Cuban outfielder Cespedes draws the interest of Pirates
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012
Even before he became a YouTube sensation, Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes was on the Pirates' radar.
"He's an interesting player whom we've tracked for a number of years," general manager Neal Huntington said.
In a few days, Cespedes, who defected last year, will establish residency in the Dominican Republic. Major League Baseball then can declare him a free agent and set in motion what likely will be a record-setting bidding war.
Cespedes, 26, has prodigious power and last year broke Cuba's single-season home run record. The speedy center fielder also flashed his defensive skills, arm and linebacker-type physique in a 20-minute video called "The Showcase" that drew thousands of hits on YouTube . Scouts say Cespedes can be major league-ready this season.
By not coming to live in the United States right away, Cespedes remained ineligible for baseball's amateur draft. Instead, teams must submit bids to his agent, Adam Katz. After the high bid is revealed, teams may increase their offers.
The Pirates are expected to be among the bidders. However, the New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are seen as likely frontrunners to sign Cespedes.
The highest contract for a Cuban player is the $30.25-million, six-year deal pitcher Aroldis Chapman got from the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010. At the Winter Meetings last month, several industry insiders predicted Cespedes will top Chapman's mark by at least $20 million — which, as usual, is bad news for the Pirates.
"We have placed our internal value on him," Huntington said, without divulging specifics. "If the bidding takes him above our value, we'll wish him the best with whoever signs him."
With Cespedes almost certainly out of reach, the Pirates could turn their attention to center fielder Jorge Soler, another Cuban defector. Soler, 19, also has a power bat, but he is less of a pure hitter and doesn't run or play defense as well as Cespedes.
The bidding frenzy around Cespedes probably will drive up the price for Soler; some say as high as $20 million. That's another price the Pirates might not be willing to pay.
Still, the Pirates have increased their efforts — and opened their wallet — to sign international players in recent years. In August 2010, they inked hard-throwing pitcher Luis Heredia out of Mexico for a team-record $2.6 million bonus. Last summer, Colombian outfielder Harold Ramirez got a $1.05 million deal.
Notes: Huntington said right-hander Charlie Morton remains on track with his rehab from hip surgery. "He's on as good of a schedule as we could've hoped for," Huntington said. Morton is expected to be able to rejoin the starting rotation in late April. ... The front office will hold its annual organizational meetings next week in Bradenton, Fla. The team also will open the Pirate City complex to its players for informal, voluntary workouts. ... The Red Sox signed former Pirates shortstop Pedro Ciriaco to a minor-league deal. ... Left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Reyes, 27, went a combined 7-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 29 outings last season for the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates seek to tap Alvarez’s remaining upside
- Pirates notebook: Closer Grilli sharp in brief outing
- New Pirates pitcher Eppley brings special delivery to team’s staff
- Martin would consider extending stay with Pirates
- Leyland content in new role with Tigers, rules out a return to Pirates
- Volquez is Pirates’ latest reclamation project
- Pirates notebook: Morton shows off new weapon
- Burnett makes Phillies debut versus Pirates
- Pirates MVP McCutchen eager to report early for another spring training
- Marte-McCutchen-Polanco outfield could rival franchise’s best
- Pirates’ Wilk thrown a curve in South Korea