Finally Caving: Seriously, Don't Overcommit to Yoenis Cespedes

I’ve been resisting writing about Yoenis Cespedes for some time now. His workout video was a truly epic undertaking, and his name started to receive a lot of buzz. The Yankees were rumored to be interested in him. And now, MLB teams appear to be ready to make offers to the soon-to-be free agent. From MLB Trade Rumors:

MONDAY, 10:28am: The $35-50MM estimate for Cespedes may be light, a GM tells Gammons.  Cespedes’ people told one club they already have an offer with $10MM up front and eight years.

FRIDAY, 3:46pm: Cespedes may be looking to obtain more than $60MM on an eight-year deal, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The outfielder shoud be declared a free agent soon after he establishes temporary residency in the Dominican Republic in late November, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

12:59pm: The question emerges whenever a star hits the free agent market: ‘how much will he cost?’ Yoenis Cespedes, the 26-year-old Cuban center fielder who is expected to hit free agency this offseason, has already drawn interest from many MLB teams and it sounds as though he expects to be paid like an established star, not a prospect.

I’m sorry, but paying Yoenis Cespedes like an established star is absolutely insane. I get it, the guy is a physical marvel in the prime of his career. He hit a ton of home runs in Cuba. He’s got an out-there personality, and is eager to jump right to the major leagues, and has the advantage of breaking into the league with 30 teams available to bid on him. But no one should even be coming close to entertaining ideas of $60 million for the guy. Five reasons this is a horrible idea:

  • He’s a hitter. Look, I understand why Aroldis Chapman got the contract he did: the man threw 103 mph from the left side. Even given that, he’s had serious problems sticking the MLB. You can transparently see a lot of what makes a pitcher good. Especially when they throw 103. But for hitters? Come on. How many physical marvels out there don’t make it past High-A ball? Think about how fantastically in shape Yankee prospects like Tim Battle, Wilkins De La Rosa or Melky Mesa are. You can even think about Wily Mo Pena – one of the strongest, ridiculously well built guys that I can ever remember playing in the Majors. He’s been decent at times, but is a career .250/.303/.445 hitter. I’m willing to bet he could put together a workout video like that too.
  • He’s only played in Cuba. We don’t know a lot about the Cuban leagues in terms of competitiveness. My gut says that your average Cuban team isn’t going to stack up well even against your average High-A ball team. It is certainly capable of producing stars, but we’ve seen in the past how long it can take for the adjustment process to work. There’s no way I would ever count on a Cuban player to make my MLB team right out of spring training.
  • He’s not that young. Aroldis Chapman was 22 when he hit the big leagues. That’s young enough that the Reds get to hold his rights all through his 20s. An 8 year deal for Cespedes holds him into his 30s. And we really don’t know exactly how old he is – Cuba doesn’t have the age verification that MLB has built up in other parts of Latin America.
  • He’s not an established star. Even if he was a top prospect, Cespedes wouldn’t be worth $60 million in a bidding war. We don’t know how he’s going to handle playing 162 games, or the media pressure, or getting along with his teammates, or not falling to the temptations of having a ton of money in a new country. All of these factors are complete unknowns, even if he has the baseball ability, and each could single handedly nullify any value he could potentially provide. Think Ruben Rivera.
  • Opportunity Cost. $60 million is a lot of money over 8 years! The Yankees could put that in a lot of other places, like retaining Robinson Cano, or locking up Jesus Montero long term, or whatever. Or, hell, going to Vegas and putting $60 million on black. Because that’s exactly the kind of gamble we’re talking about here.
I’d much rather go after someone like Yu Darvish than Yoenis Cespedes. Darvish plays in the limelight, dominates a league that we know is pretty competitive and is a pitcher. He’s of similar age, and  a large portion of his cost wouldn’t even count against the luxury tax. That’s where the Yankees should put their money. Otherwise, we’re just playing craps.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

15 thoughts on “Finally Caving: Seriously, Don't Overcommit to Yoenis Cespedes

  1. UYF1950

    Exactly. Nothing else needs to be said. Great, great piece.

  2. jmr1983

    Agree 100%, fantastic post…I also agree that Darvish is absolutely worth the gamble given his absurd production in Japan and raw stuff

  3. King Solomon

    Actually, when looking at the video, it seems to me that Cespedes has a hitch in his swing. I think MLB pitchers with good hard breaking stuff would cause him a lot of problems.

  4. UYF1950

    I wonder if Darvish becomes even a little more attractive to the Yankees should he be posted in light of the fact that the tax for repeat offenders with the luxury tax in 2014/2016 will hit 50%. Since the posting fee isn’t subject to the tax. Just a thought.

    • smurfy

      woah! 50% of excess! beyond what, do you know? That sounds like some serious brakes.

      • UYF1950

        $189MM starting with the 2014 season.

        • smurfy

          time to think efficient economy.

  5. Scout

    We have no idea what Cespedes will actually command on the market. Right now, all we have is agent talk, and agents try to inflate the hype to pump up the bidding. A smart baseball executive will offer only what he thinks the guy is worth, based on scouting reports rather than a promotional video. If some other fool out there buys the hype, then his franchise will be saddled with an untradeable contract and dead weight.

  6. Joeshitheragman

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Yankees minor league system is weak in outfielders, so why not? You don’t have to give up any players, only money. The price of tickets is already outrageous, so we don’t have to worry about seeing the ticket prices escalate because of it. I say go for it, it’ll be fun to see the curiousity factor.

    • Great idea. Let’s spend a $100 million on him. Because, hell, it’s only money.

      • T.O. Chris

        EJ you know he’s not getting 8 years or coming close to 100 million. The max he will get is 6 years 60 million, which is huge for someone with 0 ABs in the majors, but for the Yankees is doable. I’d probably be willing to go as high as 6 years 50 million, but I’d start around 6 years 30-35 and be willing to move up to 50 if neccesary AND my scouts LOVED him.

  7. Joeshitheragman

    $100 mil.? I highly doubt it Fagan, unless you’ve been drinking his agents koolade.

    • I’m not sure if you sensed my sarcasm.

  8. Joeshitheragman

    My point is that you don’t have to give up draft picks to secure this guy. I understand that his physical prowess doesn’t necessarily project into on field talent, but it doesn’t preclude it either. I also like the fact that he has good power to right field which is an obvious plus at The Stadium.

  9. Money can be spent in any number of places. A dollar not spent here is a dollar that can be spent somewhere else.

    An extra $60 million over that time frame added on to, say, Cliff Lee’s offer would have netted us him.

Comments are closed.