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Cuban catcher among players in showcase

There could be another free agent catcher hitting the market soon.

On Tuesday, catcher Yenier Bello, right-handed pitcher Rogelio Armenteros, and first baseman Jozzen Cuesta, who are all from Cuba, starred in a showcase in front of several big league scouts at a stadium in Tijuana, Mexico.

Bello, 28, who is represented by Bryce Dixon of the Primo Sports Group, left Cuba for Ecuador earlier this year and later established residency in Mexico.  He has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball but cannot enter into an agreement with a club until he has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Armenteros and Cuesta, who are represented by the Wasserman Media Group, are also in the process of finalizing their paperwork. There were approximately 20 teams represented at Tuesday’s showcase.

“Bello is chomping at the bit to play Major League Baseball after seeing players in his peer group and guys younger than him make it to the big leagues,” Dixon said. “He’s giving it everything he has to achieve the same level of success as his friends (Yasiel) Puig, (Yoenis) Cespedes and (Aroldis) Chapman have had.  He’s really excited because he never thought he would get the chance.”

Bello He hit .274 with 13 home runs in Cuba’s La Serie Nacional, the country’s top amateur league, in 2011. He hit 75 home runs and drove in 297 runs in his last five seasons in Cuba, primarily with Sancti Spíritus.

According to Dixon, Bello was caught attempting to escape from Cuba in 2012, suspended from baseball on the island and had his passport confiscated. The catcher soon retired and eventually had his passport returned to him. Bello departed for Ecuador last spring and never returned.

“If you look at the crop of catchers available now, he skews toward the younger end, even at 28,” Dixon said. “He’s been training really hard for this.”

Free agents Brian McCann, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are considered among the top catchers available this winter.

Jesse Sanchez

D-Backs offer on table for Barajas

The D-backs have an offer on the table for veteran backup catcher Rod Barajas, according to an industry source.

Barajas, 37, made his big league debut with the D-backs in 1999 and appeared in 211 games with Arizona and later joined Texas after the 2003 season. He’s also played for the Phillies, Mets, Blue Jays and Dodgers during his career.

Barajas appeared in 104 games for the Pirates last season. The D-backs hope starter Miguel Montero can catch 130-135 games next season.

– Jesse Sanchez

Interest in Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, develops

NASHVILLE — The market is starting to develop for Roberto Hernandez.

Who?

Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona , is seeking a one-year deal and has garnered interest from at least five teams, including the Indians, his former club, according to an industry source.

Hernandez, 31, has two offers on the table and is mulling his options. He does not have any interest in pitching out of the bullpen.

The right-handed pitcher was arrested in January in the Dominican Republic on charges of using a false name and legal issues kept him from obtaining a visa and entering the United States for several months. The charges were eventually dropped and the one-time All-Star became eligible to pitch for the Indians on Aug. 11. However, he made only three starts and was slowed by an ankle injury.

The club restructured Hernandez’s contract for 2012 after his arrest and later declined his $6 million option at the end of the season, making him a free agent. He does not have any visa issues and expects to report to camp on time when he signs with a team, the source said.

Hernandez originally signed with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent in 2000 and went 53-69 with a 4.64 ERA in seven seasons with the Tribe.

– Jesse Sanchez

Cespedes declared a free agent

Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball sent out a notice to the clubs advising them that Cespedes, as a resident of the Dominican Republic, is not subjected to the Amateur Draft and may now sign as a free agent.

On Tuesday, the outfield prospect established residency in the Dominican Republic. Cespedes’ representative must now unblock him pursuant to the OFAC regulations before he can enter into a contract.

Cespedes, who just finished a stint with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League, recently said the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, and Indians have expressed the most interest in signing him. He is expected to command a contract greater than the one received by Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million deal with the Reds in January 2010.

The Marlins are on record saying they believe Cespedes’ best fit is in Miami, with its strong Cuban community. The club is prepared to make a substantial offer — between four and six years — for the power-hitting outfielder.
Reports that he is not interested in signing with the Marlins are not true, an industry source said.

