Will the Yankees pony up for Cespedes?

The RAB Radio Show: November 18, 2011
Yankees add five to 40-man roster

When news first broke of Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes’s impending free agency, the Yankees were immediately connected. In fact, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wasted little time in making the connection, opening his second paragraph with: “The New York Yankees are particularly hot for the right-handed Cespedes.” This is not a surprise. The Yankees are always connected to international talent and high-priced free agents. But given the team’s recent words about spending, there’s a chance that they might sit this one out.

Earlier today Peter Gammons heard word that Cespedes will cost more than the $30.25 million the Reds paid Aroldis Chapman in 2010. The low end, according to Gammons, is $35 million, and the target is around $50 million. That’s an enormous outlay for unproven talent, and chances are Cespedes won’t hit the high end of that projection. But even at $30 to $35 million, the Yankees could back away from Cespedes, perhaps focusing on some of the younger and less expensive Cuban defectors.

In an article for the Star-Ledger, Marc Carig describes the Yankees financial situation:

These Yankees work with budgets — yes, still the largest war chest in the game — but limits nonetheless. And this week, with representatives for the game’s top free agents trying to drum up interest in their clients, the Yankees left no indication that they’ll stray from the target area they’ve established over the past three years.

Instead, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who requested anonymity to speak candidly, the Yankees came away from the GM meetings Thursday skeptical of their willingness to meet the asking price of top free agents such as pitcher C.J. Wilson or Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish.

True, the $30-$35 million outlay for Cespedes isn’t quite the $100-million-plus outlay for Wilson or Darvish. But it’s a significant chunk of money for a player who has zero major league experience. The Yankees have around $190 million on the books for 2012, when counting projected arbitration raises, and the focus this winter centers on pitching. It’s doubtful that they’ll fit both a pitcher and Cespedes in their budget. They’d have to really like Cespedes in order to make that kind of exception.

They are the Yankees, though, and you never know. After all, in the same article Carig describes the process behind signing Russell Martin, which involved asking Hal Steinbrenner for a few extra million. But that filled a specific need, and it went towards a player who had significant major league experience. Will the Yankees make a similar exception for a player whose only experience has come in another country? The smart money, right now, is on no.

This is also incidentally why I think they’ll make a non-aggressive bid on Darvish, but that’s a subject for another day.

The RAB Radio Show: November 18, 2011
Yankees add five to 40-man roster
  • DI

    Ponies? I love ponies! Brony represent! RAB just got 20% cooler. :)

    • Thomas

      In fact, I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.

      • DI

        Well aren’t you just a parasprite? Love and tolerance, man!

      • gc

        Who figures an immigrant is gonna have a pony!

      • pat

        Who would move to a non pony country?

      • FIPster Doofus

        Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country?

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com Eric

    I am skeptical that the Yanks will sign him because I don’t think they can a guarantee him a starting spot on the major league roster, and there is too much uncertainty to trade Swisher/Gardner to open up a spot for him. If he’s willing to go to AAA that might be one thing, but I imagine there will be some desperate team out there willing to pony up similar money and promise a starting spot from day 1.

    • djb

      The Yanks have a simple and profitable business plan: Always buy enough talent to stay in the race and make the playoffs; win the championship every few years; have enough big-time celebrity players (Derek, ARod, Mo) that you will fill every park every game (even if they are past their prime, you sell a lot of jerseys, and the other owners love you as they hate you).

      Of course, you can’t beat luck, and the Yanks got lucky with Garcia and Colon last year. To make their business model work consistently, however, they need a team that can score runs (which they have, despite some guys guys whose bats are slowing with age and some who are streaky). Above all, however, they need two aces, and three number three starters. With this business plan, you can’t have two guys in the rotation that are half-concessions to losing (i.e. typical 4-5 starters). It’s just too hard to win baseball games, even against poor teams. It would be good to have Garcia for long relief or as a starter for a while when someone in the rotation does down. It remains to be seen whether Hughes or one of the Scranton kids is going to settle in as a number three starter. But the yanks need another ace and another number 3-quality guy. The Yanks have more young talent than they know what to do with. I figure there will be a big trade and a high-profile free-agent pitcher; perhaps two big trades. They might roll the dice on Darvish. They are due for a Japanese pitcher to come through.

  • the Other Steve S.

    Miami Marlins next right fielder.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      There’s this Stanton dude who cremates baseballs who has something to say about that.

  • aroy

    Where would Cespedes fit into the Yankees roster heading into the 2012 season?

