M’s sign Betancourt

DMZ · January 26, 2005 at 3:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners signed 22-year old Yuniesky Betancourt to a “major league” contract, according to MLB.com and other sources. The major league contract means he goes on the 40-man roster, which mean Aaron Looper got DFAd.

The stats on Betancourt are… well, I have an extremely low opinion of the value of Cuban stats in making any kind of decision about his talent. We’ll know more once he plays against a level of competition we can reliably gauge.


“Yuniesky is an athletic, offensive shortstop,” Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. “We view him as the equivalent of a first- or second-round draft pick.”

Which is good, since the team hasn’t done real well with drafting shortstops lately.

Anyway, I have no idea if he’ll pan out or not, and won’t have a clue until next year, and possibly later.


21 Responses to “M’s sign Betancourt”

  1. Evan on January 26th, 2005 3:44 pm

    Does anyone know how long the Cuban season is?

  2. Jim Thomsen on January 26th, 2005 3:45 pm

    Too bad he won’t be ready for the majors by the time Bret Boone departs … what a double-play combo (“Yuni to Boonie to Sexsie”).

    I seem to remember similar comments being made five or so years ago when the Mariners signed a Russian player by the name of Oleg Korneev. What happened to him, and how did he do in the minors รขโ‚ฌโ€ if even he played outside the instructional leagues?

    Bad comparison, but remember a few years ago when the Sonics took on a Cuban “project” named Lazoro Borrell? He disappeared with little notice as well.

  3. Rusty on January 26th, 2005 3:53 pm

    Do you get the impression that since the loss of ARot, that management is doing a lot of “throwing mud against the wall, to see what sticks” in order to come up with a decent shortstop out of the farm system?

    I’m referring to Garciaparra, Jones, Tuiasosopo, Morse, etc.

  4. Jeff Sullivan on January 26th, 2005 3:54 pm

    Korneev threw 32 professional innings, sucked, and left baseball. Which isn’t surprising, given that he had a 7.97 ERA as a pitcher back in Russia.

  5. Jim Thomsen on January 26th, 2005 3:56 pm

    As Bill James once wrote: “It’s generally bad luck to have the ERA of a jetliner.”

  6. JMB on January 26th, 2005 3:56 pm

    Korneev also blew out his elbow, if I remember correctly, which certainly didn’t help matters any.


  7. Evan on January 26th, 2005 4:00 pm

    I like Morse. I think he has potential.

    Maybe not as a shortstop…

  8. PositivePaul on January 26th, 2005 4:03 pm

    I also like Adam Jones and Tui, but again, may not as SS’s.

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 26th, 2005 4:08 pm

    So does being added to the 40-man mean Betancourt is invited to the big-league camp in spring?

  10. Jerry on January 26th, 2005 4:11 pm


    I don’t think that the shortstops that the M’s have gotten through the draft and trades are really guys that will stick there. Garciaparra sucks, but he was a guy who was supposed to stick there. Jones could stay at SS as well, but like Morse and Tui, these are guys who have good tools. With Jones and Tui in particular, they are really good athletes, and the best athletes in high-school usually play SS. I think that both of these guys are likely to end up in the OF, and Morse could end up there as well. I have heard that Morse has a very good arm, and with his size, he could fit well at 3B. Regardless, I think that Morse is really overrated.

    With Tui, they clearly went for the best athlete and talent available in the 3rd round. Hopefully, Justin Upton is not drafted before the M’s pick at #3, and we can get another 5-tool player. Upton might be able to stick at SS. However, with exceptional athletes like that, you have some flexibility in where they play. The only guy in the system right now that I think will be a really good, pure SS is Cabrera, but he is still a ways away from the MLs.

  11. JMB on January 26th, 2005 4:29 pm

    Hey Jim,

    Yeah, all the guys on the 40-man come to ST.


