FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If Jorge Soler had been born in the United States, a Red Sox official said Thursday, there’s no way baseball would have been his No. 1 sport.  “With that build, he would have been a linebacker,’’ the official said.  But Soler was born in Cuba, a country in which baseball has no rival, and soon the 19-year-old outfielder will be the centerpiece of an auction in which the Red Sox intend to be serious bidders, the official said.
All of the Sox top talent evaluators, including general manager Ben Cherington, have seen Soler in the Dominican Republic, where they traveled to see several top Cuban defectors, including Yoenis Cespedes. Oakland recently signed 26-year-old outfielder Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal, and the Chicago Cubs  signed an 18-year-old left-handed pitcher, Gerardo Concepcion, to a $7 million deal.  While the Sox certainly had interest in Cespedes and to a lesser degree Concepcion, the younger Soler has the greatest appeal to them, the official said. “He has incredible raw power,’’ the official said of the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, though he wasn’t quite as ready as others to credit Soler with plus speed and being a plus defender.  At this point, the official said once Soler signs, it would be best to start him in Class A ball, although without having in camp, that’s just a projection.
The Sox official said that there are indications that Soler will establish his residency in the Dominican Republic in a couple of weeks, a required step before clubs can begin negotiating with him. That timetable, as it did with Cespedes, could change, the official said, but the Sox have maintained communication with Soler’s agent, Barry Praver.  “I played against him in Cuba -- he was younger, but he’s a good player," said Boston’s 22-year-old Cuban shortstop, Jose Iglesias , who would have seen Soler when he was 16 or 17.  There are a number of teams interested in Soler, but he could be the centerpiece of an intense competition between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein, who according to some reports was preparing to make a four-year, $26 million for Soler. The White Sox, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies and Astros are all among the clubs who have been reported to be in on Soler, but the Sox are prepared to make a major push.
In doing so, though, they will be without Craig Shipley, who played a vital role in scouting and signing Iglesias. The Sox let Shipley go after Ben Cherington became GM under circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.