11/11/08 6:13 PM EST
Viciedo working out for interested clubs
White Sox may have edge with talented Cuban third baseman
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Torres, who also represents fellow Cubans Alexei Ramirez and Jose Contreras, has acknowledged said offers. He doesn't intend to truly get serious about them until Viciedo's workouts for numerous interested teams are completed Thursday evening in the Dominican Republic.
"There definitely are some firm offers in place, and I'm actually scheduled to meet with some team later today," Torres told MLB.com during a phone interview Tuesday from the Dominican Republic. "But I've not responded to one thing.
"We are shooting to get things done after Thursday's workout and before Monday of next week. Once we move to that stage of the negotiations, we intend to close the deal. I would prefer him to start getting adjusted to his new team."
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times in Saturday's edition, Torres was informed by Major League Baseball on Friday that Viciedo was cleared to become a free agent. Viciedo has been playing for the Cuban national team since he was 14 and is considered a bona fide five-tool talent, if not a bit raw like most young players.
A report in Sunday's Chicago Tribune quoted an expert on Cuban baseball as describing Viciedo as an underachiever with a poor work ethic. But Torres bristled at such a suggestion, questioning if these critics had ever seen Viciedo in action.
"The best indication as to where this young man stands in regard to his potential is through the amount of people that organizations are sending down here to check him out during workouts," said Torres, with strident tones in defense of Viciedo, who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. "Every organization will be down here."
Ramirez, who also was a standout player for the Cuban national team, knows Viciedo from their playing days together. During a conference call with Chicago media on Tuesday afternoon, Ramirez praised Viciedo's natural ability.
"He has incredible potential and an explosive bat," said Ramirez of Viciedo through translator and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "He has incredible strength in his wrists, great hand speed and a great arm. If you were to ask me, 'Does he have Major League potential,' I would say, 'Absolutely.'"
"If there's a person in the States that can comment about him and have knowledge about his abilities, it's Alexei, who played with him," Torres said.
The runner-up in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting said that the White Sox have had "curiosity" about Viciedo, and when asked, Ramirez always has been upfront with his current team concerning his former teammate. With Ramirez and Contreras already in place and comfortable playing with the White Sox, the South Siders would seem to have an edge in signing the sought after free agent.
It's not a clear-cut edge, in Torres' mind. But Viciedo has discussed with Torres how Ramirez went from Pinar del Rio in Cuba directly to becoming the White Sox starting second baseman and contributing. The White Sox showed faith in Ramirez, even when he struggled.
Barring another trade, Viciedo would compete with Josh Fields for the starting third base job if signed by the White Sox. Torres believes this young man is ready to contribute at the big league level on an everyday basis, even at 19. He feels Major League teams agree with his assessment.
"Otherwise, clubs would not be after him as hard as they are, and we wouldn't be seeing the offers we are seeing," said Torres of Viciedo, who hit .337 with 14 home runs in Cuba at the age of 16. "You don't put something like that in place unless you expect him to contribute immediately."
One organization told Torres that they would move their incumbent third baseman to another position, in order to make room for Viciedo. More will be known about Viciedo in two or three days, after he completes the workouts that will include him facing live pitching.
There's no doubt in Torres' mind the interest will be even stronger in this apparently special ballplayer.
"Many players can be put at third, but not too many are real third basemen," Torres said. "Not only does he have a good bat, but the young man can field. We need to save some of those quotes from the individuals who have questions about him, and let's see what happens at the end of the 2009 season."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.