Cuban 2B Jose Miguel Fernandez departs Cuba, wants to pursue an MLB deal
The international free agent market could soon see an infusion of potentially elite talent from Cuba.
Cuban 2B Jose Miguel Fernandez has departed Cuba, and intends to seek a free agent deal in Major League Baseball, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.
Fernandez, 27, missed most of the 2015 season after he was suspended for attempting to defect. He last played in the Cuban National League for Los Cocodrilos de Matanzas in 2014, during which he hit .315/.415/.426 in 15 games prior to his suspension. He hit .326/.482/.456 in 83 games with 16 doubles, five home runs and 42 RBI in 314 plate appearances in 2014.
He’s a lifetime .319/.403/.423 hitter in 608 games in eight seasons in Cuba.
“Fernandez is a major league-ready infielder with a short, quick swing from the left side, excellent bat control and stellar plate discipline,” writes Badler.
One issue, as Badler notes, is Fernandez has not played in over a year, and he may not project to be a great defender at second base, either.
“His thickening lower half (listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds) has hampered his range at second base, where he’s at best an adequate defender,” Badler explains. “Fernandez also spent time at third base during the 2013-14 season, though his arm strength is better suited at second.”
Still, Fernandez seems like he could be a solid presence at the top of a big league lineup. He’s not much of a base stealing threat, but his propensity to get on-base would presumably translate nicely in America.
He presents a lot of skills which should attract the Mets, but of course there are a number of issues and risks involved in signing Fernandez.
First off, the Mets need an immediate solution at second base. As Badler points out, its not even clear if Fernandez will sign with anyone before Opening Day simply because the processes involved in signing with a big league club takes time.
In addition, Fernandez will presumably need some seasoning in the minor leagues before earning a promotion. Not only does he have to get acclimated to the game and organizational philosophies here, but again, he has not played in a while, so there will be issues with rust and timing to his game no matter what.
Its also not clear how his defense might translate at the big league level either, especially if he’s considered only an adequate defender at best.
And for every Yoenis Cespedes’ and Yasiel Puig’s in the world, there are plenty more busts from Cuba.
There are no guarantees by any means.
That’s not to say Fernandez would be a bad bet to take, but since he’s not subject to the international free agent bonus pool and its associated penalties, Fernandez will likely have many suitors which could drive his price above the point of acceptable risk for the Mets, and a lot of clubs for that matter.
But again, he does a lot of things the Mets like, one of which is get on base and make contact.
If it were to somehow work out – and it remains to be seen if the Mets even show interest – he would solve a lot of their problems at the top of the order in both the short and long-term. None of this can be ignored, especially if they fail to fill their needs on the middle infield this winter.