MILWAUKEE -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is heading to the Dominican Republic Friday to discuss some changes to the team's international department and also to watch highly-regarded Cuban prospect, Yoenis Cespedes, a five-tool right-handed hitting outfielder.
Cespedes, who has defected from Cuba and has already worked out for other clubs, is 26 years old. Reports have him seeking a similar deal as the one given to fellow countryman Aroldis Chapman (30 million) two years ago.
"He's certainly an intriguing talent," said Cherington. "He's a guy who's performed in Cuba. He's a right-handed hitting outfielder with tools and power and he's been impressive in some workouts. But we need to get to know him a lot better. We'll know him better after this weekend than we do now."
The Sox are in the market for a right-handed bat in right field, but Cherington was unsure if Cespedes would be ready to play in the big leagues in 2012.
"I couldn't say yes or no," he said. "I don't think we know him well enough yet. It's hard to translate performance in Cuba to the big leagues. We can try to do it, but it's hard. Even the highest profile Cuban free agents have needed some assimilation and transition to baseball in the States.
"There does tend to be a bit of a transition. Very few guys have stepped into the big leagues and been successful right away. Guys have stepped into the big leagues, but not necessarily been successful right away."
Cherington seemed less willing to confirm that the Sox will be players for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Darvish is expected to be posted by his Japanese team later this month and will the most sought-after Japanese pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Red Sox in December of 2006.
Matsuzaka, who will miss most of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, won 33 games in his first two seasons. But he's been both unproductive and dogged by injuries over the last three seasons, making the 103 million commitment (split almost evenly between the posting fee and a six-year contract) a poor investment.
"The timing is different for Matsuzaka and Darvish," said Cherington, "in the sense that we've got a lot invested already in our starting rotation whereas in the winter of 2006, we didn't . . . so there was a little bit more of an opening to get in aggressively on Daisuke. That may not be present this winter. We'll do our due diligence and be prepared, but, if we're not as aggressive it's not because we're scared of the waters and more because this offseason, with the needs we have and the resources we have, we may need to focus elsewhere."
Indeed, the Sox have 148 million committed to five starters -- Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.