On December 18th, 2006, Pittsburgh Pirates GM Dave Littlefield announced that the Bucs had signed free agent RHP Yoslan Herrera to a three-year contract worth $1.92 M (signing bonus of $750K, along with salaries of $380K, $390K and $400K). On November 10th, 2009, they released him.
So much for the career of Littlefield’s one ballyhooed Latino signing.
Herrera was born on April 28, 1981, in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junk-baller was a member of the Youth Cuban National Team from 1999-2000, and then spent four seasons playing for the Cuban National Team. He posted an overall record of 18-7 with a 3.27 ERA during his career in Cuba.
Herrera defected from Cuba in July, 2005, and spent the following seven months in Miami. He then went to the Dominican Republic, where he spent most of 2006 training, and was brought into the Pirate fold by Carribean scouts Rene Gayo and Louie Eljaua, who negotiated the deal.
"Yoslan enjoyed a successful career while pitching in Cuba," said Littlefield. "He's a right-handed starter with a good arm and someone who has been very intriguing to us based on his international success."
Not that he was a lock; there were concerns about him not having pitched for two years, his durability to get deep into games, and whether his 87-90 MPH fastball was enough good enough to complement his bread-and-butter offspeed stuff.
Still, he was considered a good pickup by the organization, which had struggled badly in the Latin market under Littlefield, and it was projected by some that Herrera could earn a spot in the Pirate rotation by 2009.
He was rated by Baseball America as the Pirates' fourth best prospect in 2007, and was added to the Bucs 40-man roster. Herrera opened at Altoona and went 6-9 with a 4.69 ERA in 25 starts for the Curve. The righty had problems with his splits against lefties, and showed little ability to miss bats, even at the AA level.
In 2008 Herrera was invited to spring training, but again started the year at Altoona. He was a well-traveled man that season, making 22 starts for the Curve, one with Indy, and five with Pittsburgh.
At Altoona, he went 6-9 with a 3.46 ERA in a team-high 1141⁄3 innings, and earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors. Herrera was promoted to Indianapolis for a June spot start against the Columbus Clippers, pitched well, and then returned to Altoona.
Herrera was called up by Pittsburgh on July 12th and made his MLB debut that night, pitching 4-1/3 innings, and getting battered. He did earn his first major league win on July 24th, shutting out the San Diego Padres through six innings. Hererra was optioned back to the Double-A Curve on August 4th.
And with pretty good reason – in five starts for Pittsburgh, he was 1-1 with a 9.82 ERA, lasting just 18-1/3 innings, compiling a WHIP of 2.564 and walking more guys (12) than he struck out (10). That audition virtually eliminated him from the Pirates radar, and he was removed from the 40-man roster after the season.
Herrera split 2009 between Altoona and Indy, no longer a prospect but now just a bit of organizational depth. He went 11-1 with a 3.23 ERA with the Curve. In four games with the Indians, Herrera went 1-1 with a 2.30 ERA.
But now, the Pirates have stockpiled enough arms to fill the Altoona and Indy rotations, Herrera in three years never showed that he was anything better than a good AA pitcher, he’s 28 (he turns 29 in April), and his contract ran out. Buenas noches, Yoslan.
He currently plays for the Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League; so far no El Norte club has taken a flyer on him. Our guess is he’ll remain in the Latin leagues - and remain a cautionary tale of Latino signings.
-- By the way, 3B Bobby Spain, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Pirates in 2007 following an All-American season at shortstop for Oklahoma City University, was released at the same time and signed with the Frontier League Tranverse City Beach Bums. Spain hit .286 with 47 doubles, 10 home runs, and 107 RBI in three minor-league seasons.