 2015 and was declared a free agent in July. He has played in one official game in the past two seasons. He sat out all of 2015 because of the defection and played in just one game for Matanzas of the Cuban National Series (CNS) in 2014 after being suspended. Rumors of a possible failed defection were reported to be the reasoning for the suspension.
Since the defection, Heredia has been working out in Miami. General manager Jerry Dipoto watched a showcase for MLB teams in Boca Raton during general managers meetings in November.
Heredia played 1,400 career games in the CNS (Cuba’s professional league) from 2009 to 2014. He was a career .285 hitter with a .376 on-base percentage.
Questions about Heredia’s ability to hit big league pitching are a reason he remained unsigned for so long. The Mariners like his ability to control the strike zone and get on base. He drew 141 walks and struck out 143 times in his CNS career.
Defense and speed are Heredia’s biggest assets. He’s considered an exceptional defensive center fielder with plus speed to run down balls in the outfield. He was the recipient of multiple defensive awards equivalent to the Gold Glove in Cuba.
“He’s a speed-defense first,” Servais said. “He’s a plus defender. There was some switch hitting, but I don’t know if he’s still doing it. I don’t know a ton about the player. I know our scouting is really high on him. I believe that Jerry has seen him in a workout setting. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
Because of his time away from baseball, the Mariners aren’t going to rush Heredia this spring or even this season. He’ll start the season with either Class AAA Tacoma or Class AA Jackson.
“It’s a lot to put on a player,” Servais said. “This is his dream to get an opportunity like this, to get in a major league clubhouse, get around Robbie Cano and our team. I’m not looking for a high expectation level right out of the chute. It takes a while for people to get comfortable. I think we need to have realistic expectations in this camp for him. And he probably hasn’t played competitive ball for a while either.”
Since Heredia will be added to the 40-man roster, the Mariners would have to open a spot for him. The corresponding move will likely be catcher Jesus Sucre placed on the 60-day disabled list. Sucre is out for the season after suffering a broken leg and undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his ankle following a slide during winter ball in Venezuela.