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.