Post-Pineda Trade, Yoenis Cespedes Makes More Sense

Yoenis Cespedes is officially a free agent. The hype on Cespedes has started to settle down, and so has the rumored price. Instead of looking at him as a $50-$60 million player, he may sign in a much more reasonable $15-20 million range. At that price, I think the Yankees would be wise to consider him. You probably know the story by now: he’s a 5-tool outfielder whose best tool is making awesome workout videos. And hitting for power too.

I wrote about Cespedes in December,

Add this all up, and I could see the logic behind starting Cespedes at Double-A Trenton, then quickly moving him up to Triple-A. This would set up for a very late 2012 (September?) debut/audition, and possibly 2013 starting job.

That 2013 target date is very important. Nick Swisher will be a free agent after the 2012 season, and Curtis Granderson will be in the final season of his contract. Brett Gardner will be 29 years old, and his own free agency will start to appear on the horizon. Mason Williams, even if everything goes well, will likely be at Double-A or Triple-A. The Yankees would be in a position to both try Cespedes in center field, shifting Granderson to right, while still having plenty of insurance around if he failed to hit or play the position well. If he can’t handle center defensively, they have the better of Gardner and Granderson to pick from while Cespedes plays a corner spot. And, if he completely sucks, resigning Nick Swisher is always an option. The Yankees get to take a high-dollar risk, but hold a bunch of options in reserve in case it does not work out.

I still see a lot of value in what I wrote a month ago for the Yankees, especially after the Pineda trade. On Monday, I wrote that 2012 would be a clarifying year for the Yankee starting rotation: they’ll know a lot more about if they really are set up long term, or if they need to go out and make changes. At the same time, they’ll face important long-term decisions about their outfield. Nick Swisher will be a free agent, and Curtis Granderson will have just one year to go.

If the Yankees were to sign Yoenis Cespedes, they would be taking a huge gamble. But at the same time, they would know a lot about whether or not that gamble will succeed by the end of 2013. Cespedes will have a full season of minor league statistics to represent his abilities. He may even have some token major league service time. If he’s doing well, the Yankees can let Nick Swisher go. If he’s doing poorly, Nick Swisher may look like the best option out there. Cespedes would open up another set of options for a roster in flux, yet looking to get under $189 million. The best-case scenario of a solidified Yankee rotation of C.C. Sabathia and four minimum-salary starters and a successful Yoenis Cespedes minor league debut would open up a whole range of great options for the Yankees, such as an expensive catching acquisition or free agent pitching upgrade.

For a team that doesn’t really have all that much outfield depth, and with two outfield free agencies on the horizon, I think this may be exactly the move they ought make. It all really comes down to how reasonable his price is. I’d be willing to offer him something a little smaller than the Aroldis Chapman contract, maybe 5 years @ $4.5 million plus a substantial team option for a 6th year. I think that’s a reasonable price to roll the dice.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

13 thoughts on “Post-Pineda Trade, Yoenis Cespedes Makes More Sense

  1. Tom Swift

    One point of clarification: Swisher will be a FA after the 2012 season, so we can’t wait till the end of 2013 to fill RF. I agree that Cespedes could be a good move to deal with the problem of who plays RF in 2014. If he is good, he would be a cheap option in a year where the Yanks want to be under the cap.

    • I’m guessing that’s what EJ meant. He’s 25 and he’s dominated the Cuban league. I think the minor league time will be minimal. Assuming he’s state-side by Spring Training I’d be surprised if he didn’t make the big leagues at some point this season.

      If he’s going to take two minor league seasons to reach the big leagues we’d better stay away. I don’t think that’s the case though.

  2. suzanne&johns love child

    if they werent going to take a chance on yu darvish, an equally big gamble at a position which at the time was a more pressing need, I cant see them taking a shot on cepedes. Cashman doesnt have the budget left to be spending it on a lottery ticket

    • Tom Gaffney

      Good point, but hitters are more projectable than pitchers and you’re not going to have to pay Cespedes anywhere near what Darvish got. Yu got $110-$120M in total money while EJ just reported that Cespedes may only fetch $15-20M. You do the math. Let’s see, carry the 1 and, Darvish is… um much more expensive.

  3. RYan

    Especially with the Marlins talking about being aggressive to the point of stupidity.

  4. suzanne&johns love child

    for 20 million i take the chance on him, but i think in the end he gets more than that. its true darvish is much more expensive, but in my opinion he is also a lot more likely to have success over here making the gamble approximate (unless cepedes does sign for only 15-20 mill)

  5. Michael P.

    Jorge Soler?

    • T.O. Chris

      This is what I was coming to say. I’m much more on the Soler and Concepcion bandwagon personally. Both are going to be rather cheap, cheaper than Cespedes for sure, and both are very young. Since this is the last time to sign IFA’s without major restrictions I will be very dissapointed if the Yankees don’t get one of the two, and they need to make sure they sign both.

      If the Yankees want to go after Cespedes I have no real problem with it but I won’t be beating the drum for the move either.

      • I’m a much bigger fan of Cespedes if we’re talking $20 million, but that also won’t change how I feel about Soler. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: aside from the Yankees deciding that Soler isn’t/won’t be that good, there is absolutely no reason not to sign him.

  6. bpdelia

    Yeah to me the soler and cespeds issues are two completely different things. Soled is more of a typical ifa prospect signing. Optimistic eta on soler is 2015. Cespedes is a now move. I live in Miami now and have a buddy who writes a Cuban baseball blot. Hes pretty much been on the money on all Cubans. He nailed morales, viciedo, chapman. He told me 2 years ago cespesdez was the best all around player in Cuba and told me to reasonably expect 265/335/495 and average to slightly above average cf or super above average rf defense. He said his best season would be a 275/350/500 type and that while he isn’t “nick Johnson” he isn’t a total crazy hacker. He was just his teams best player and in Cuba stars get paid to hit not walk. So he isn’t Vlad or anything. H can be walked.

    Anyway all that leads me to believe he would be a crazy bargain at 20 million i.e. wont happen

    For what its worth ( not much) my buddy Oscar predicts 35 million which is sadly probably too rich for csshman. Still 7 million a year is going to buy a above average ml cf through his age 31 season. Its apretty tempting risk in my opinion.

    Hell Gardner will be making that by 2015.

    • T.O. Chris

      Soler is the better signing because of his age. He’s young, projectable, and adds outfield depth, and more high upside talent to our system.

      Cespedes has an extremely long swing, one which will provide home run power, but will cause him to swing and miss a ton. If he doesn’t shorten that swing up, and I mean a bunch, he is in for a rude awakening against major league offspeed pitches. Giving him a 35-50 million dollar contract means he won’t be afforded the luxury of minor league time. He will have to be ready to go at some point this year, and he will have to produce almost right away. That is a ton of pressure to put on someone, it also doesn’t leave much room if he turns out to not be ready for the major leagues. At his age the clock is ticking and you have no real way to know how much if any seasoning he needs.

  7. Eddie

    Yankees neen to get him

  8. Eddie

    Yankees need to get him

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