The Mariners have reached an agreement with free agent Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia on a big league contract. Heredia, 25, is an outstanding defensive player and will likely start the season in the minor leagues.
Baseball sources confirmed earlier reports that the Mariners have agreed to terms with free agent Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia on a major league contract. MLB.com reported that the contract is worth $500,000.
Heredia, 25, defected from Cuba in January of 2015 and was declared a free agent in July.
The deal has yet to be finalized since Heredia must to still complete and pass a required physical. There is also a large amount of documentation in the process because of Heredia’s background and defection from Cuba. The hope is that he can arrive in camp in the next three to four days and begin working out.
Heredia hasn’t played for 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 attempt at defection were reported to be the reasoning. 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.
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There are some questions from scouts whether Heredia will be able to hit big league pitching. It’s why 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.
While the offense is a mystery, Heredia’s defense is a known quantity. 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 could project to be a fourth outfielder type.
Because of his time away from baseball, the Mariners won’t rush him into the season. He’ll start the season with either Class AAA Tacoma or Class AA Jackson.
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.
From Baseball America’s scouting report:
Up until the 2013-14 season, Heredia had been a switch-hitter, but that year he stopped hitting from the left side and became the rare lefty thrower who only bats righthanded. It’s a quick stroke, he doesn’t swing and miss excessively and he usually does stay within the strike zone. However, his swing lacks rhythm, his hips often leak open early and he tends to push the bat head, with his power mostly to the gaps, so he will have to smooth some things out at the plate to become an everyday player.
Heredia’s defense is major league ready, though given his present ability with the bat, he might start his career at Triple-A, especially since he hasn’t played in competitive games in Cuba since the summer of 2014.