Last week an anonymous Red Sox insider was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying Yoenis Cespedes "marches to his own drum and the coaches all hate him." On record sources quickly denied such a thing, and while I find such a deniable entirely predictable, I also find it pretty believable. I also-also doubt the quote was 100% fabricated, so the truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in the middle. (as it tends to do)
In any event, there still seems to be a pretty strong belief that Cespedes will be heavily shopped this offseason, not so much because he;s disliked in Boston, but because the outfield is an area of surplus talent for them these days. MLB ready pitching is expected to be the target. Should the Indians make a run at acquiring Cespedes' powerful bat and arm?
Cespedes has great power, if he were with the Tribe, he and Carlos Santana would be in something like a dead heat for best power numbers on the team. (Yes, that's right, Santana has power numbers almost identical to those of the back-to-back Home Run Derby winner.) The Indians, like pretty much every team, could certainly benefit from some added power. Unlike Santana though, Cespedes has shown a poor ability to draw a walk and get himself on base when he's not crushing the ball. His OBP for the last two years is just .298, among the worst in baseball.
Because of his power, Cespedes is a good offensive player, but his OBP keeps him from being a great one. Steamer projects him for a 119 wRC+ in 2015, which would rank him third on the Indians, behind Santana (132) and Brantley (125). Cespedes is about average as a base runner.
Defensively, he's got a very strong arm, which would play well in right field (the A's put him in left because they already had Josh Reddick in right). His range and decision making have been somewhat lacking though, and while he's one of those players defensive metrics disagree on, I'm put him somewhere a little above average, but not too far from it.
Steamer projects him for 3 WAR next season, and that seems fair.
Could the Indians use a right fielder who provides 3 WAR? Absolutely. That'd be a nice upgrade, well worth the $10.5 million Cespedes will make in 2015. His contract is up after that though, so he's only a rental, which lowers his value and means no team should give up as much for him as they would if he were under club control longer. Furthermore, Cespedes' contract stipulates that he cannot be given a qualifying offer, which means whichever team has him won't even have the benefit of gaining a draft pick from his departure.
What kind of return is Boston going to require in order to part with the slugger? They're coming off a last-place season, and for many teams tat would mean go young and rebuild. It's possible the Red Sox would accept a good prospect, someone like Frazier or Zimmer, but a team with their reveue streams rarely goes into full rebuild. I think they'll make a couple offseason additions and hope for rebound seasons from a couple key players.
As I said above, I think starting pitching will be Boston's main interest in any Cespedes trade discussions. Corey Kluber is obviously not a fit, and unless you think Carlos Carrasco's return to the rotation was a mirage, he's not a fit either. He projects to provide slightly lower value in 2015, but he'll do it for something like 20-25% the cost, and hes under team control through 2015.
On the opposite end, the guys outside the rotation, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin, are nowhere near good enough to land a player like Cespedes. That leaves the middle and backend of the rotation, Trevor Bauer (23-year-old righty), Danny Salazar (24-year-old righty), and T.J. House (25-year-old lefty).
2014 numbers for those three:
2015 Steamer projections for those three:
None of them project to be as productive as Cespedes in 2015, and only Salazar projects to be even average. Each of those guys is under team control for another 4 or 5 seasons after 2015 though, and for me, Cespedes isn't a big enough upgrade for one year of him to be worth moving any of those three pitchers, not with the Tribe's current lack of pitching depth. If you expect those projections to be accurate, it'd be worth moving Bauer, because a pitcher with those numbers is very replaceable, but I don't expect him to decline like that in 2015. A year ago I'd have traded House for a year of Cespedes, and maybe in feeling unwilling to now, I'm overvaluing his small sample of success. Salazar is the best of those three, and I wouldn't move him for a rental unless that rental were Mike Trout.
How about you, would you trade any of those three pitcher to land Cespedes? Do you think there's an alternative package that would work for both teams?