Yoenis Cespedes: Are the Red Sox shopping him?


According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, outfield slugger Yoenis Cespedes could be put on the trade block this offseason by the Boston Red Sox.

This comes after a season where the Red Sox went from World Series Champs to last place in the American League East with a record of 71-91.

Yoenis Cespedes, the 29-year old Cuban defector outfielder, came to the east coast as a part of a blockbuster trade that sent Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for the slugger. This deal ultimately did little for either team in 2014, as the Oakland Athletics slumped epically, limped into the playoffs, and lost in a wild Wild Card game to the AL Champion Kansas City Royals.

Cespedes did excite and entertain, to a degree, for the Red Sox in 51 games with little playoff implication. In those games, Yoenis Cespedes batted .269/.296/.423 with 5 home runs, 33 RBI, 10 doubles, 3 triples, and 7 walks to go with an uncomfortably high 48 strikeouts. His OBP and slugging numbers were higher in his 2+ seasons with the A’s.

If Cespedes does end up on the trading block– which makes sense for a Red Sox team that needs pitching depth and general organizational depth– should the Seattle Mariners look into trading for him?

Before you answer one way or another, think through what’s been said about the Mariners’ needs, and what Cespedes’ numbers tell us.

Regarding the Mariners’ needs, people scream most often and loudest about the need for a corner outfield power bat. That is pretty much Yoenis Cespedes.

He has 72 home runs in 3 Major League seasons, an average of over 23 home runs per year. And the strength of his throwing arm has been showcased on SportsCenter and Web Gems ad nauseum this season.

If there were a player who could in theory check off a number of things on the Mariners’ wish list, Cespedes would certainly be one of them.

But what do his numbers say about his value to the Mariners, or to any team for that matter?

Combining playing time with both the Sox and the A’s, Cespedes got to 100 RBI in a season for the first time in his career in 2014. Seeing that sort of power and RBI prowess sandwiched between lefties Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in a lineup would be fairly intimidating to say the least.

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According to fangraphs WAR calculation, Cespedes was worth 3.4 WAR in 2014, 2.2 in 2013, and 2.9 in 2012. Dustin Ackley had the highest WAR among Mariners’ outfielders this season at 2.1.

Defensively, Cespedes would play left field, though he could also see significant time at DH, something that would appeal greatly to a Mariners team that got the worst production out of the DH in the AL.

His career .263/.316/.464 would be a welcomed sight in the Mariners lineup.

But before the Mariners jump on the trade block and go after Cespedes (I’m not saying they will, but if he’s available I think they should) that have to look at his peripheral numbers too, namely his batting statistics at pitcher-friendly parks; for the sake of the Mariners, let’s look at Safeco Field.

At Safeco Field, Yoenis Cespedes has logged 80 at-bats– much too small a sample size but it’s all we’ve got– and managed only 11 hits. However, 5 of those hits were home runs!

His .137 batting average at Safeco is piss poor, but who knows, those numbers could correct themselves with a larger sample size.

Looking at all the numbers, I think the Mariners should go after Yoenis Cespedes if he is made available. The question then becomes his price.

Cespedes is under contract through 2015, so any trade would grant the Mariners one year of the Cuban outfielders services.

The Red Sox have major needs, none of them being more important than starting pitching. Moreover, with the signing of Rusney Castillo later in the season the Sox have an abundance of outfielders in: Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Only three of those guys can start in the outfield on Opening Day 2015.

So why not orchestrate a trade that sends pitching to Boston and sends Yoenis Cespedes to Seattle?

Now, I will begin with the caveat that I am no expert on how organizations value talent, and my valuation of players may not be in line with the organizations or the opinions of everyone else– that’s usually why there’s a split between people who ‘like a trade’ and people who ‘dislike a trade’.

I would propose the Mariners trade Roenis Elias and a mid-rotation starter prospect to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes.

Elias has major league experience, and could slot in the Red Sox’s rotation from day 1– though he still has room to develop and polish. Elias wouldn’t be arbitration eligible until 2017, and would be a free agent in 2020 at the earliest.

Six years of a young starter for one year of a proven outfield bat sounds fair enough to me. Then, if the Mariners became inclined to it, they could look to give Cespedes a contract extension to keep him in Seattle longer term.

All of this, of course, is dependent on his availability via the trade. No one really knows.

But if Yoenis Cespedes is made available, and the price is right, I think he would be just what the Mariners need.