It has been over a decade since Cuban defector Livan Hernandez helped carry the Marlins to their first World Series title, and now the team may be looking to sign another Cuban diamond in the rough this winter.
Yeonnis Cespedes, a little-known outfielder from Granma, Cuba, is reportedly looking to sign a deal with a Major League team that could pay him tens of millions of dollars. He is being billed as the hitting version of Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban pitching phenom who signed a $30 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
The Sun Sentinel reported Monday that the Marlins "have the inside track" to land Cespedes. He is expected to be given permission to negotiate with ballclubs by MLB later this month.
Cespedes gave an open workout in the Dominican Republic on Friday, where representatives of the New York Yankees were in attendance. One attendee who spoke to Yahoo Sports about the workout compared Cespedes to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, a top prospect with similar size and potential.
Cespedes defected from Cuba this summer and has been training in the Dominican Republic since then. His trainers have circulated a bizarre YouTube video showing film of Cespedes in international baseball competitions and training in the Dominican Republic, along with a Star Wars-like introduction.
The Marlins have promised to boost payroll as they move into their new stadium in Little Havana next year, and signing Cespedes could be the optimal move for the team this offseason.
He is somewhat unproven compared to other sluggers available in free agency like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but would likely come much cheaper than either of those hitters. Plus, at 26 years old, Cespedes is entering his physical prime, and conceivably could be on a steep up-slope statistically.
The Marlins will face plenty of competition if they do go after Cespedes. The Yankees, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies have all been rumored to show interest in Cespedes.
Nonetheless, the thought of Cespedes anchoring a lineup with Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison would doubtless thrill Marlins fans. Helping the Marlins is the fact that Cespedes is the fact that, according to the Sun Sentinel, his agent is Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group, which also represents Ramirez.
The Marlins also clearly have an edge in the Cespedes derby over any other team thanks to Miami's large Cuban-American community. No city can make Cespedes feel at home so much as Miami, and that could be the difference when he decides to sign a contract this winter.