According to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald, Cuban defectee 28-year-old righty Yunesky Maya has been cleared to sign with a major league team as a free agent. The Yankees are believed to have expressed interest and their minor league director, Mark Newman, will be on hand to watch Maya pitch tomorrow in the Dominican Republic, according to Brian Costello and George King of the NY Post.
Pitcher description: I do remember Maya from the World Baseball Classic this past year, but I honestly can’t tell you much beyond his stats (he was 0-1, 1.23 ERA, 7.1 IP, 4 K’s, 2 BB, 0.95 WHIP, by the way). For a good description on Maya here is a quote from MLB Trade Rumors’ Nick Collias:
The obvious starting point for scouting Maya is through comparison with another former Cuban National Series standout who stepped from the 2009 World Baseball Classic to defection and the Major League auction block: Aroldis Chapman. Maya is at least six years older and right-handed, but on the other hand, boasts far more competitive experience and, by all accounts, a fuller arsenal of secondary pitches. Maya told Terreno de Pelota’s Uziel Gomez last September he alternates between a 94-mile-an-hour heater, slider, change-up, curve, and sinker, a repertoire which scouts backed up after seeing Maya in action at a workout late last year.
In the 48th National Series that ended last year, Maya ended second to Chapman in strikeouts, 119 to 130, but outdistanced the younger pitcher in the league’s equivalent of the Cy Young, thanks to Maya’s superior overall stats: 13-4, seven complete games, and a 2.22 ERA in 145 IP. In six Cuban campaigns, Maya managed a 48-29 record with a 2.51 ERA and was also lights-out in both of his brief appearances at the WBC.
Other teams linked by rumors: Maya was rumored to be close to signing with the Red Sox this winter, but it turned out that he was not yet cleared to sign with a team within the United States. The Mets and White Sox are also listed among possible suitors. There has also been rumors that said that Maya would be more interested in joining a team that would give him the best opportunity to start in the majors right away.
Thoughts: As much as I would like the to see the Yankees sign a 28-year-old with this kind of potential it is hard to see them doing it. From what it sounds like there could be a decent price tag attached to this guy and the Yankees do not present him with a clear path to the rotation. That would potentially bump the price tag it would require to bring Maya to the Bronx.