Cespedes meets with Marlins, visits ballpark

Cespedes meets with Marlins, visits ballpark

MIAMI -- For several hours on Wednesday, Marlins officials met with Yoenis Cespedes. They showed him around Miami and gave the Cuban native a tour of their new ballpark.

Overall, the visit went well. Still, the Marlins are in a wait-and-see situation as to if they will actually sign the 26-year-old outfielder.

"It was good to see him again," team president David Samson said on his weekly segment of "The Dan LeBatard Show" on 790 The Ticket. "We hadn't seen him since he was in the Dominican. He's still not a free agent officially.

"But he was able to be in town for some appointments, I guess. He wanted to come and see the ballpark, and we're always happy to show people the ballpark."

Cespedes recently gained temporary residence in the Dominican Republic. He received a travel visa and arrived in Miami on Tuesday afternoon.

Cespedes and his agent, Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group, met with Marlins officials on Wednesday. They took a tour of Marlins Park, located in the Little Havana section of Miami, in the afternoon.

"First of all, I need to play good baseball, wherever I go," Cespedes said through a translator on Channel 7 WSVN. "If I get to play where there is a Latin community, it's that much better."

Despite being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Jan. 25, Cespedes has not been legally cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The outfielder remains "blocked" by the OFAC.

Until Cespedes is unblocked, he can negotiate and even reach agreement with a team. The signing, however, won't become official until after he is legally cleared.

Samson said Cespedes did not take a physical on Wednesday.

The Marlins have aggressively pursued Cespedes for months. A contingent of at least 10 employees, including team owner Jeffrey Loria, attended a Cespedes workout in the Dominican Republic in November.

Multiple sources consider Miami the front-runner to sign the Cuban sensation. The Marlins, Tigers, Cubs, Orioles, White Sox and Indians all have expressed interest in Cespedes.

There is optimism that he will be cleared to sign with a team before the start of Spring Training later this month.

With Miami's large Cuban influence, the Marlins feel Cespedes is a natural fit. His impact could be felt on the field and at the ticket gate. Miami projects him as a center fielder. But even if he signs, it is likely, he will open the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

Emilio Bonifacio is the front-runner to be starting center fielder on Opening Day.

Samson said on his radio show that exactly how many tickets a player like Cespedes would sell is hard to measure.

"It's hard to know," Samson said. "Everything has to hit at the right time. I think if we have this new ballpark and we win, that is the key, much more than anything else.

"Having Cespedes on our team would be great. But we don't control it. We'll try to come to a negotiated deal. If we can't, we can't. That's OK. The team is always more important than any individual. And we've got a great team right now. We just have to go out and prove it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.