Yoenis Cespedes will sign as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants, if the staff at TBOH has it correct.
However, that was by no means a majority or even a reliable consensus opinion. Just two of our staffers, Tyler DiSalle and David Mosemann, sent the slugger back out west. Ethan Witte likes him to re-sign with the New York Mets. Alexis Girardo kept him in the Big Apple, but with the Yankees. Ryan Gerstel went with the dark horse Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, I chose a Detroit Tigers reunion.
Cespedes, like David Price who we predicted earlier today here at TBOH would to the Chicago Cubs, recently turned 30 years of age. He will play the entirety of the 2016 season at that age, has no injury history, and would appear to have at least the same four to five good seasons in him as we see for the lefty pitcher.
Back in September in a piece for MLB.com by Anthony DiComo, Cespedes was quoted as speaking to ESPN regarding his possible contract demands for his upcoming free agency: “I’m not thinking about a contract, but I do know that I will be looking for a contract that is six years or more, has to be six years or more. We’ll see what happens.”
As reported by Mik Vorkunov, he later told NJ Advanced Media: “I want this contract to be my last,” going on to relate that he has played organized baseball since he was nine years old, and would like to spend more time with his family once the next contract is completed.
Cespedes’ previous contract was for four years and approximately $36 million, and he split that time with four different teams: the Oakland Athletics from 2012 through part of 2014, then the Boston Red Sox to finish the 2014 season, followed by a season and a half with the Detroit Tigers, before finishing this past season with the New York Mets.
Ethan’s decision to slot him back to the Mets makes a lot of sense when considering the dynamic effect that Cespedes had on their fortunes. When he arrived at the trade deadline in a deal for two minor leaguers, including highly considered pitching prospect Michael Fulmer, the Mets were 53-50 and trailing the Washington Nationals by two games in the NL East race.
Immediately on his arrival, New York went on a seven game winning streak, and took 11 of their next 13, pushing into first place with a 4.5 game lead. Overall the Mets went 37-22 after Cespedes’ arrival, winning the division by a comfortable seven games in a race in which they were never challenged after mid-August.
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Though certainly productive in his own results, and influential with the presence of his potent bat in the middle of the Mets order, he was not much of a difference-maker in their postseason run to the World Series. Cespedes hit just .222 in the playoffs, with two homers and eight RBI across 14 games. Much of the damage that he did came in just two games, Game Three of both the NLDS and NLCS, when he had three hits and multiple RBI in each.
Despite the Mets falling short to Kansas City in their bid to win the World Series, and his 3-20 performance across the five games of the Fall Classic, Cespedes is a proven dangerous hitter.
The Cuban native finished second in 2012 AL Rookie of the Year voting while with the A’s, was an AL All-Star in 2014, and following this past 2015 season was awarded his first career Gold Glove Award. Advanced stats have shown that when playing center field, he is below average. However, when playing left field, Cespedes is outstanding, and that was recognized with the fielding honors.
In his somewhat of an upset pick for the slugger to end up in Seattle, Ryan cited the M’s need for another bat “to bolster a lineup that already features the likes of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Mark Trumbo. The addition of Cespedes would instantly make the Mariners’ offense comparable to the Blue Jays’.”
In sending him back to the Mets, Ethan speculates that it will take a “6-years, $125 million deal with an out clause after three years.” My own take is that the Tigers want to continue to contend with stars Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander not getting any younger. In fact, they probably didn’t want to deal away Cespedes to begin with.
However, as Ken Rosenthal reported back in the summer, it was not in Detroit’s best interest to hold on to him, especially after they fell out of contention:
“…the Tigers hold exclusive negotiating rights with Cespedes only through the five-day window at the end of the World Series. After that, they would be at a disadvantage unless he was willing to sit out until May 15.
If, on the other hand, the Tigers traded Cespedes, they would lose the ability to negotiate with him for the rest of the season and through the exclusive negotiating window. But they would gain equal footing with other clubs in free agency, and could sign Cespedes without losing a draft pick.”
His agents at CAA/Roc Nation fashioned what industry experts say is an impressive highlight book package for their client. I believe that the Tigers will indeed be in on Cespedes. Whether or not they are able to entice him back to Motown is likely going to depend on their ability to beat the money and years offered by the two New York clubs.
The Phillies are not expected to be big players at the top of the free agent market this off-season, so they are out. Other leading contenders besides the five potential suitors who our staff selected appear to be the San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Angels.