Monday, December 29, 2014

Cuban free agent would be fascinating Philadelphia story

It's possible the most intriguing free agent to hit the open market this offseason is going to be a player who the casual baseball fan has never heard of.

Cuban free agent would be fascinating Philadelphia story

Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies haven´t had much success signing international players. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)
Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies haven't had much success signing international players. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

It's possible the most intriguing free agent to hit the open market this offseason is going to be a player who the casual baseball fan has never heard of.

Remember the name Yoenis Cespedes.

He's 26, he owns a home run record and the team that signs him will not lose any draft picks.

Cespedes is a center fielder who defected from Cuba and is expected to be declared a free agent in the next month. In several stories on various web sites, the Phillies have been mentioned as one of the teams interested in the young Cuban star, but the bidding is expected to rival the six-year, $30.25 million contract the Cincinnati Reds paid hard-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman.

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Given the fact that the Phillies have never paid more than $1.2 million for an international signing and that player -- South Korean pitcher Seung Lee -- was a failure, it seems unlikely that they'd get involved in a bidding war.

Factor in how few Cuban position players have become stars in the big leagues and it is an even riskier proposition.

The Miami Marlins, who are scheduled to move into a new ballpark next year, are expected to make a big push for Cespedes and they have the advantage of being right smack in the middle of this country's largest Cuban population. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals have also been mentioned as teams interested in the right-handed hitting Cespedes, who owns the single-season home run record in Cuba's version of big-league baseball.

While it would be safer to sign someone like Michael Cuddyer, a versatile player with a proven big-league track record as a hitter, it would be fascinating to watch the Cespedes story unfold in Philadelphia.



Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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