Both Chicago clubs may pursue Cespedes

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
4:48
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes is in for a big payday, possibly as soon as next week, and it now appears that both Chicago teams may be a part of the bidding, which could go as high as $60 million.

After trading both Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos, the Chicago White Sox have cleared some payroll, upwards of $10 million off their 2012 salary base.

That money may be used to bid on 26-year-old Cespedes or 19-year-old Jorge Soler, also a multi-talented Cuban defector, but White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was reluctant to say how far in the White Sox are in relationship to the Cuban free agents.

[+] EnlargeYoenis Cespedes
AP Photo/Gregory BullYoenis Cespedes, 26, played for Cuba during the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
“What I will say is there are some doors that are now open for us that were not open yesterday because of the savings of dollars,” Williams said. “But which direction we are heading with that, [talking about it] I think would be counterproductive with us getting something done should we decide to go down that road.”

The Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are said to be among the main bidders for Cespedes, who will be granted citizenship in the Dominican Republic. Citizenship is the first hurdle for Cespedes and his American agent, Adam Katz, to get over in order for the outfielder to be signed to a major league contract.

Katz hosted private workouts for numerous teams in November and the Cubs top brass, including President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and VP of scouting and player development, Jason McLeod all flew to the Dominican Republic on Nov. 22.

The White Sox, all things being equal, may have a leg up on the other teams due to their success with Cuban free agents in the past.

Beginning with Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, continuing with Jose Contreras and more recently with Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox have been a haven for Cuban baseball players.

With two young Cubans still on the White Sox team, there would be a huge comfort level for Cespedes or Solar with the White Sox organization.

Cuban players, unlike any other Latin American players, need more support when they begin their American experience due to the fact that they don’t receive any help to prepare them for the transition. Other Latin American countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, hold camps for prospective players to help them adjust, such as learning a new language.

The adjustment period for Ramirez was difficult, especially playing in cold weather for the first time. It took him four years with the White Sox to hit over .250 in the month of April.

Cespedes, a centerfielder by trade, is considered a five-tool player who many believe is already major-league ready.

The dollars needed to sign the younger Soler are projected to be around $20 million. Soler is a one- or two-year project. Many scouts feel he may be a corner outfielder in the future.

The new international cap for signing free agents is $2.9 million per year before a tax penalty is paid. However, that doesn’t begin until July 2, 2012 according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
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OTHER LEADERS
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RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
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ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOJ. Arrieta 135