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Cespedes would be a near perfect fit for the Indians

Cespedes would be a near perfect fit for the Indians
Yoenis Cespedes (Photo: AP)
November 25, 2014
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A lot of attention is on the Red Sox at the moment after their blockbuster free agent signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval on Monday. The Red Sox are still looking to add more pieces through free agency, but suddenly the focus around baseball is who they may trade in the wake of their spending spree.

Ramirez is expected to play left field for the Red Sox, a position they were already knee deep with options to begin with. It looks certain that they will trade at least one of their outfielder, though they may end up trading two or three of them when all is said and done. The Indians could use an outfielder and should at least check in with the Red Sox to see what they want for their surplus in the outfield.

The Indians are pretty locked up with contracts for position players throughout the roster, but the two areas they could use an upgrade are at third base and right field. Even with all of his warts and inconsistent play, Lonnie Chisenhall will probably get another year as the regular third baseman for the Indians.

The same can’t be said in right field.

Right field is a position that the Indians could use some help as David Murphy is not an everyday player. They either need a very good right-handed hitting option with good platoon splits to complement him, or they need a regular everyday option to supplant him and push him to more of a fourth outfielder role.

When looking at the Red Sox there are a lot of interesting trade possibilities, but the one player who interests me the most is Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes, 29, pretty much fits everything the Indians need in their lineup, defensively and from a contract standpoint. He is far from a perfect player as he surely has his warts, but he is a good player and someone who I believe could impact the Indians roster.

Last season Cespedes hit .260 with 22 homers, 100 RBI and .751 OPS in 152 combined games with the Red Sox and Athletics. For the advanced metric fans, he also had a 115 wRC+, .190 ISO and 3.4 WAR.  What is most interesting is how consistent he has been in his three year Major League career. In all three seasons he has hit between 22-26 homers, racked up 80-102 RBI, scored 70-89 runs, struck out at an 18.9% to 23.9% clip, walked at a 5.4% to 8.0% clip and been a 2.2 to 3.4 WAR player.

Those are some good numbers across the board, no matter how you look at them. They are not superstar level, but that is a pretty valuable and consistent player nonetheless.

Obviously there are some concerns as Cespedes has seen a gradual decline in his walk and strikeout rates going from an 8.0% walk rate and 18.9% strikeout rate in 2012 to 6.4% and 23.9% in 2013 to 5.4% and 19.8% last season. His power has also been in gradual decline going from a .214 isolated power in 2012 to .202 in 2012 and then to .190 last season. He also does not walk much so he carries a less than desirable on-base rate.

Even with those concerns and the gradual decline in his performance, the important thing to note is that an acquiring team would only be on the hook for the final year of his contract for $10.5 million. It would be one thing if he had three or four years left on his deal and was making $15 million or more a season, but for one year and around $10 million that is a pretty good gamble that he will continue to be at least a slightly above average  or better player in 2015.

The Indians are very left-hand oriented with their lineup. They have three switch-hitters with Jose RamirezCarlos Santana and Nick Swisher along with five left-handed hitters in Michael BournMichael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and David Murphy expected to be in their everyday lineup. The only everyday right-handed bat they have in the lineup is Yan Gomes.

The addition of Cespedes would not only give them a middle of the lineup alternative, but would help balance the lineup a little more by taking Murphy’s left-handed bat out of the everyday mix. Cespedes would probably hit fourth or fifth in the lineup and bring some production capabilities into the mix as well considering he hits better in the clutch. For his career he is a .303 hitter with an .867 OPS with runners in scoring position, a .435 hitter with a 1.038 OPS with the bases loaded and a .295 hitter with a .815 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position.

By inserting Cespedes into the four spot of the lineup, a spot he has spent most of his Major League career in and had good success, it may also help take some of the pressure off of Carlos Santana which may bring more consistent production out of him. Santana would slide to the fifth spot or even be moved into the second spot in the lineup considering the high rate he gets on base and him being a switch-hitter.

Defensively, Cespedes is probably an average defender so there would not be too much of an impact there, though he would still be an improvement over Murphy and Ryan Raburn. On top of that he has one of the best arms in the game and would help keep runners from going first to third or second to home on the Indians. He has not played right field in his Major League career but is open to playing there and certainly has the arm for it.

The contract is what should be most inviting to the Indians. The Indians currently have three prospects in Tyler NaquinJames Ramsey and Carlos Moncrief who they feel very good about that could eventually take over the full time right field duties by the end of the season. Even Bradley Zimmer could enter into the mix sometime in 2016. Ramsey and Naquin could also be center field options in line to replace Bourn if he were traded, but at the moment right field is their best opportunity to break into the big leagues. With Murphy and Raburn both only signed for one more guaranteed year and with three good prospects on the verge of potentially helping them, they would probably prefer to avoid any multi-year commitments for right field this offseason via trade or free agency beyond 2015.

The Indians have roughly $10-15 million to spend this offseason. Their biggest needs are a backend pen arm, defensive improvement and a right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup. The addition of Cespedes would obviously eat a majority of their available money, though if they acquired him they wouldn’t need to add much more from a Major League perspective except for that backend pen arm. Most importantly, his contract would not affect anything they want to do beyond next season.

