Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu has been cleared for free agency and the first baseman recently worked out for the Red Sox at the team's development complex in the Dominican Republic, an industry source confirmed Saturday.
But the same source discounted a report by ESPN.com that labeled the Red Sox as the perceived leaders to sign Abreu this winter.
"The process has just begun,'' the source said. "That's very premature.''
Abreu recently established residency in Haiti after defecting from Cuba earlier this year. He recently completed paperwork and has been vetted and cleared by Major League Baseball.
An intense bidding war is expected for Abreu, who has incredible raw power and size (6-3, 250 pounds). Abreu, however, is limited in the field and profiles as either a below-average first baseman, or more likely, a DH.
The Sox have an interest in retaining first baseman Mike Napoli, who is about to finish second on the team in homers (23) and RBI (91).
But the Sox would presumably find a way to work Abreu into their lineup even if they re-signed Napoli. Abreu could be viewed as the team's eventual replacement for David Ortiz at DH. Ortiz is soon to turn 38 and is entering the final year of his two-year extension, signed last November.
The San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets and others are said to be planning an agressive players for Abreu.