Aside from J.D. Martinez in right field, the Detroit Tigers' outfield is in need of a facelift. With little help on the way from within the organization, they will most likely have to look to free agency to fill some of their holes.
The biggest hole the Tigers need to fill is in left field, a position they got virtually no production from after trading away Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline. Due to the Tigers' last place finish, subtracting Cespedes from the equation looks like a smart move, seeing as how they turned him into two pitching prospects in Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.
However, what if the answer to the Tigers' offensive woes was as simple as adding Cespedes back into the equation? Now a free agent, the Cuban with a cannon is coming off the best season of his career. After putting up gaudy numbers on both sides of the ball, while subsequently turning 30-years old, Cespedes will be looking to cash in for a huge contract. Will the Tigers be willing to open up the checkbook and bring him back?
Who is he?
Ladies and germs, Yoenis Cespedes needs no introduction. Perhaps the most highly touted player to ever come out of Cuba, he signed a four-year deal with the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2012 season. In his rookie year, he burst onto the scene by mashing 23 home runs while getting on base at a stellar .356 clip. Labeled a five-tool player by many scouts and analysts, Cespedes stole 16 bags to showcase his speed, and featured a rocket launcher for an arm while playing left and center field. In 2013 and 2014, Cespedes' offense took a hit thanks to a significant drop off in on-base-percentage. However, he developed his raw tools on the defensive end and became one of the league's most valuable defensive corner outfielders.
In a shocking twist at the 2014 trade deadline, Cespedes was shipped off to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that brought Jon Lester to Oakland to bolster their rotation for the stretch run. From there, the A's limped to the finish line, barely earning the second American League Wild Card, while Cespedes was the subject of "bad chemistry" talk in Boston. Because of all the negative talk surrounding him, along with the budding outfield prospects in Boston's farm system, it became apparent at the end of the season that he would most likely be dealt in the offseason. We know the rest from there.
In 102 games with the Tigers, Cespedes hit .293/.323/.506 with 18 home runs while playing stellar defense in left field. He just missed out on an All-Star appearance, losing to Kansas City's Mike Moustakas in the "final vote." When Cespedes was traded to the New York Mets in July, he became a superstar in The Big Apple by smashing 17 home runs in 57 games, good for an otherworldly .604 slugging-percentage. As a whole, 2015 was by far the best season of his career, valuing a total of 6.7 fWAR.
Why should we care?
Cespedes had a monster season in 2015, and on a personal note, was one of the single most fun players I've ever watched day in and day out. Cespedes' tools allow him to be a game changer in multiple ways, and every once in awhile he does something on the diamond that just makes you say "wow!" Whether it be throwing a runner out on a one-bounce dart to home plate from deep left field, or hitting a laser beam of a home run ball 450 feet, Cespedes is one of the few players in the league that can make a stadium full of 40,000 people gasp in awe.
After three very good seasons to start his career stateside, he solidified his status as a star this year. Once traded to the Mets, he almost single-handedly put their offense on his back and carried them all the way to the World Series. Despite struggling in the playoffs, the Mets might not have even gotten there without his heroics. On top of his stellar play, there were many rumors flying around during the trade deadline that Cespedes would like to return to Detroit after the season regardless of being traded away.
Why should we stay away?
Money. Money, money, money. With great stardom comes great financial compensation. That's what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, right? Whatever. The point that I'm trying to make is that Cespedes is going to cost a helluva lot of dough. At the end of the year, he stated that he would be searching for a six year deal, and that deal will probably bring him nearly $20 million annually. Yeah, that's way more than what the Tigers can afford this offseason.
Another reason to stay away? Regression. Cespedes has always been a very good baseball player, but last season was his first as a star. While it would be fun to see him tear up the league again, he's probably never going to post another six-plus win season. With a still sub-optimal on-base percentage -- not to mention him turning 30 -- Cespedes is a prime candidate to decline in a big way over the course of his contract. His best assets are his power and defensive ability, two skill traits that tend to decline severely with age.
Will he end up in Detroit?
For the sake of my shirsey, bobblehead, and "Vote Cespedes" sign, I hope he does. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Tigers will make a play at any high profile position player, let alone one who's a prime candidate for a serious case of regression-itis. The Tigers need an upgrade in left field, but they're better served putting their money elsewhere.
Signing Cespedes long-term would be unwise. The Tigers need lots of help in their starting rotation and bullpen, and the vast majority of their free agent budget this offseason should go there. While Cespedes would be fun, the Tigers can still upgrade their left field situation without making a splash.