The Orioles remain interested in signing free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, according to an industry source.
Cespedes, the highly-touted Cuban defector, received free-agent status from MLB on Wednesday and can now begin negotiating with clubs. MLB said he still must obtain an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assests Control before he can actually sign with a major league club, so any negotiations are in their infancy.
The Orioles liked what they saw of Cespedes, 26, in a private workout last month that was attended by manager Buck Showalter, director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira and international operations director David Stockstill.
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And the club hasn't been scared off by Cespedes' poor numbers playing in the Dominican Winter League. He hit .143 (5-for-35) with one home run, 10 strikeouts and no walks for Aguilas. But the organization believes that's too small a sample to draw much from it. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Cespedes is a physical talent and hit a record-setting 33 home runs in the Cuban National Series in 2010-11.
The Orioles will stay active in scouting Cespedes. The team plans to send a contingency to watch Cespedes when he plays for Aguilas in the Carribean Series, which opens a week from today in the Dominican Republic.
Cespedes told reporters recently that the Orioles, Marlins, Cubs, Tigers, White Sox and Indians were the six teams that have shown the most interest in him. The Marlins appear to be the front-runner. They have made it known that they are willing to spend money to have Cespedes play in front of Miami's large Cuban community, but there are mixed reports about whether he wants to play there.
There is also some question whether Cespedes is major league ready or will need some minor league at-bats before he enters the big leagues.
Regardless, he's set to command a hefty contract. And the Orioles are monitoring the situation.