  12. dw on January 26th, 2005 4:59 pm

    So, are we to read from all this that Lopez will be playing at 2B when they trade Boone in July, or that Lopez is still “SS of the future?”

    There’s a lot of hype here for a real either-or sort of prospect (that is, Betancourt will either be a MLB starter or in the independent leagues in two years). I don’t really like the signing. (Now watch him hit .300/.400/.500 in SA this year and make me look more like the idiot I am.)

  13. J on January 26th, 2005 5:19 pm

    JMB is correct, Korneev blew out his elbow, was released, and headed back for Russia, where I’ve heard he was pitching.

    I dig the Betancourt signing. It’s not brilliant or anything, but as others have said, Asdrubal is about as close to a pure SS as we have, and maybe Jones as well. This guy is more under the radar as a signing than Morales or any of the other higher profile defectors, but we may get a good deal out of this yet.

  14. J on January 26th, 2005 5:20 pm

    The AP now is saying that the contract is valued at 2.826 million over four years. Not bad.

  15. Steve on January 26th, 2005 6:13 pm

    I guess one issue is that since he has a major league contract, every year he spends in the minors burns an option year. So you have to hope that he’s ready for the big leagues when he’s out of option years.

    Since Betancourt is 22, that should be less of an issue than it was with Mac Suzuki.

  16. Jerry on January 26th, 2005 9:48 pm

    I am surprised that this guy didn’t get any press. Had anyone heard anything about this guys before this signing? I hadn’t. With Cubans, it seems like they get more press than they deserve initially, then, during workouts, everyone is underwhelmed. This seemed to be the case with Kendry Morales and Maels Rodriguez (a more extreme case).

    However, at leoneforthird they suggest that several teams were bidding on him, so maybe he is a legit prospect. Who knows. It could be the timing, with this issue being drowned in all the hot stove rumors.

    Regardless, if it is for the type of contract that J quoted above from the AP article, it is a good risk. The M’s will be losing their 2nd and 3rd round draft picks, so they could just treat this as a supplement. Bavasi explicitly said that he is like a 1st or 2nd round draft pick, and his contract is about what you would give a upper- to mid-1st rounder as a signing bonus. That about what we paid Matt Tuiasosopo.

    Hopefully the SS situation will get more complicated when the M’s draft Justin Upton in the draft this year. Regardless of what the D-Backs and Royals do, the M’s will get a nice player. And perhaps some other guys will rise up the rankings high enough to get drafted in the top-3. However, Upton seems like he is a special player, the type of guy that doesn’t come around too often. It would be cool if the M’s could get someone like that.

  17. mike on January 26th, 2005 10:53 pm

    Did anyone else enjoy the press release as much as I did? It said that he escaped Cuba on a raft, and then “landed in Mexico.”

    That’s a heckuva raft ride. I mean, Florida’s a lot closer. I wonder if he had the raft pointed at the Panama Canal, intending to come up the coast to reach Seattle, but then drifted North…

    If I’m the only one who found the wording funny, sorry… I’m a sick human.

  18. Graham on January 27th, 2005 12:41 am

    4 years, $2.826 million, with the fourth yeear voided if he somehow accumulates enough servive time to become arb eligable (since he’s supposed to be starting in AA, I don’t think that’s going to happen). Most of the money comes in the form of a signing bonus, with the actual money per year comparable to the ML minimums.

  19. Joshua Buergel on January 27th, 2005 9:44 am

    Does anybody know if he’s actually 22, or if he’s “22”? It seems like it’s mostly older guys who have had age related chicanery associated with them, but I thought I’d ask.

  20. Karen on January 27th, 2005 1:52 pm

    RE: #19 — In these post 9/11 times, one would expect that once Customs has vetted these refugees from Cuba, they are really as old as their documents say. At least that’s the conventional wisdom these days, from what I’ve read.

  21. stiletto on January 27th, 2005 3:24 pm

    did you know that the cuban national anthem is
    “Row, Row, Row your Boat”??