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Orioles have signed Cuban outfielder Elier Leyva, source says

Elier Leyva will be the latest Cuban outfielder the Orioles try to groom for the majors.

The Orioles made their latest acquisition in the international free agent market by signing Cuban outfielder Elier Leyva earlier this month, according to a club source. 

Leyva, 24, signed with the Orioles for a bonus of $180,000, the source said. 

The Orioles believe that Leyva -- a corner outfielder who was scouted by the club in the Dominican Republic -- has comparable tools and makeup to current Orioles farmhand Dariel Alvarez, who is also Cuban. Leyva, who is 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, has projectable power from the right side of the plate and owns an above average arm and has average speed. 

He will likely start at either Low-A Delmarva or High-A Frederick in right field. 

Two division rivals, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, were said to also be interested in signing Leyva, according to a source, but his signing bonus still paled in comparison to ones the Orioles previously gave Cuban outfielders Henry Urrutia ($778,500) and Alvarez ($800,000).

Under Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, the Orioles have made a stronger push in signing international free agents. But they have yet to sign one of the growing number of high-profile major league-ready Cuban imports, instead choosing to go after less-expensive players who make their way up through the minor leagues. 

Urrutia advanced through the Orioles' farm system quickly in 2013, making his major league debut right after the All-Star break after just 65 minor league games. But the the gap power he showed in the minors didn't translate with the Orioles, as 16 of his 17 big league hits were singles. He didn't make the big league club last year out of spring training and spent the season in Triple-A, missing more than two months with a sports hernia.

Alvarez batted .306/.330/.472 with 15 homers and 87 RBIs between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last year. During the winter meetings last week, Duquette said he was looking forward to manager Buck Showalter giving Alvarez a look in spring training to see if he's ready for a big league roster spot in 2015. 

eencina@baltsun.com

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