Nicknamed El Talento and La Potencia for his skill set and style of play, Cuban baseball center field phenomenon Yoenis Cespedes will soon be cleared for free agency and have a handful of teams vying to add him to their roster.
It is expected that Cespedes, 26, who defected from Cuba's Serie Nacional, will sign a contract for five years and worth over $30 million, more than the six-year, $30.25 million contract inked by fellow Cuban and star pitcher Aroldis Chapman with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
According to reports, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates have all expressed interest in Cespedes evidenced by their presence at recent workouts.
Cespedes should get the go-ahead to begin negotiating with major league teams later this month, and reports say the Marlins are the ones that have the inside track.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was scheduled to meet with Cespedes in the Dominican Republic later this week. A source who spoke with a Marlins front office member confirmed that Loria and other key members of the club's baseball operations department would see Cespedes in a private workout on Thursday.
The Yankees are also particularly hot for Cespedes. A team official who attended an open workout Friday in the Dominican Republic for the right-handed Cespedes, compared Cespedes to Los Angeles Angels top prospect Mike Trout for their similar size, speed and potential. If the Yankees were to sign Cespedes, he may take over right field for Nick Swisher instead of playing center once Swisher's contract expires. But that won't happen until 2013.
The Nationals are also heavy favorites having money to spend to sign Cespedes. Multiple Nationals talent evaluators, according to a team official, attended the same workout on Friday, afterwards regarding the power-hitting center fielder as the second-best player in Cuba behind third baseman Yulieski Gourriel.
Nevertheless, the Nationals, who have outlined acquiring a center fielder their top goal this offseason, regard Cespedes as an outstanding defensive player, but with a below-average arm. His bat, though powerful, would probably make him a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, not the leadoff man the Nationals desire. Still, you would love to have him, the team official said.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that he spoke to Adam Katz, Cespedes' agent, who said he has not yet discussed contract terms with any team yet. Katz said he would first get through the mechanics of making Cespedes a free agent, then - with trainer Edgar Mercedes - conduct any remaining workouts before taking bids. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that one source said Major League Baseball is ready to declare Cespedes a free agent but is awaiting the go-ahead from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which clears Cubans to play baseball in the United States.
Katz, two sources said, expects that to happen within a matter of weeks.
Cespedes tied the single-season home run record in Serie Nacional during the 2010-11season with 33 in just 90 games and slugged .667. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he hit .458 with a double, three triples, two home runs, and five RBIs in six games.
Cespedes' handlers, to show his talents off even more, even produced a promotional YouTube video that went viral, but has since been removed on YouTube's site. Some highlights of the video include Cespedes jumping 45 inches, running a 6.3-second 60-yard dash, leg pressing 1,300 pounds with two men sitting on top of the weights, and benching 350 pounds.