A crowded Red Sox outfield got even more cramped when they agreed to a four year contract with free agent shortstop-turned-left-fielder Hanley Ramirez yesterday. Ramirez was initially considered Boston's next third baseman, but the team's quick one-two punch signing of Pablo Sandoval leaves Ramirez without a position. Now, he looks to be added to an outfield already consisting of Allen Craig, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley, and, of most interest to many teams, Yoenis Cespedes.
While Cespedes is the biggest name on this list, does he make sense for the Tigers?
*2015 Steamer projection
Who is he?
The godfather of the latest Cuban revolution in Major League Baseball, Cespedes burst onto the scene with the Oakland Athletics in 2012. He hit .292/.356/.505 with 23 home runs and 16 stolen bases for the A's, who rode a red-hot second half to a 94 win season and an AL West title. Cespedes was a major question mark before the season, and Oakland's decision to give him a major league contract was a surprise at the time. Unfortunately, Cespedes has not matched his 2012 success in the past two seasons, hitting a combined .251/.298/.446 with 48 home runs.
Why should we care?
Despite his faults -- he swings at everything and his on-base percentage is awful -- Cespedes is still a very productive player on a relatively cheap contract. He was worth a career high 3.4 WAR last season and is projected to put up another three win season in 2015. Cespedes has been worth 8.5 WAR in his three MLB seasons and has a career wRC+ of 115. He has also been a great defender, compiling +17 defensive runs saved and a UZR of 14.5 in 2360 career innings in left field.
And then there is the power. Cespedes turned a .301 on-base percentage into a 109 wRC+ last season largely thanks to a .190 ISO and 22 home runs. He has 71 home runs in his three MLB seasons, along with 82 doubles and 15 triples. Extra base hits have come in droves for Cespedes, resulting in a career .780 OPS. Steamer projects him to bounce back somewhat in 2015 with a 119 wRC+.
Why should we stay away?
As enticing as Cespedes' power can be, his on-base percentage and low walk rate are equally discouraging. Cespedes had a .301 on-base percentage in 2014, including a .296 on-base percentage in 201 plate appearances for the Boston Red Sox. While it would behoove a player with his prodigious power to be selective at the plate, Cespedes swings at everything. His 38.7 percent O-swing percentage ranked 16th among qualified hitters in 2014 and he only walked in 5.4 percent of plate appearances.
Cespedes isn't bound to come cheap, either. The Red Sox have plenty of outfielders to spare, but will likely hold into Cespedes unless another team pays a premium to obtain the 29 year old Cuban. The Tigers are a particularly curious fit, as Cespedes would likely cost one of David Price or Rick Porcello. We discussed yesterday that the Tigers are not currently in a position where one of their starters is expendable, and getting one year of club control out of Cespedes isn't the ideal return on a trade for a team with payroll issues.
Will he end up in Detroit?
A Porcello-for-Cespedes deal makes sense on paper -- and literally everyone was tweeting about it -- but the hole that it blows in the Tigers' rotation seems more important than the hole it fills in left field. Both are issues, but finding a corner outfielder is generally easier than finding a solid mid-to-front rotation starter. A lesser package might land the Tigers one of Boston's other outfielders (I'm partial to Daniel Nava at the moment), and the Tigers' recent spending habits hint that they would look in the bargain bin if the two clubs were to partner up.