- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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The Miami Marlins will officially court Yoenis Cespedes Wednesday, but on Tuesday the Cuban free agent said he already likes the team.
"It would be good (to play here)," Cespedes told reporters at Miami International Airport Tuesday. "There are a lot of Cubans and they would support me a lot. Hopefully I can play for the Marlins."
Marlins president David Samson confirmed Tuesday night that his team would meet with Cespedes on Wednesday in Miami and told ESPN.com the club could make Cespedes an offer by the end of the day.
"I don't know how tomorrow will go," Samson said. "But it would not surprise me if it ended with an offer."
Cespedes received a visitor's visa to travel from the Dominican Republic to the United States and teams can negotiate with him and his agent, Adam Katz.
Samson said the club has been "negotiating aggressively" in its pursuit of Cespedes, but drew a distinction between Miami's interest in Cespedes and its signings of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell earlier in the offseason. He said the Marlins view Cespedes as a signing that could "put the cherry on top" of a feverish offseason, but have already established clear limits on their bidding for a player with no track record in professional baseball.
"We want him, but we don't need him," Samson said. "The difference is this: When you want a player, you aggressively go out and try to sign him. When you need him, that's when negotiations get very one-sided."
Cespedes, a 26-year-old outfielder, is tied with Fernando Despaigne for the Cuban League's home run record with 32.
"There's no question we're aggressive in evaluating this player," Samson said. "We think he's a great player and he'll be a great player. And we're prepared to do something spectacular, in my opinion. But it may not match what he thinks is spectacular. And it may not match what other teams are prepared to do."
Cespedes will return to the Dominican Republic in a few days, a source told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. He must then wait for a working visa from the Dominican before he can work in the United States. Cespedes must be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control because of sanctions against Cuba before he can sign with any team, according to the Marlins and Katz. In fact, the Marlins can't even buy him lunch Wednesday.
Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins were one of several teams that looked at Cespedes as a player who could potentially be ready to play in the big leagues by Opening Day. Now, Samson said, "that becomes less likely with each day that passes and he's not playing games."
Cespedes had 35 at-bats in the Dominican winter league, going 5 for 35 with one home run, 10 strikeouts and no walks. It was his first action since last March.
"So he'd come to spring training and have to win a job," Samson said. "He'd certainly be invited to major league camp, and he'd be given every opportunity to show that 10 months of inactivity can be erased in one spring training. We would reserve the right to send him to the minor leagues if we felt he wasn't ready. But when you're contemplating a contract at this level, it's not to play in the minor leagues."
It was not immediately known if Cespedes, who was declared a free agent last month, planned to meet with other teams. The Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles are reportedly interested in him.
Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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