Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had one of the best years of any major leaguer in 2015. He was awesome for the Tigers, yielded the team two top level prospects for being so awesome, then propelled the New York Mets to the playoffs and made it all the way to the World Series. Yes, he cooled off at the wrong time, but that shouldn't take away from all that he accomplished.
Cespedes hits free agency at exactly the right time for his wallet. With his rare combination of skills and a relatively shallow free agent market, he will command some serious money. So is he worth it? Let's first examine his 2015.
We might as well start with the bat. And the bat flips. Cespedes had a career year across the board. His stats for the Tigers were outstanding and only escalated after his trade to the Mets. His combined slash line of .291/.328/.542 were +.022/+.025/+.078 better than any of his previous seasons, excluding his rookie year. That jump in slugging is especially impressive. Providing that much pop out of left field is a luxury.
Cespedes is also elite defensively. While his most memorable play might have been the botched catch in center, the Mets were out thinking themselves by putting Cespedes in that position. He is much better served in left field. Cespedes has great speed, above average ball tracking and an absolute cannon for an arm. Fangraphs had him ranked as the 13th best defensive player and 6th best defensive outfielder, and he ended with an impressive 15 runs saved. Oh yeah, and he returns outs underhand which is super cool and makes me question whether I have any athletic worth whatsoever (answer, no.)
The offensive and defensive attributes are especially rare when compared to other left fielders across the league. Cespedes was rated both the best offensive and defensive left fielder and the offensive contributions weren't close. He led LFs in home runs (by 7), runs (by 7), and RBI (by 21!) It is fair to say that Cespedes is the preeminent left fielder in the game today.
Beyond his play, the Tigers got a haul for Cespedes after #teamsell upset #teambuy at the trade deadline. The Tigers landed Luis Cessa and prized pitching prospect Michael Fulmer in return, now rated 10th and 1st in the system respectively by Baseball Prospectus. Dave Dombrowski's final magic act might have led to his departure, but snagged an important piece of the future for the Tigers and most likely did not affect the Tigers ability to retain Cespedes for 2016.
And it may not show up on the stat sheet, but I loved his, as the kids say it, swag. Whether it was gunning runners out from absurd distances or leaping catches, Yoenis supplied some of the best plays of the year. This comment has no statistical bearing whatsoever, but damn is he fun to watch.
So yeah, I'd say Cespedes had a good year. Career offensive numbers, gold glove, NL pennant and he even managed to restock our farm system. Also, remember that time he delayed a game to go to the bathroom? That was great too.
Contributed heavily to the Tigers in the first half of the season. He made a couple of defensive slips and had a couple of mini-slumps but that was about it. He should have made the All-Star team. He hit five home runs in his last 10 games as a Tiger and hit .293 until he was traded to the Mets. For the short time he was with Detroit, fans fell in love with him and his cannon for an arm in left field.
Expectations for 2016
This is where it gets interesting. Cespedes is an obviously great player who has expressed interest in returning to the team and would fill the hole in left field. The issue is everyone else loves him too. Cespedes wants a 6 year deal and most estimates project his contract at around 140 million. I'm sure the team would like to have him back, but with so many pitching issues and 114 million already tied to five players, that type of contract seems highly unrealistic. Crazier things have happened, but the Tigers will likely look for cheaper options in left for 2016 and beyond.