Cuban brothers Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, and Yulieski Gurriel, 31, appear to have defected from Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following the Caribbean Series being held in the Dominican Republic. The series included teams from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela
It is expected that the brothers will seek contracts with major league teams in the US. Each player is considered to be among the best players in Cuba. Both have publicly indicated a desire to leave the island nation legally.
Miami’s El Nuevo Herald first reported their defection. It was confirmed by Granma, the Communist Party newspaper in Cuba.
According to a Reuters interview with Peter Bjarkman, an expert on Cuban baseball and author of the upcoming book “Cuba’s Baseball Defectors,” the Gurriel defections indicate Cuba is unprepared to reach a deal with the US Major League Baseball (MLB).
“If there were any hopes of one, the Gurriel family would have been the first to know and the brothers would have waited. This would indicate to me that the Cubans are not yet ready to work any accord with MLB and the defections will continue,” Bjarkman said.
The MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation have yet to conclude an agreement on transfers, leaving defection as the only way for Cubans to leave for the MLB. Last year, a record year for defections, 150 Cuba players departed.
MLB has applied for permission from the US government to allow teams to sign players from Cuba. If granted, the MLB could negotiate a player-transfer agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation.
In 2006, ESPN.com reported that Yulieski and another Cuban national player, Eduardo Paret, had defected from Cuba via Colombia during a tournament. Yulieski refuted this claim and remained in Cuba until yesterday.