Cubs have interest in Yoenis Cespedes
Cuban defector Yoenis CÚspedes said the Chicago Cubs have shown the most interest in him, although the slugging outfielder cautioned that it doesn't mean he'll be signing with the North Siders.
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"Of all the teams that have approached us, the one that has had the most interest in me has been the Chicago Cubs," CÚspedes said, according to The Associated Press in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "I have had dinner a couple of times (with Cubs officials) and we have talked a lot, but that doesn't mean that I am going to sign with them.
"I am only telling it like it is, they have shown more interest than others."
Cubs' director of Latin American scouting Jose Serra, who is credited with signing All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro, was in attendance for Cespedes' game on Monday in the Dominican Republic. And at least nine other MLB teams reportedly have watched Cespedes' private practices. The Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins and Cleveland Indians also are interested in Cespedes.
"We haven't yet received any offers because I am still resolving my domestic residence situation, but God willing, that will be soon," Cespedes said.
Cespedes is in the process of establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. At that point he'll be able to apply to be an MLB free agent.
Cubs vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod is impressed with the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Cespedes.
"It's funny, because we have a guy on the Cubs now that compares to him when he was younger," McLeod said. "He reminds me somewhat of Marlon Byrd. Cespedes is a better runner than Marlon was when he was younger, but he's a stocky, strong right-handed hitter who can play center field.
"He has power and he can throw. He's built like an NFL running back. He's really put together well. He has a chance to play center field in the major leagues, to hit and to hit for power."
Although the 26-year-old Cespedes is considered major league ready by many, McLeod wouldn't mind seeing him get some seasoning in the minors.
"I think in an ideal world, he would have minor league exposure first," McLeod said. "I think if he he signs before spring training, it would depend on how he looks in major league camp.
"Ideally, you would like him to get 100 at-bats, if not more (in the minors), but hopefully he'll let the team know if he's ready by the way he plays."
ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.