KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Add the Astros to the list of teams that have an interest in signing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday the team has seen Soler work out on a number of occasions and is prepared to try to sign him if he's declared a free agent. Soler has applied for residency in the Dominican Republic -- the first step to becoming eligible for free agency -- and could receive it in the next few days.
"We're sitting on the sideline waiting for that to happen, as everybody else is, too," he said.
Once the outfielder gains residency, Major League Baseball can declare him a free agent, but he still must be legally cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign a contract.
"We've seen him several times, and we're keeping in touch with people that are working with him that are trying to get him the citizenship sorted out so he could become a free agent," Luhnow said. "When that happens, they have a process set out for teams, and we're going to be paying attention to that."
Luhnow said the Astros, who haven't made a huge splash in Latin America since signing outfielder Arial Ovando to a club-record $2.6 million bonus in 2010, are in position to spend some money in Latin America.
"The question is who and how much?" he said. "We don't want to overspend on a player. We have looked at everybody already. [Director of Latin American scouting] Felix Francisco has done a great job and has had all the scouts look at all the top players from Latin America in the upcoming class, and we're on top of all the Cuban defectors and other players."