    Assuming the price for Cespedes is around $35 million, and given his age (26), the likelihood of him being seen as someone who needs AAA seasoning is highly doubtful. I can’t see the Yankees being legitimately interested in a player for whom they do not have either a need for or a starting outfield vacancy.

    It would make little to no sense to sign Cespedes to turn around and trade Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner. While the prospect or pitching return could be useful, I am unwilling to commit to Cespedes being capable of producing at the levels of Swisher or Gardner. Unless the Yankees are exceedingly confident that Cespedes will be a major league contributor at levels significantly above Swisher or Gardner, this is a lotto ticket not worth purchasing.

    • Ted Nelson

      Swisher is only signed for one more year, so if the Yankees signed Cespedes it would probably be with an eye for letting Swisher walk rather than re-signing him through his 30s. Not for 2012. It’s definitely risky to pay so much, but the idea would almost definitely not be to replace Swisher or Gardner immediately.

  • PopsGT

    Sign him!

  • md

    As the team is right now, how much is our payroll?
    What is our “limit”?

  • bg90027

    I agree that they will likely put a non-aggressive bid in for Darvish. I don’t know about Cespedes. I doubt they’d sign him for that much and not have him compete for a starting position. Gardner and Swisher are potential trade chips though for starting pitching. They could trade one of the two and open an OF position and sign Cespedes hoping for him to win the job with an Andruw Jones type as backup and backup plan if Cespedes doesn’t work out or needs some seasoning in the minors. There’s some risk to that but probably less risk than giving a big contract to CJ Wilson or Yu Darvish. I’m not advocating that though. I don’t really know enough about Cespedes to do that.

    • aroy

      I just cannot imagine the Yankees spending $30+ million on a potentially – wink, wink – “26” year old if they have any doubts about his ability to start and contribute in the majors from Day 1. While some players 26 or older have emerged from the minors to become good players – that’s not the type of investment I would want to make. You sign the 26 year old knowing that he fits right in on your roster. You don’t sign the 26 year old knowing that he isn’t ready for the majors. If he isn’t ready at 26 will he ever be? If he isn’t ready at 26, will minor league instruction really help? For this kind of money, there can’t be this many question marks. In the unlikely event that the Yankees do sign Cespedes I will be confident that they know the answers to these questions.

      • Ted Nelson

        Certainly it’s a risky investment and if Cespedes takes too long to adjust his odds of success are minimal.

        However, you don’t sign a guy from Cuba assuming that he definitely can contribute immediately.

        There’s a balance. I would be looking for a contribution in year 1, but not necessarily from day 1.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    You could give this guy 35mil for 7yrs. and not have to sign Jones. This guy has played against world competition at a high level. Although, it is not MLB this fellow has the talent to step right in and play in the big leagues right away. Granted,I have only seen him in the World games but he impressed me to the point that he will hit right away. You can use him to rest Swisher, Granderson and Gardner as a right handed pinch hitter or occasional DH when Montero catches. At 5 mil per year he would be a big upgrade over Jones who will probably try to squeeze the same amount from the Yankees.

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Love this comment so much. ‘He’s been playing against lesser talent, but he’s talented enough for MLB! I haven’t seen him play much, but he’ll hit right away!’ I’m convinced.

    • Holy Ghost


      • http://www.twitter.com/matt__harris Matt :: Sec110


  • JR

    I think he should be signed and can ease in as the 4th outfielder especially against left handed pitching since he is a right handed bat. Taking Jones’s spot for 2012 and then if he proves everything then he can man right field when swisher becomes a free agent. I think this is a better signing at 6yrs/ 30-35 million than soriano was at 3yrs/ 35million + plus the lose of a draft pick. The yankees need to maximize the one advantage they have and exploit top end international signings before mlb makes a international draft.

  • dan l

    He is worth the risk! Trade Swisher and sign the Cuban! There are no outfielders available with his skill set.

  • Ricardo Monteschwantz

    It’s been reported that the Red Sox want to sign him to play RF with Drew leaving. Could be a smokescreen.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    Unlike the GM candidates above, I am usually against the Yankees not giving 50 mil to guys who weren’t on anyone’s radar a couple of weeks ago. Pass.

    • Ted Nelson

      “I am usually against the Yankees not giving 50 mil to guys who weren’t on anyone’s radar a couple of weeks ago. Pass.”

      What do you know about who was or wasn’t on the Yankees’ radar before a week ago. This guy has been on the international scene for years.

      I’m not saying that they will or should sign him, but to simply eliminate the possibility out of your own ignorance seems odd.

  • CJ

    Yanks will rely on the reports from the best scouts. Based on his video and Cuban and World production he seemingly compares to Adam Jones-Justin Upton. Confirm those comps with scouts and pay $35 million yesterday.
    I imagine Cespedes will not have a problem with a fastball of any speed. You figure he is pitched around with a steady diet of off speed breaking stuff so his eye and ability to hit a curve ball seem to there What’s the catch, a hole in his swing? He could be like Vlad in his ability to hit any ball around the strike zone.

    I think worst case scenario is Delmon Young.

    • Ted Nelson

      I’m sure that the Yankees’ scouts have been on Cespedes for years and years, and the front office already has a good idea of what they’re willing to pay.

  • Holy Ghost

    He seems like a good guy to roll the dice on. The Yanks could use some extra outfield depth and we don’t know what the market for outfielders will look like in 2013…

  • Nick

    Would you rather pay this guy $35 million for 6 years or Pay swisher the same for two years now that Kemp is locked up?

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      I think Swisher is at about his top earning capacity of 10.5 million give or take a few pennies.

      • Ted Nelson

        Doubt that.

      • FIPster Doofus

        If Jayson Werth’s worth $18 million AAV, I don’t think Swisher’s max value is $10.5M.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    If you trade Gardner our only player with the ability to steal bases on a regular basis for room on the 25 man roster. You are committing to starting the young Cuban. To pay him 30-50 million over 5/6, I believe this means a player receiving this amount of money is a 2-3 WAR value. This is a heck of a lot of assumption. We would be paying him way more than Gardner for a slower probably less refined player with a huge learning curve. I say,”pass.” The Florida Marlins and their Latino base will love him and fill the park. It will be Carnival time. This guy gets off to a slow start in the Bronx. He’ll learn English real quick.

    I know that I have been saying, “pass” on much of the high price FA’s. I guess my opinion of them is not so high price. Let them fall in our laps. One more big contract along with the host of others which does not produce could cripple the Yanks for the future.

    • Ted Nelson

      Why do you have to trade Gardner? That’s a huge leap to assume signing Cespedes has much of anything to do with trading Gardner.

  • SevenAces

    What would happen if a team picked him up for 7 years and then on the 2nd year of his contract they find out he is in reality 34 years old?

    I know that the chances of finding out his true age is hard, just wondering about the what ifs.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      For one thing he was not on the Cuban World Classic rster in 2003 or 2003 so that if he was older he should have been there. He appears for the first time on their roster in 2009 (may have played in other tournaments before 2009 but I do not know.

  • Genghis

    My asking price is $60M. It doesn’t mean anyone is going to give it to me, though.

    • rookie

      It depends on the number of years, Genghis — and whether your last name is Kahn. I think $60 million a year over a million years might be acceptable to me, over five or six years not so much.

  • Yada Yada Yadier Molina

    Cespedes Fever – it’s contagious!

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    These Cuban ballplayers escape when they can so sometimes they are not as young as college players. In the first World Classic the Cubans had a shortstop named Gourriel who was 19 then. Everyone was saying that he could be a millionaire if he could come over. Guess he never could. The team doctor was Castro’s son. The guy should be 27 now and was batting cleanup for the team until recently. Thus because one has not heard of a player does not mean that he cannot be good.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, this is true. And some of them probably also don’t want to leave everything they know behind with the chance of never seeing it again.

      • Holy Ghost

        How many people had heard of Livan and Orlando Hernandez before they came over?

        • FIPster Doofus

          Didn’t help that Twitter, YouTube, etc. didn’t exist back then.

  • CMP

    Since the Yankees farm is much more stocked with starting pitching then outfield prospects in addition to the fact that Cespedes will cost less than 1/2 what Darvish will cost, if they have to chose between the 2, I’d vote for Cespedes.

    That being said, with Posada, Igawa and Marte coming off the payroll this year and Rivera, Swisher and Feliciano coming off next year, they should be able to make strong bids for both.

    • Ted Nelson

      The actual quality of the player matters… Chone Figgins costs almost a third of CC… that doesn’t mean you sign him instead of CC.

      The Yankees can also spend that money elsewhere if they don’t think the value is there with either of those two.

  • http://NYBronxBombers24-7 Brian L

    The yanks could also sit tight till next year when more and better free agent pitchers come available to spend the money

  • RetroRob

    The Hal Steinbrenner Yankees operate very differently than the George Steinbrenner Yankees: They have budgets. Under that type of operating scenario, they should focus their international draft budget on the player(s) that can deliver the biggest impact. That would be Darvish.

    I don’t see a scenario where they’re going to pay $40 million for Cespedes and then $100 million for Darvish in the same off-season.