Its official, Prince Fielder has signed, just not with the team many assumed he would. Days leading up to his signing a nine year deal worth a reported $214 million dollars with the Detroit Tigers, the Nationals were the odds on favorite to sign the top free agent left on the market. It had been reported the Nationals, Rangers and a third mystery team were still in the running and obviously we now know who that mystery team was as the Tigers quickly put together the offer that roped in Fielder. Now Washington is left without that big bat to put into the middle of their lineup and with no other free agents that could even come close to the production of Prince Fielder where do they turn now? How about Yoennis Cespedes?
Cespedes bounced onto the national scene after his trainers put out a ridiculous Kenny Powers like 20 minute video showing off their client in game action and while training. However, no matter how awesomely terrible the video is, you can’t help but come away impressed by Yoennis Cespedes. He looks the part, with a solid build and powerful lower half, has power (A Cuban league record 33 home runs), incredible athletic ability ( 45 inch vertical), a solid arm and speed.
Even with all his tools the Nationals were not listed as one of his top suitors, as of January 13th it appears the teams most interested in his services were the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, and Orioles. With the signing of Prince Fielder it may be safe to say the Tigers are probably out of the Cespedes sweepstakes but by that very same belief could the Nationals now be jumping into the bidding? The Nationals do have a need in center field, Cespedes’ position, and have they have kept an eye on him for years but William Ladson of MLB.com is reporting today that Washington sees him as a corner outfielder or a first basemen. [blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/washingnats/status/161925405253697536"]Not surprising because he does have the build to fill out and lose a step. But even with that believe, Jayson Werth or Bryce Harper (when he arrives) have more than enough athletic ability to take over center allowing Yoennis Cespedes to shift to a corner outfield position.
The main draw back for the Nationals could be the asking price. It has been reported it would take between $35-50 million dollars to get the Cuban outfielder and for an unknown commodity like Cespedes that could be too much to ask.
Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory posted an article on ESPN in late 2011 projecting Cespedes throughout his 2019 season using his ZIPS system. He had previously used it to project fellow Cuban Alexi Ramirez - For 2008 through 2011, ZiPS projected that Ramirez’s line would be .269 AVG/.316 OBP/.418 SLG , and his actual line was .279/.323/.421. Ramirez has been a better hitter for average than assumed but other than that the projected line is not too far off giving Szymborski’s projection for Cespedes some credence.
Year BA OBP SLG HR RBI SB WAR
2012 .270 .331 .435 23 86 9 3.3
2013 .269 .331 .439 23 84 9 3.4
2014 .267 .330 .435 22 83 8 3.2
2015 .268 .330 .436 22 82 8 3.1
2016 .264 .327 .428 21 79 7 2.8
2017 .263 .324 .418 19 74 6 2.5
2018 .259 .320 .402 17 66 5 1.9
2019 .256 .314 .386 13 54 4 1.3
The numbers are slightly disappointing considering the hype that has surrounded Cespedes, especially his on base percentage. Nothing in these projections would suggest a future All-Star or middle of the lineup slugger, more of a solid fifth or sixth hole hitter. With the teams belief that he is more of a corner outfielder and the possibility that he will fetch more than he is worth has caused Washington to sour slightly.
Yoennis Cespedes has finally gained residency in the Dominican Republic so he will very likely be the next big bat off the market. Right now the Cubs and Marlins looks to be the favorites for the outfielder but as we saw with Prince Fielder don’t count anyone out just yet.