Okay...you can't really say "leaders" because, after speculation yesterday, it has now just been confirmed that Yoenis Cespedes is a free agent. There have been no negotiations to this point.
But there have been meetings. And apparently lots of them.
Cespedes has mentioned on a couple of occasions on how the Cubs have shown the most interest him and how they have had dinner with him and his agent. Of course, they can't talk contract, but establishing that early interest and building a relationship is often a key to signing free agents. The player develops a trust and appreciation for the organization.
How many times have we heard a free agent say, "They showed interest in me from the beginning..."
The more recent development was a series of tweets from CBS' Danny Knobler,
Teams are waiting for the OK to start bidding on Cespedes. There's still a feeling that Cespedes doesn't want to go to the Marlins.
And then this one,
He has told teams he would prefer not to play in Miami. If so, he has an interesting decision to make if the Marlins bid big.
All along I have speculated, incorrectly it seems, that Cespedes would prefer Miami because of the Cuban community, the marketing opportunities, the weather, the tax structure, etc.
But maybe some of that is stuff he'd actually like to avoid. Perhaps he doesn't want to be the face of the franchise without having taken a single AB in the MLB. Maybe there are too many distractions and he prefers to concentrate on baseball.
If that's the case, then it speaks a lot to his character and his focus on becoming a great major league ballplayer over marketing opportunities.
One interesting thing Knobler writes about is that Cespedes prefers to live in the Dominican Republic rahter than Florida regardless of where he plays. So the geography becomes less of an advantage in that sense. It may even give the Cubs a leg up, as the Cubs now have first rate facilities in the Dominican. Cespedes can spend the offseason working on his game. Is it possible the Cubs even have a home field advantage of sorts here?
Cespedes, projects to be an Adam Jones type player per one projection, but he'll need a bit of time in AAA. While Cuban baseball isn't at the level of MLB or even the NPB, it's still high level competition. A recent player who made the transition easily is Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox. Ramirez was a lesser prospect, yet made the jump at 26 despite not having faced MLB pitching. He hit .290 with 21 HRs in his rookie season.
The Cubs will take those kinds of numbers in a heartbeat in his first season. Cespedes ultimately is expected to provide athleticism, defense, power, and speed to the Cubs, all areas in which Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aim to improve on.
And if you think a potential Cespedes signing means no Jorge Soler, think again. Bruce Levine said in his chat that the Cubs have the money set aside to sign both.