Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler is officially a free agent

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Let the bidding begin.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler is now officially a free agent and can sign with any team.

We haven’t heard much on Soler over the past couple of months, as he has been waiting to be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The 20-year-old Cuban defector isn’t major league ready like A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but he is highly-regarded for his raw power potential. The Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, White Sox and Indians are just a few of the teams who have been mentioned as possible landing spots.

The timing on this is key, as Soler won’t be subjected to the collective bargaining agreement’s new international spending rules if he signs before July 2. In other words, MLB teams can bid as much as they want on him for the next month. He’s expected to receive a contract north of the $15.5 million deal the Rangers gave Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin last year.

UPDATE: Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the Cubs have “done their homework” on Soler and are very interested in him. There was a report back in February that the Cubs were expected to sign Soler, so this doesn’t come as a big surprise, but it’s safe to call them one of the favorites.

UPDATE II: Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that while Soler is a free agent, he technically can’t sign with a team yet because his agent must first produce an unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or two permanent residency documents. However, MLB likely wouldn’t have declared him a free agent if this was going to be a problem.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.