Guillermo Heredia, a 25-year-old refugee from Cuba who spent a year in Mexico, has been signed by the Mariners to a one-year, $500,000 contract to compete for the backup center field job behind Leonys Martin, another Cuban ex-pat.
The signing, first reported by The News Tribune, gives the Mariners a top-end fielder whose bat is suspect, according to scouting reports.
Heredia, 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds who bats right and throws left, needs to pass a physical before the deal is official. He was a member of Cuba’s team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and played for Matanzas from 2009-2014 until defecting in January 2015.
He batted .285 with a .376 on-base percentage, had 57 doubles, 15 triples and 23 homers with 141 walks and 143 strikeouts in 374 games.
Baseball Amerixa offered a scouting report on Heredia in August 2014:
Nicknamed “El Conde” (or “The Count”), Heredia shines in center field. He’s an above-average runner with a quick first step and terrific acceleration. He gets excellent reads off the bat, even on balls hit directly over his head that give most center fielders trouble.
Heredia takes direct routes on fly balls and covers tremendous ground in center field with the ability to make highlight-reel catches. He has a good arm as well, although some scouts think his accuracy needs work. For Heredia to be more than a fourth outfielder, he will have to improve at the plate
The Mariners learned Friday that the agent who helped smuggle Martin out of Cuba in 2010, Bart Hernandez, was arrested on federal charges of human trafficking.
Martin released a statement saying he wold have no comment on the arrest.
Full squad workouts for the Mariners begin Thursday in Peoria, AZ.