Yoenis Cespedes has been exactly as was advertised. He hits for power. His .475 slugging percentage is second on the team to Miguel Cabrera. He plays an adequate left field. He's above league average in range factor and has a positive showing so far in dWAR. However, we are also seeing the "other stuff" as well. He doesn't walk much -- just 11 base on balls in 52 games played -- and his prone to the occasional daydream in left field.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that those close to Cespedes say there is "no chance" he will miss out on being a free agent. What this means for the Tigers will, in large part, unfold over the rest of the season.
Cespedes, who turns 30 in October, should be one of the more sought-after bats on the free agent market. The Tigers, for the time being, have to be relatively happy with their return on trading Rick Porcello, as Cespedes has given them some protection for Miguel Cabrera. The deal has also netted the team some promising work from Alex Wilson out of the bullpen, and while Gabe Speier is a long ways away from the major leagues, he is putting up solid numbers for Single-A West Michigan.
There are currently 18 players in Major League Baseball that qualify for the batting title and have played more than half of their games in left field. This seems like a pretty good way to look at how well Cespedes has performed this season. Here's how Cespedes stacks up against his peers in left field (all rankings are MLB):
- 11th in OPS+ with a mark of 115. Left field has always been considered a position for sluggers. This year is no different. An OPS+ of 115 is nothing to sneeze it, but the fact that Cespedes ranks 11th of 18 speaks to the current depth at the position.
- 12th in on-base percentage. This brings us back to the walks. When Cespedes is hitting sixth in the lineup, his aggressiveness at the plate often pays off. However, if he's batting cleanup behind Cabrera, the club really needs him to work the count.
- Sixth in slugging. Cespedes is actually out-slugging perennial all-stars like Alex Gordon and Matt Holliday so far this season. In this new era of the power-outage, a slugger will always be valuable, even if he has some other "warts" on his game.
- 2nd in rWAR. This is where we see Cespedes' real value. When we consider his entire game, the only left fielder playing right now with a better WAR is Justin Upton, who is having a monster season out west in San Diego. You'll take this all year. In fact, since his rookie season in 2012, Cespedes ranks 5th in WAR for left fielders, trailing only Holliday, Gordon, Michael Brantley and Starling Marte. Good company.
So what does all of this mean for the Tigers and their chances of keeping him in Detroit? There is a clause in Cespedes' contract that prohibits his team from extending him a qualifying offer, so the Tigers will not be able to recoup a draft pick if he departs via free agency.
This clause was a savvy move by Cespedes, as it should help him get more offers this offseason. In the past we've seen non-elite players -- Michael Bourn and Ervin Santana come to mind -- have a qualifying offer hurt the amount of action they see on the open market. With this roadblock out of the way, Cespedes should see plenty of suitors come his way this offseason. But, what kind of offers might he receive?
There weren't any comparable players to Cespedes on the market last year. However, here a few comparisons that give us some kind of idea about what type of contract he may receive.
- 2014: Curtis Granderson (33 years old) got four years and $60 million from the New York Mets.
- 2014: Shin-Soo Choo (31) got seven years and $130 million from the Texas Rangers.
- 2014: Hunter Pence (30) got five years and $90 million from the San Francisco Giants.
- 2013: B.J. Upton (28) got five years and $75 million from the Atlanta Braves.
Upton and Pence are probably the best comparisons for Cespedes. If this is true, would the Tigers be willing to give a five year contract to a 30-year-old outfielder regardless of the money? This will surely become a big topic of conversation as the season progresses. Here is a look at some of the potential free agents that play left field.
- Rajai Davis (that's a post for another day)
- Alex Gordon (player option for next year)
- Matt Joyce (reunions can be fun, right?)
- Don Kelly (just kidding)
- Gerardo Parra (the Jose Iglesias of left fielders)
- Justin Upton (will cost even more than Cespedes)
We saw the the Oakland Athletics offense go in the tank last fall after trading Cespedes. We have seen him play well through 52 games with the Tigers. I would imagine the Tigers are pleased with what they've gotten from Cespedes so far this season. Are you?