Earlier this week the Red Sox made not one, but two of the biggest splashes of the offseason by inking both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to large free agent contracts. Obviously Sandoval will play third base, but with the young Xander Bogaerts expected to hold down shortstop for the next few years, Ramirez will supposedly move to the outfield to be the team's everyday left fielder.
With Hanley's move to the outfield, that gives Boston six, possibly seven, outfielders that could be in the mix for a significant amount of playing time at the major league level in 2015. However, the Red Sox are severely lacking in starting pitchers. Right now their rotation is Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, and a bunch of question marks. Even if they do land Jon Lester, their rotation will still not be at the level typically needed to win a division.
How does all this tie in with the Tigers, you might ask? Well, as of now, the Tigers only have three outfielders that are sure-things to make the roster out of spring training, but have a starting rotation that's built to pitch deep into games and into the postseason.
Considering the Red Sox and the Tigers have virtually the opposite problem right now, they theoretically seem like suitable trade partners, right?
Out of all the Boston outfielders that are available, Cespedes is easily the sexiest option. It's hard not to love his majestic home runs and the cannon he has attached to his right shoulder. However, can the Tigers afford to give up Rick Porcello for the Cuban masher? Porcello is in his final year of arbitration, and is projected to make around $12 million in 2015. It's not hard to imagine him getting a "Homer Bailey" type contract (6 years, $105 million) at the end of the season from someone, I would just prefer that someone isn't the Tigers.
Cespedes is also set to hit the open market at the end of 2015, so the swap would be purely for the benefit of next season. He would clearly be an upgrade over the Tigers' current left field situation, but is his cost worth the loss of Porcello?
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Yoenis Cespedes is known for his mammoth power (career .201 ISO), but is also the type of hitter who swings at just about anything. Cespedes has a career swing rate of 50.9 percent, and that has translated to an underwhelming .316 OBP. Due to his inability to take walks, he isn't the type of hitter that is fit to hit at the top of the lineup. However, he is almost a lock to hit over 20 home runs, and would give the Tigers one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. Yoenis is also known as an extremely skilled defensive left fielder, something the Tigers have been lacking for a very long time. He was worth 10.1 UZR and 12 DRS last season, while leading the majors with 16 outfield assists.
Value wise, at least when it comes to WAR, Porcello and Cespedes are projected to be a wash. Basically, it all comes down to what the Tigers value more, and what they think can be more easily replaced.
Personally, I think the Tigers should make this deal if it is available to them. The free agent market for corner outfielders is extremely thin this offseason, while the market for starting pitchers is deep. Should Dave Dombrowski trade Porcello, he would not run into a whole lot of trouble in finding a fourth starter in the free agent market. Brandon McCarthy, Edinson Volquez, and Justin Masterson are just a few names that could be had on small contracts. He could also always go the expensive route and bring back Max Scherzer, which seems a lot more plausible now than it did at the end of the season.
With Yoenis Cespedes, suddenly the outfield starts to look like a strength in Detroit. He would give the Tigers two everyday outfielders at the corner spots, along with a quality platoon in center field. While not the top of the order hitter that many envisioned the Tigers would acquire, he would add even more power to the heart of the lineup while playing a quality defensive left field. This won't come as a surprise to anyone, but Detroit's outfield defense was pitiful in 2014. Just for a second, imagine Anthony Gose patrolling center along with Cespedes in left. Two guys with a helluva lot of range along with torpedo launchers for arms... Yeah, that sounds pretty damn good to me.