Cespedes hit .333 with 33 home runs, 99 RBIs and 11 stolen bases over 90 games in Cuba during the 2010-11 season, and many believe he can be inserted into the 2012 Opening Day starting lineup for the team that signs him.

He hit .143 with one home run and 10 strikeouts in 35 at-bats for the Aguilas.

– Jesse Sanchez

Cespedes gains residency in the DR

The bidding is about to begin.

Cuban outfield prospect Yoenis Cespedes has established residency in the Dominican Republic and is now waiting on approval from Major League Baseball to be declared a free agent, his representative Edgar Mercedes said.

Cespedes, who just finished a stint with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League, recently said the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, and Indians have expressed the most interest in signing him. He is expected to command a contract greater than the one received by Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million deal with the Reds in January 2010.

Cespedes hit .333 with 33 home runs, 99 RBIs and 11 stolen bases over 90 games in Cuba during the 2010-11 season, and many believe he can be inserted into the 2012 Opening Day starting lineup for the team that signs him.

 He hit .143 with one home run and 10 strikeouts in 35 at-bats for the Aguilas.

– Jesse Sanchez

Rangers among teams interested in Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion

Free agent pitcher Gerardo Concepcion worked out for the Rangers in front of a contingent that included owner Nolan Ryan at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic on Monday and the club is among the favorites to sign the Cuban left-hander.

The Rangers, Yankees, Cubs and White Sox have expressed the most interest in signing the left-hander, according Concepcion’s agent Jaime Torres. The Marlins, Phillies, Giants, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Royals have also shown interest.

Concepcion has one offer on the table and is expected to sign a Major League contract during the next two weeks, the agent said.

“Everything is great. I really don’t know how to describe it,” Concepcion, 18, said by phone from the Dominican Republic. “All the training and exercise I have done is paying off. I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m so happy. It’s like a dream come true.”

Concepcion, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Cuban Serie Nacional in 2010-11 after posting a 10-3 record and a 3.36 ERA in 21 games with Industriales de la Habana, defected from Cuba last June during the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands. He later established residency in Mexico and was declared a free agent last week.

He has been working out in the Dominican Republic and starred in a showcase for Major League scouts on the island last Thursday.

– Jesse Sanchez

Yankees begin work of rebuilding rotation

The Yankees may have solved the lingering questions of their starting rotation in just one night, nearing completion on deals that will fit right-handers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda for pinstripes in 2012.

In Pineda’s case, the price proved to be a steep one, as New York agreed to part with power-hitting catcher Jesus Montero, shipping their top prospect to the Mariners in a four-player trade.

Though the teams have not made an official announcement, a source confirmed that Seattle is set to send Pineda and Minor League pitcher Jose Campos to the Yankees for Montero and 24-year-old right-hander Hector Noesi.

Marlins among clubs vying for Cespedes

The Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes appears to be down to six teams.

The center fielder from Cuba told a reporter from The Associated Press in the Dominican Republic that the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians have expressed the most interest.

Cespedes, 26, made his debut on Thursday for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Republic Winter League.

Rangers, Fielder meet in Dallas

The Rangers met on Friday with free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder at a Dallas-area hotel, according to multiple media reports.

Fielder is the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market. The Nationals also are believed to be heavily involved with Fielder, who, according to reports, is seeking a long-term deal with a no-trade clause. The Mariners have also been connected with Fielder.

Minor Moves: Eyes on Hawpe

At least three teams have expressed interest veteran outfielder Brad Hawpe and he could be close to signing a Minor League deal that includes an invite to Spring Training, according to an industry source.

Hawpe, who had Tommy John surgery in August, is said to be healthy and eager to compete for a spot on a big league roster this spring. He fits best with a team in need of depth at first base and at the corner outfield positions.

Hawpe, 32, hit .231 in 62 games for the Padres last season and .245 in 103 games with the Rockies and Rays in 2010. Signed by Colorado in the 11th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, he hit .280 in 816 games during his seven seasons with the Rockies. An All-Star in 2009, he averaged 25 home runs, 93 RBI and 33 doubles for four consecutive seasons while with Colorado starting in 2006.

–Jesse Sanchez

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