Source: Sox high on young Cuban outfielder

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Source: Sox high on young Cuban outfielder

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Over the winter, the Red Sox were conspicuous by their absence when it came to bidding on Yoenis Cespedes, the flashy Cuban outfielder who defected and became a free agent.

They don't plan the approach with Cespedes's countryman Jorge Soler.

Soler is close to achieve residency in the Dominican Republic, after which he will file a request with Major League Baseball to become a free agent.

When he's granted that right, he'll get auctioned off to the highest bidder. The Red Sox have signaled that they intend to be right in the middle of the bidding, according to an industry source.

Why the interest on Soler, but not Cespedes, who signed a four-year, 36 million deal with the Oakland A's? In a word: age.

While Cespedes is 26, Soler is just 20.

"With the other guy (Cespedes)," said an industry source, "any time spent in the minor leagues is a negative. You're paying big money for him to develop."

It isn't clear whether the Sox -- and other teams -- believe that Soler projects as a better player than Cespedes. What is clear is that, given the talent and the age, the potential is there for a bigger upside.

Said a major league executive who has watched Soler: "I see him as a high impact guy with huge power. His upside is as a right fielder; the downside is as a left fielder."

Asked for a comparable player for Soler, one talent evaluator said: "Ron Gant."

Gant played 16 seasons in the big leagues, many with the Atlanta Braves. He finished his career with 321 homers, 1,008 RBI, 243 steals and an OPS of .803.

While the market for Cespedes never materialized as projected -- Oakland didn't emerge as a factor until the very end -- it's thought that interest in Soler will be greater, chiefly because of his younger age and room for growth.

A number of big-market teams are expected to make bids, including the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.

It's likely that Soler would begin at Single A ball, but the expectation is he could leapfrog through the minors is relatively short order -- somewhere between two and three seasons.

Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice

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Gronkowski healthy enough to participate during Patriots OTA practice

There's one where he makes a one-handed catch and celebrates with his arms outstretched as he glides into the end zone. There's another where he leaves his feet to go up and over safety Devin McCourty to come down with a pass. 

Judging by some of the pictures that have surfaced on Patriots.com of Rob Gronkowski participating in an OTA practice earlier this week, the All-Pro tight end seems to be feeling pretty good. 

Gronkowski is returning to action after undergoing season-ending back surgery last year so there was some question as to just how prepared he'd be to participate in practices this spring and summer. 

Again, judging by the photos, the answer is he's ready to ready to run routes on air and make contested catches against defenders.

Reporters will have an opportunity to watch the team practice on Thursday, the first workout open to members of the media, which will allow us to judge Gronkowski's mobility and his level of participation.

Another takeaway from the photos on the team website is that Gronkowski was not required to wear a non-contact jersey during the session. Contact is not allowed during this phase of the offseason training program, but players returning from injury (and quarterbacks) will still wear red jerseys to inform their teammates they're not to be touched. For instance, Jonathan Freeny, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve about a month into last season, donned a red non-contact jersey in one image.