Yoenis Cespedes is still a really good player. I want to make sure I make that clear before moving forward, so this doesn’t come off as a complete disparagement of his game. Since it’s become increasingly likely that the left fielder is the number one player on Boston’s trade block, there’s been an overwhelming narrative developing that he is an overrated, average player. While he may be overrated by some, he still carries plenty of value. In a league devoid of right-handed power, Cespedes’ ability to drive it out of any park makes him an extremely useful player in this league. Despite the low on-base totals in the last two years, he’s remained an above-average offensive player. If this offseason takes an unexpected turn and he finds himself still in Boston on Opening Day, the Red Sox will benefit from his presence in the lineup.
Of course, at this point it seems inevitable he’ll be dealt. The outfield is ridiculously crowded right now, and the easiest way to rebuild the rotation will be to trade from this area of depth. As he only has one year remaining on his contract, it would make sense to flip him for that pitching talent. This becomes more appealing given the fact that he will not be eligible for a qualifying offer before he hits the open market. However, for those reasons, he becomes less appealing for other teams as well. So, with that in mind, let's run through the likelihood of some of the potential landing spots for Cespedes.
New York Mets
When the playoffs ended and it was clear what direction the Red Sox were heading in this winter, the Mets seemed like an obvious landing spot for the 29-year-old. I even wrote about the possibility in early October. This was a team that started Eric Young, Jr. in left field for much of the season, so a corner outfielder was a clear need. Then, to get the offseason rolling, New York jumped out and signed Michael Cuddyer, filling up their outfield. While the newest Met will likely get some time at first base, the team seems poised to fill up their outfield with Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson most of the time. So while they have some attractive pitching talent they may have been willing to unload, Cespedes no longer fits their needs enough to facilitate that type of deal.
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San Diego Padres
With a new general manager in tow, the Padres have surprisingly been linked to some of the top free agent bats on the market. They were reportedly in the Pablo Sandoval sweepstakes right until the end, and were aggressively in pursuit of Yasmany Tomas. On top of that, they’ve even been linked to Matt Kemp. Because of this and their potentially excess pitching talent like Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, it’s been surmised that they could be interested in Cespedes. However, after more consideration it doesn’t make much sense. While they may feel that they’re not too far away, it’s unlikely they’ll be competing in 2015. Sandoval, Tomas and Kemp could have helped in 2016 and 2017 when their window will be open, but it’s highly unlikely that Cespedes will be around for that timeframe. Kennedy could make some sense for them in a rental-for-rental swap, but it’s hard to see San Diego giving up future value like Cashner or Ross for a rental player who won’t be around for their contending years.
The Nationals have been all over the hot stove with all of the excess pitching talent they reportedly have made available in trades. Names like Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister have been thrown out, and both would be attractive targets to rebuild the top of Boston’s rotation. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Cespedes being part of that deal. While Washington definitely figures to be a contender in 2015 and could take on a rental, the outfield is far from an area of need. Boston will have to get more creative if they want one of those stud pitchers.
Over the long weekend, this became one of the hot rumors (though it was probably nothing substantial). It’s seemed likely that the Reds will trade one of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Mat Latos at some point this winter, and Cespedes has been seen as a possibility. On the one hand, Cincinnati looks like they want to contend next year, and his power in their park would be a sight to be seen. On the other hand, they’ve also been rumored to be looking to deal Jay Bruce. There’s a possibility they are looking for a shorter commitment to save money to perhaps re-sign Cueto, but dealing Bruce to pick up Cespedes would be a strange series of moves. With that being said, I can’t really wrap my head around what the Reds are trying to do, so I can’t truly rule them out as a logical landing spot.
Here is one of the few teams that really does make sense for Cespedes, although it won’t be as simple as some make it out to be. They are clearly in a win-now mode, and have been desperate for some right-handed power in their outfield. The popular rumor has been a rental-for-rental deal involving Cespedes an Hisahi Iwakuma. While that makes some sense, the Red Sox are going to need to add to their side of the package to make it worthwhile for the Mariners. Seattle is in a position where they could very well want to hold on to a cheap year of Iwakuma and look to free agency to fill their power void in the outfield. Still, this is a very interesting framework for a deal, and it’s one that could easily get done with a little creativity.
This is a new one that I hadn’t heard until a few days ago. There has been speculation that Detroit may look to ship out rental pitchers Rick Porcello and David Price with eyes towards re-signing Max Scherzer. If they have a need in their lineup, it’s a bat-first outfielder, something that Cespedes represents. However, with the Yankees now reportedly in full pursuit of Scherzer, it seems like the Tigers would be better off to re-evaluate and hold on to their pitchers. If they truly feel comfortable moving one of their starters, they could be a possible landing spot, but it's hard to say how likely that is right now.
By my estimation, there aren’t a ton of suitors for Cespedes that make sense for both sides. Although the execution left something to be desired, Dave Cameron was on the right track suggesting a three-team deal may be the easiest way to move the outfielder. These types of deals are hard to put together from the outside, but I’m sure it’s something the Red Sox have been and will be willing to work on.
With all of that being said, maybe it’s not as inevitable as we thought that Cespedes will be dealt. Boston clearly needs to trade for an impact pitcher, and that may not happen with him. As much as it pains me to say it, the play may be to deal Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts for a true top-of-the-rotation pitcher under team control for years to come. Obviously, that remains Plan B, as both Betts and Bogaerts looks to be a valuable player for a long time. If they can deal Cespedes for starting pitching help, that’s clearly the top option. However, with all of the potential roadblocks with the teams who have been connected to him, looking for other players to trade may be the easiest way to get talented pitching on this roster for 2015.