Viciedo valuable as Sox's recruiter
Dayan Viciedo will get a chance to fill the lineup spot created by the trade of Carlos Quentin. (Getty Photo)
Viciedo admitted he actively tried to sell highly-sought Cuban outfielders Yoennis Cespedes and Jorge Soler on the merits of playing for the Sox some day.
The two are in the Dominican Republic, awaiting approval from Major League Baseball to sign after leaving Cuba.
"I have reached out to both camps and told them how great the organization is and how much of great fit it would be if they joined us," Viciedo said on a conference call in preparation for the Jan. 27 opening of SoxFest.
"No phone numbers were given to me or any (orders) from the organization for me to reach out," he said. "This was something about me reaching out to my fellow Cubans and wishing the best for them. I can't tell them which way to go, but I can give them my advice, especially having come in a similar situation."
Cespedes seems to be the prize of the two, but both the White Sox and Cubs are among a handful of serious suitors for both.
And on Tuesday, the AP reported that Cespedes reportedly said: “Of all the teams who have come, the Chicago Cubs have been most interested in me.”
The Cubs have both the money and the desire to sign young talent to long-term contracts.
Of course, the Sox have a good recent history with Cubans. Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez are expected to be starters this season, while pitchers Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Jose Contreras were key components on the 2005 World Series champions.
Just how far away this year's White Sox are from the World Series could depend on how well Viciedo's numbers compare to those of Carlos Quentin. In fact, Viciedo is the reason the Sox traded Quentin to the Padres.
"I don't feel any pressure because, for the most part, I'm just going to do what I've been training to do," he said through team interpreter Jackson Miranda. "I feel very comfortable and I feel this is going to be a great for me."
Quentin averaged 25 home runs and 82 RBIs the last two seasons despite injuries. But Viciedo produced 20 and 78 while hitting .296 in 119 games at Triple-A Charlotte last season. He was named to the International League mid- and postseason All-Star teams.
After his promotion to the Sox at the end of August, the big right-hander hit only one homer and drove in six runs in 29 games, although he did bat .406against left-handers. The power numbers need to be there this season, as he makes adjustments to the major leagues.
"The most important thing is to make contact," he said. "With my strength, home runs will come, but (I have to) make contact."
In some ways, this is a make-or-break season for Viciedo, who turns 23 in March. He is in the final year of the original four-year, $10 million deal he signed after leaving Cuba.
If he produces, he gets a big-time contract; if he struggles, his career will be in jeopardy and the Sox may decide that Cespedes or Soler is the future, if either signs with them.
"I don't put any pressure on myself like that," he said. "As for this being a contract year, I try not to think about that. If I start thinking about it, then you put too much pressure on yourself to be loose and do what you've been doing for so long."