Yoenis Cespedes has been the mystery man of the baseball offseason thus far.
Who is this Cuban outfielder that is making general managers — including the Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski — fly down to the Dominican Republic to see him work out? How much money is it going to sign him, especially if you’re not the Yankees or Red Sox? And just how do you pronounce that name?
Cespedes, 26, is in the Dominican Republic after defecting from Cuba, and currently waiting for his visa to be approved. After that, MLB is expected to declare him a free agent and the multi-team auction can begin for someone who appears to be the consummate five-tool player.
Cespedes hit .333/.424/.667 in Cuba this season and was one of two players to set a league record with 33 home runs. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein calls him a “legitimate centerfielder with plus power and speed” and “arguably the best player to come out of Cuba in a generation.”
However, Cespedes is expected to be an expensive acquisition. Many observers point to the six-year, $30 million contract Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman received from the Cincinnati Reds and expect Cespedes to fetch at least the same, if not far more. $50 million has been a number thrown around.
But how long would it take Cespedes to be ready for the majors? Obviously, the expectation would be to have him playing in the big leagues soon, given the money he’ll likely receive.
How would a team like the Tigers handle that? Would they trade an incumbent outfielder like Delmon Young, knowing that Cespedes would likely take a spot early in the season? Or would Detroit have to keep such players, just in case Cespedes proves he’s not quite ready?
Again, all expectations project Cespedes to be ready quickly. But it might not be a risk a team like the Tigers are willing to take, unlike the Yankees or Red Sox, who can more easily absorb a financial loss. (For example, players like Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa or Daisuke Matsuzaka.)
However, Dombrowski has shown more of an interest in competing for international players in recent years. Supposedly, he’s had an eye on Cespedes for quite a while. This might be the guy who compels the Tigers to take the big plunge.