Hail to the Victors: Marlins sign free-agent Cuban brothers
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) When newly signed Miami Marlins prospect Victor Victor Mesa was asked Monday how soon he'll be in the major leagues, Derek Jeter leaned over with a smile and a word of caution for the young Cuban.
"Cuidado," Jeter said - Spanish for "watch out."
The futures of Mesa and his younger brother, Victor Jr., may be difficult to project, but the Marlins eagerly signed both outfielders. They left Cuba last spring to pursue major league careers, and their contracts were announced at a news conference Monday at Marlins Park.
Two weeks ago at the same ballpark, the brothers tried out for scouts from all 30 major league teams.
"When I was doing the showcase, I was thinking this could be my ballpark," Victor Jr. said through a translator. "It was beautiful. I felt like a big leaguer."
Victor Victor received a signing bonus of $5.25 million, and Victor Jr. received $1 million. The older Mesa was considered the top international free agent, but Jeter acknowledged there's not a lot of firsthand scouting material on the two players.
"That's why the workout here was important," said Jeter, the Marlins CEO said. "We all liked what we saw during the showcase here."
With this sudden abundance of Victors, the business and baseball sides of the Marlins' organization celebrated the signings. The attendance-challenged franchise wants a more international look under Jeter to capitalize on South Florida's diversity, and the Mesas could help with that.
"Walking around Miami having fans asking are we going to sign the brothers shows their popularity," Jeter said.
And for the Mesas, the chance to play in Miami was appealing.
"It's not a secret - there are a lot of Latinos and Cubans here," Victor Victor said through a translator. "It feels like home here."
Their family attended the news conference, including their father, Victor, a former star outfielder in Cuba.
The brothers were recently declared free agents by Major League Baseball, and the Marlins had been widely viewed as front-runners to sign them. Victor Victor Mesa recently posted an Instagram showing him and his brother sitting in the Marlins' clubhouse holding a Cuban flag. Behind them were Marlins jerseys bearing their names.
Victor Mesa Jr. also posted an Instagram photo of himself with former Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell.
The 22-year-old Victor Victor Mesa started playing in Cuba's top league at 16. He played in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and went 3 for 7 with two doubles and three RBIs in six games.
His 17-year-old brother is a left-handed hitter who starred for Cuba's 18U national team.
"There were no guarantees they were going to stay together," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We're fortunate we were able to get both."
Hill described both as five-tool players. Victor Victor, who will join the Marlins at spring training next year, rates above average with his hitting, running, defense and throwing, Hill said.
The Marlins swung several deals to increase their international slot allotment, including $1 million they received when they traded right-handed reliever Kyle Barraclough to Washington this month. Those trades were made with pursuit of the Mesas in mind.
"We had to put in all our chips," Hill said, "and add chips."
Back to the original question: How soon will Victor Victor reach the majors?
"I want to work hard and wait for that call," Mesa said. "I'll do my best to be playing in this beautiful stadium."
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Updated October 22, 2018