We already know that Slingin' David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers are planning on a busy summer on the international free agent market. The Brewers are reportedly set to sign a sign a number of players on this year's J2 market, including two of MLB Pipeline's Top 30 ranked talents.
However Stearns, who has shown that he's not averse to pursuing any avenue to acquiring talent, may not limit his international spending to just players that fall under bonus pool restrictions. According to a report from Ben Badler of Baseball America, the Brewers are one of four teams who have been increasingly connected to Cuban defector Yadiel Hernandez of late, along with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Marlins (who hosted a private workout for him).
Hernandez is a 28 year old corner outfielder and a veteran of six professional seasons in Cuba. He has an outstanding track record for getting on base and holds a career .324/.449/.487 line with 53 home runs across 2,167 plate appearances. He's has displayed an astounding eye at the plate, having reached base via free pass on 380 occasions during his career against just 285 strikeouts. The left-handed swinger posted a .509 OBP and 1.045 OPS in 89 games during his final season playing for Matanzas, though that was way back in 2014.
Hernandez was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on April 21st and as noted above, he isn't subject to international spending guidelines. Badler ranked Hernandez as the 16th-best prospect remaining in Cuba a little over a year ago and notes that he has a short swing and ability to use the whole field in addition to his disciplined approach at the dish. He figures to have less power than your typical corner outfielder but should be capable of reaching the 10-15 home run plateau.
Given that it has been nearly two years since he's played competitively, however, Hernandez will certainly need a little bit of time in the minor leagues to shake the rust off. His disciplined approach and on-base skills are clearly traits that David Stearns values so it should hardly come as a surprise that the Brewers have been connected to the outfielder.
The rebuilding Brewers, of course, are in a state of flux at the major league level. Ryan Braun has been playing at elite levels this season and if he is traded, Hernandez could be a replacement candidate that should be able to step in and fill the void in the near-term. Domingo Santana's spot in right field is by no means written in stone, either, and Hernandez may be seen as an option to supplant the so-far defensively challenged (small sample size, of course) slugger. It's unclear at this point what sort of contract Hernandez is searching for, and though it'll almost certainly be of the major league variety, his cost is unlikely to be prohibitive.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference