Mailbag: Yoenis Cespedes


Run like the Cuban government is chasing you. (Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

Mark asks: Hi guys, just read the homegrown outfielder story and I was wondering if signing Yoenis Cespedes this winter and getting him to replace Nick Swisher next winter makes sense; perhaps in some sort of platoon with Zoilo Almonte?

Between my post on a homegrown outfielder for 2013 and Larry’s post on Swisher, we had a whole lotta comments focusing on Cespedes and his possible future role yesterday, so it’s worth a follow-up post. For what it’s worth, Kevin Goldstein reiterated yesterday that the Yankees continue to be the early favorites for the Cuban outfielder, at least as far as the consensus goes. Enrique Rojas reported that Cespedes is close to being granted residency in the Dominican Republic on Monday, which he must do in order to be declared a free agent. After the Office of Foreign Assets Control clears him and MLB gives their blessing, he’ll be free to sign. That’s expected to happen in January.

Now, assuming all that happens without a hitch, of course it would make some sense for the Yankees to sign Cespedes with an eye towards a full-time job in 2013. Considering the money he’s likely to get, I would hope they won’t need a platoon partner for him, whether it’s Almonte or someone else. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to “break him in” slowly, perhaps playing him three-quarters time rather than full-time at first, just to let him get his feet wet. But he should still play against both righties and lefties, especially since he’s a right-handed batter and would get the short end of the platoon stick.

Forgetting about the contract for a moment — just because we have no idea what it will take to sign him — let’s assume the Yankees sign Cespedes sometime in late-January or early-February, for argument’s sake. Based on these over-the-top workout videos, it’s pretty safe to assume that the guy is in “baseball shape,” meaning he can report to Spring Training on day one and not be behind the other players. In a perfect world, the Yankees would start Cespedes in High-A Tampa next season (mostly because of the weather) before moving him up to Triple-A Scranton later in the summer. It’s the same thing they did with Orlando Hernandez back in the day, and the same thing the Rangers and Angels did with Leonys Martin and Kendrys Morales. Alexei Ramirez is the best (and pretty much only) example of a Cuban position player stepping right into MLB and having instant success.

I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath saying this, but we have to be very careful to manage the Cespedes hype. The vast majority of us don’t know anything about the guy beyond those two fun YouTube videos, which were conveniently edited to make him look like a star. Ben Badler (subs. req’d) spoke to scouts who backed up the hype not too long ago, so that’s somewhat reassuring. I just get the feeling that a lot of people are expecting Cespedes to be the next Vladimir Guerrero or something, which is so ridiculously unlikely. In fact, the odds are against him even being as productive as Swisher, the guy he’d be expected to replace in 2013.

Categories : Mailbag


  1. YankeesJunkie says:

    Yankees should sign Cespedes because even if fails as a baseball player he can just make awesome movies to return on the Yankees investment.

  2. pat says:

    I’m thinking this post and the last are related. If we can get some sucker to take Burnett off our hands and free up some cash we’ll go after Cespedes. Otherwise, IMO their hands are going to be tied budget-wise.

  3. Tyler says:

    I don’t see the reasoning behind taking the additional risk of signing him if you can sign Swisher in the 3/36 ballpark. Other than the SSS of his post-season performance this seems like a fairly easy decision to me passing on him and re-signing Swisher.

    • ragsNpags says:

      Have you considered the possibility that they may think Cespedes is/is going to be a better player than Swisher? And that he could potentially (POTENTIALLY) cost less money…and is younger than Swisher too?

      I feel like, in an effort to combat the over-the-top hatred of Swisher that occurs, people have begun to overcompensate, and are valuing Nick Swisher as if he is Vlad Guerro. $12mil over 3 years isn’t exactly cut-rate for a player who is arguably no better than Josh Willingham (who, incidentally, is making $7mil/yr).

      • thenamestsam says:

        He’s only arguably no better than Josh Willingham in the sense that some people are willing to argue pretty much anything. If there’s a legitimate argument to be made in favor of Willingham (one which accounts for both defense and baserunning), I certainly haven’t seen it.

        I’m with Tyler on this one. We can’t compare the price because we really don’t know what it will be, but let’s address the other two points. He is younger than Swisher, only a few years. The main point for me is whether he will be better than Swisher. I freely admit that I really have no idea, but my argument would be that the upside possibility isn’t worth the downside risk. Lets say he hits that ceiling and he turns into a perennial all-star, a 5 WAR monster every single year. That represents an improvement of what, 1-1.5 wins a year over Swisher. That’s not nothing, but even that represents a relatively modest upgrade over Swisher. I just don’t think that’s worth the risk.

        • ragsNpags says:

          As far as the Willingham stuff goes, look at the numbers. You don’t need to be a contrarian to make that argument. As far as defense and baserunning? Swisher plays in one of the smallest RFs in baseball. While he made improvements over the past 2 years, he is subpar defender in general, and is a lock for a handful of head-scratching plays per year. Baserunning? You’re joking right? Nick Swisher is many things, but he is also one of the worst fundamental players to ever strap on cleats. There is nothing in those two phases of the game that says Nick is $5mil better than Willingham. And while the numbers don’t necessarily raise any red flags, you have to at least consider the systemic effect on a hitter’s production, when playing 81 games in YS.

          As for Cespedes, I agree that making this comparison is really fruitless without knowing what he is going to make…

          • thenamestsam says:

            Look at the numbers? Really? Every defensive system I can find, including those that don’t rely on batted ball data and the fans scouting report, puts the difference in their defense at at least enough to make Swisher worth 5 mil more. I would never argue that Swisher is a good baserunner, only that Willingham is just as bad from what I’ve seen, and is a wash there. Looking at the numbers is exactly what discredits the idea that Willingham is as good as Swisher.

        • G says:

          Only a few years? In baseball 5 years is pretty significant. Cespedes is about to enter his theoretical prime at 26, while at 31 Swisher figures to be on the verge of leaving it. Saying a 5 years age difference is no big deal is like saying you wouldn’t prefer 32 year old Jeter (.343/417/.483) to 37 year old Jeter (.297/.355/.388).

      • Ted Nelson says:

        It’s really hard to argue that Swisher is no better than Willingham. Swisher is a win better per year than Willingham according to both fWAR and bWAR.

  4. Gonzo says:

    What’s the consensus on what’ll it take to sign Cespedes? I know his agent is asking for a ton.

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      I can’t remember where I read that (maybe MLBTR) but somebody said that something like 6/60 could get it done. Way too much if you ask me, if it’s 6/42 I’d be okay with that.

    • Qqqqq says:

      His agent said negotiations will start at Chapman money and they can have a bidding war from there. My best guess is something like 6 years/$60 million. Big investment, but no more than we’re paying Swisher right now. I personally think it’s worth it. I was reading a bit about his scouting reports, and supposedly some scouts are grading his power a 70 on the 20-80 scale. Hell supposedly the lowest grade any scout gave any of his tools was one guy who graded his hitting as a 50. He’s a true five-tool player with seemingly limitless potential. He’s freakishly athletic, so I think at very least he’ll turn into an average offensive player with a ton of pop who is a defensive asset and runs wild on the basepaths. Pretty high floor as far as international players go.

  5. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    I think 30-35M for 7 years would do it. Do I think he can step in and play right away? Yes I do. In the 50s the Cuban players that came over were the best they had as it is now. Those guys were younger than Yoenis in most cases and a great majority of them were successful major leaguers. The reason I say he will hit right away is that he is 26 and has been playing for at least 5 years in the Cuban league. I don’t want to shed Swisher but if the Yankees don’t want to give him the money he will want, Yoenis is a good replacement or we could keep both.

    • Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

      Before someone points it out, Orestes( Minny) Minoso was not so young when he came up to the WS in the early 50s and he also had a good career.

      • Kosmo says:

        Minoso was 25 when given an opportunity to play on an everyday basis. Oddly enough he spent 2 wasted years tearing up AAA before being called up for good.

        • Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

          You are correct. As was the wasted time El Duque spent in the minors. Do you think he learned anything there? It must be that he taught there. He was already a veteran of many campaigns when he came over.

          • Kosmo says:

            Actually El Duque made only 9 starts in the minors before NY called him up in 1998. It was more of a need to face hitters and get a few innings under his belt seeing that he hadn´t faced any competition in awhile.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I would say it’s really more of a case by case thing. Some guys might still benefit from some practice… especially as he might get regular reps in the minors vs. being a 4th OF in MLB. He absolutely might have some bad habits formed facing inferior pitching that some practice time to correct would help. Teixiera has been in MLB for a long time, and he still needs to completely re-work his left-handed swing. As did Granderson. It’s also possible that Yoenis is ready to go from day 1. I wouldn’t decide that based on a player from the 50s, though.

  6. Kosmo says:

    I´m not a big Swisher fan but why does everyone think if NY signs Cespedes it´s the end of Swisher in pinstripes ? I´d like to see what Swisher does in his walk year and then go from there. Swisher might end up deserving a 3-year deal. If Cespedes is the beast Goldstein claims him to be I would think LF would be up for grabs. Gardner if he´s not traded this offseason still has a lot to prove before he can convince me he´s an everyday ballplayer.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Like playing some of the best OF defense in the league?

      • Kosmo says:

        Any 4th OF can play great defense. Gardner still has to prove he can be a consistently good offensive player. Which he is not. Cespedes is regarded as 5 tool player with great potential.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          What 4th OF has played defense as well as Gardner? I think that’s patently false.

          Offense is 1/2 of baseball.

          Gardner has been worth 1.5 wins more per season than Swisher according to fangraphs. If the metrics the Yankees are using look anything like that, they’re probably going to disagree with you.

          • Tags says:

            My God finally something I agree with Ted on! Forget the gold glove voting it’s a joke. In other defensive metrics Gardner grades out as one of if not the top outfielders. He steals bases and gets on base. Is he a streaky hitter, yes but if he can settle in and hit .280 with his on base I’ll take him over a lot of other guys!

            • Genghis says:

              He grades as a top LEFT fielder defensively. Perhaps that is because left field is typically populated by lumbering sluggers. Switch Gardner and Granderson, and the picture would look quite a bit different, with Granderson grading out much higher defensively and Gardner moving more toward the average of CFs.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Because he’s the most expendable of the three. Grandy and Gardner do laps around Swisher.

      Grandy was one WAR from doubling Swish’s value. Gardner is better at everything but having power. But at least Gardner isn’t in the millions yet.

    • G says:

      In 2010, Gardner was a 6.1 fWAR player, and a 5.1 fWAR player in 2011.

      The idea that he’s not an everyday fielder is a joke. He’s a threat to steal 50 bases, statistically plays the best defense in the MLB of anyone at any position (not something “every 4th outfielder can do”), and it’s not like he’s anemic at the plate. He had an off year last year, which is crazy to say because he was still worth more than 5 wins, but a bit of work with Long should help him regain the patience at the plate that made him a prototypical leadoff player in 2010. If not, he’s just a 5 win player instead of a 6 win player. Not exactly someone with much to prove if you ask me…

  7. Holy Ghost says:

    Keep Swisher. Replace Granderson. Put Yoenis in left-field and Gardner in center

  8. Damix says:

    Where do these guys come from? I feel like every year there are new players that are bursting on the scene.

    I understand the younger players, who are either new to the scene in general or have just improved and are now getting press.

    This guy is (supposedly) 26, why didn’t we hear about him before? Is Cuba really that locked down?

    • Holy Ghost says:

      He’s not totally unknown. He played in the 2009 WBC and other international baseball competitions.

      Few people had heard of Orlando or Livan Hernandez before they came to the states

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      I guess the US media just doesn’t care about those guys. I wonder how many people ever heard of Aoki or Nakajima before they were posted. Those guys are superstars in Japan but nobody in the US media talked about them. You’ll never even notice that those guys exist until they’re posted or are able to sign as international FAs.

      • Kosmo says:

        You could say the same thing about Canadian baseball players and most every player from the Carribean.
        The media focus in the USA is for the most part a national one. It is the center of the universe.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Yanks have been scouting him for over 3 years.. all their higher ups have watched him in person as well (suposedly). the baseball community knows who these guys are, generally not the public/media

  9. Bob Loblaw says:

    i know its completely unrelated to the post and i apologize but MLBTR says Oswalt is now seeking one year deal. ( ) Obviously his age and injury history are a major concern but the one year certainly improves his stock.. who do u think the yanks would look at more, kuroda or Oswalt?

    • Kosmo says:

      I´d go with Oswalt if given a clean bill of health but that is just wishful thinking. Kuroda would probably be a more sound choice even though he´s 3-4 years older.

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      if they can afford it they should sign both. If they can only afford one then I’m fine with either one. I guess the Yanks would prefer Kuroda just because Oswalt’s back is a big question mark.

    • UncleArgyle says:

      I’m going Kuroda. Oswalts back scares me. But I actually think Kuroda is better anyway.

      • Thomas Cassidy says:

        I’d take Oswalt over Kuroda anyday. But it seems his back is better now. He said it feels great, and will accept a one year deal to prove it.

    • It'sATarp says:

      Yanks aren’t interested still in Oswalt…I think the Front office is losing it or has too much faith in Garcia/Hughes/AJ..which then means they are still losing it.

      • Damix says:

        Don’t understand the non interest in Oswalt. 23 starts of Oswalt + 10 starts from the depth I would assume is better then 33 starts from the Hughes/Noesi/Warren/Phelps combo.

        • It'sATarp says:

          No doubt. Guaranteeing a rotation spot to Garcia might have been stupid as it tied their hands unless AJ gets moved they give up on Hughes…But honestly i’d sign Oswalt to a one year deal even if it means taking the rotation spot back from Freddy/AJ/Hughes

          • Sweet Dick Willie says:

            Who said Garcia is guaranteed a rotation spot?
            He is one of many arms in contention for a spot, and may even have an advantage based on his track record, but I haven’t read anything saying that he is guaranteed a spot.

            If he earns it, great; if not, he provides depth; if he really sucks, he gets cut.

            • G says:

              Well Girardi stupidly told someone he won’t have to fight for a spot, but I think Joe was forgetting the fact that he’s not calling all the shots. Cashman is Girardi’s boss, just as Levine and the Steinbrenners are Cashman’s bosses. If anyone above Joe decides Freddy isn’t good enough to have a guaranteed spot, they will bring in another starter and Joe is gonna have to apologize to Freddy.

  10. UncleArgyle says:

    I would hope that if the Yankees feel Cespedes is good enough to give 40 plus million, they’ll feel he’s good enough to fill the Andruw Jones/Marcus Thames role off the bench in 2012. At least at some point.

  11. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    5 at 45 million, I figured his first year would be mainly in the minors. So, $5,$7,$9,$11,$13 with sixth year team option at $13 guarantee $45 million and possible $58. No way should he step into Swisher money without proving his worth with our players. If Guaranteed $45 million is not enough for a player who could not even dream of such money for playing this game then let him walk. If he can make more somewhere else then let him walk. Obviously the Yankees know their pocketbook better than I so I’m just playing the GM/fan.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      The Yankees aren’t going to be the only team bidding. I have no idea what he’ll get, but if Team X offers $60 million guaranteed for 6 years… Yoenis doesn’t have to dream about it, he just has to sign a sheet of paper.

  12. Kosmo says:

    According to the latest info the Yanks are not, at least to this point, in on signing Kuroda and it seems likely he´s nearing a deal with a mystery team.

  13. Robert says:

    I don’t think the Yankees are going to spend the money to get him.For the past few years they have been cheap.Two pitchers with Ace type stuff and they refused to pay to get them.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      They shouldn’t have to be in a position to pay 100 million dollars in pitching every couple of years. Fine by me if they want to see how the rest of the league feels like when free agents don’t go out way.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        I agree and it seems the yanks do too.. that’s why the osawlt/kuroda 1 year deals are worth a serious look. ManBan and Betances def need more time to fine tune.. 5+BB/ 9IP wont cut it in the big leagues

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      Were they cheap in their pursuit of Cliff Lee?

  14. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    I have been thinking that those rumors that the Yankees are ahead in the race for Cespedes may have been started by his agent(s) to drive up his price. When you involve the Yankees, true or not, the price tends to rise.

  15. well you know says:

    The same Carig source that correctly said Darvish wasn’t happening also said Yanks were not in on Cespedes. I tend to believe, unfortunately. Could have been Cashman himself.

    In my world, Swisher and Gardner are both traded (given) away to save $13-14M/y. Beltran and Cespedes are both signed. Not all that much of a net payroll bump; the Yanks have a lefty power bat in Beltran that can actually hit RHP (unlike Swisher); plenty of speed in Cespedes to cover YS left field; and the circular lineup is back.

    But Cashman wouldn’t have his peeps to go to charity events with, so no go.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Don’t even know what to say…

      A source predicted that the most likely outcome would happen? And…

      Beltran? The one who has averaged under 100 games the last three seasons?

      How much Cuban baseball do you watch?

      • well you know says:

        I don’t think Carig would have gone out on the limb that definitively without a good source.

        Same source conceded that, although Yanks were not in, Yankee scouts were in fact high on Cespedes as every day major league centerfielder.

        Beltran is risky but it’s a waste to be spending so much on Alex, Jeter and Mo and not try to win now.

        If you add in the savings from not signing Jones, a Beltran/Cespedes solution would hardly be more expensive than what the Yanks are going to do and it would transform the lineup.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      In my world, Swisher and Gardner are both traded (given) away to save $13-14M/y. Beltran and Cespedes are both signed. Not all that much of a net payroll bump; the Yanks have a lefty power bat in Beltran that can actually hit RHP (unlike Swisher); plenty of speed in Cespedes to cover YS left field; and the circular lineup is back.

      Your world isn’t a smart place.

      • G says:

        That’s quite the understatement. Trading away a total of between 8 and 10 WAR just to clear up room to sign a player who’s lucky to get on the field 100 games a year might classify as mentally handicapped.

    • G says:

      You’d… trade Gardner away? What the hell… the guy is making a couple million a year now (was making less than a million before) and is worth anywhere between 5 and 6 WAR because of speed and defense.

      There’s no rational argument for trading Gardner. He’s one of our cheapest and most valuable players. You don’t give up guys like that just to clear up room on the payroll.

      • Genghis says:

        Sure there is. If he’s worth so much to the Yankees for the reasons you state, then he should be worth the same to other teams in trade. You have to give up something to get something. The trick is to sell at peak value, and predicting the peak and subsequent decline better than the team you are trading with. In my view, Gardner won’t be worth nearly so much in two years– more money, less speed.

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