The bidding war for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is about to begin.
The 26-year-old Cuban defector was granted free agency Wednesday by Major League Baseball, meaning teams can begin contract negotiations. This week, Cespedes established Dominican residency, which was the major hurdle for him to become a free agent.
The Orioles are one of six teams -- along with the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, and Indians -- that Cespedes recently said have shown the most interest in him.
Baltimore is indeed interested. The organization has seen him at least twice, and one trip to the Dominican that included manager Buck Showalter, new executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira and international operations director David Stockstill. And anyone who follows the Orioles knows they've revved up their commitment to international scouting.
The race for Cespeses figures to be a competitive one. The Marlins have made it clear they are willing to empty their pockets for Cedpedes. The Tigers, seemingly out of the race for Cespedes after spending $214 million to sign Prince Fielder on Tuesday, reportedly are still interested.
The market value for Cespedes is unclear -- some have said he could command more than Aroldis Chapman's six-year, $30.25 million deal -- but there is some question, mainly focusing on his plate discipline, whether Cespedes is truly major league ready or needs fine tuning in the minors.
Cespedes had been playing in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .143 (5-for-35) with one home run, 10 strikeouts and no walks for Aguilas.
While he is now allowed to negotiate with teams, Cespedes still needs to obtain an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can officially sign with a club.