The key in all of this is what the Red Sox will demand in a trade for Cespedes. Given his good performance in his three-year career to date and low risk contract, they undoubtedly will have a ton of suitors for his services. What it ultimately takes to land him will be fleshed out by the market and the intensity in which teams chase him these next few weeks. If the Red Sox play their cards right, he could be one of the biggest storylines to follow at the Winter Meetings in a few weeks and bring them a good haul in return.

Of course, the one thing that will hurt the value the Red Sox get in exchange for Cespedes is that an acquiring team cannot offer him a qualifying offer after next season. In almost every case a team can extend a departing free agent a qualifying offer in order to get a first round draft pick as compensation, but his case is unique. He was signed to a four year deal which under normal circumstances he would just be arbitration eligible after next season and still under a team’s control because he has less than six years’ service time to be considered a free agent. But like most international players signed to a Major League deal, it was written into his contract that he has to be non-tendered after the fourth season thus making him a free agent and because he is non-tendered a team can’t extend a qualifying offer.

The Red Sox will probably want Major League value in return, so in the end the key to all of this is whether the Indians match up with what the Red Sox want and if the Indians are willing to part with it. The Red Sox will surely look for pitching in exchange for Cespedes, something the Indians have a lot of at the Major League level but not much depth behind it where they may feel comfortable parting with a young pitcher they control the next several seasons.

Finding a good fit and something the Red Sox are interested in and then selling that to them is the job of Indians GM Chris Antonetti and his staff. Time will tell whether or not there is a fit to be had here, but there is no doubt that Cespedes would be a nice addition to the roster and help fill a big need for the Indians going into next season.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

December 5, 2014 - 8:53 PM EST
Cespedes would look nice but I think the Red Sox would be asking for too much. Van Slyke would be my preferred target, probably cheaper in terms of prospects, cheaper in terms of money, and IMO has good upside.
November 27, 2014 - 5:02 AM EST
Indians will suck no matter what wouldn't it be nice to see a home run hit the guy banging the drum now and then. Does giving up anybody on your club really even matter?
November 27, 2014 - 1:03 AM EST
Cespedes would be a nice fit for the Tribe,but the Sox will want way too much for a one year rental......who won't bring a draft pick as FA because a clause in his contract doesn't allow a qualifying offer to be made to him.

Supposedly,Boston asked for Porcello from Detroit in exchange for Cespedes.the Tribe isn't trading Bauer ,Salazar or Carrasco and their multiple years of control for a one year rental.If they'll take Tomlin or McAllister and prospect then there may be a deal, but I don't see that happening.
November 26, 2014 - 2:01 PM EST

Yea maybe. But I'm one (perhaps of the few) who thinks that Murphy has real value to the Tribe in 2015. He's very versatile and does pretty well against RH pitchers, on a reasonable one-year deal. He has value because I think that this team, if Bourn stays w us, needs four solid OF'ers. Injuries, esp to Bourn, are likely to happen. Murphy is great as a platoon option and one of four solid guys.

I think it's true that Murphy is a decent trade chip (hard to know what the Rangers think of him though, seems like he kinda sucked his last year there...), but to me, Hagadone is our most valuable and expendable trade chip. Hagadone is exactly what a lot of teams need and fortunately for us, he's a bit redundant w Scrabble and Crockett.

Another name that I think could make a lot of sense (at least to me) is Mookie Betts. He's definitely not a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he's REALLY good and RH, and would give us more speed a la the Royals. For me it just makes more sense to look for potentially great young building-block-type players whose path is blocked or for some reason undervalued by other teams instead of breaking the bank for one year of service.
November 26, 2014 - 1:29 PM EST

I wonder if Murphy would get Rua from the Rangers. Murphy was well liked there, and would give them a vet bench bat, 4th OF.
November 26, 2014 - 12:07 PM EST
I agree with the folks here who are not interested in one year of Cespedes. We simply need more good players that we can build with and thinking that we just have to bridge the one-year gap to Naquin and Ramsey is not good thinking. Naquin and Ramsey are not sure things at all. If we're going to load up a package (that may even include a guy like Bauer) then we'd better get a solid building block IMO. I don't think that will be the way CA goes though. I think it's way more likely we see some guy like Van Slyke added to the mix. Another guy who might fit in that scenario is Ryan Rua on the Rangers. He's an Ohio guy and has some pop and versatility, and had a decent rookie year.
Head Check
November 26, 2014 - 10:56 AM EST
I have all been intrigued with Sands... I'd sign him with the notion he would take over for an ineffective Raburn if Raburn isn't doing anything about 30-40 games in.

Also when everything is considered I think a 1-yr (possible option yr) for Kouzmanoff makes WAY more sense than any deal for Headley.. Especially when everyone is whining this how cash strapped the Indians are.
November 26, 2014 - 9:43 AM EST

Agreed, I think the Dodgers like his pop off the bench and affordability, no need on their part to trade him. The Indians would have to trade something of value for him. If they could swing Nick Hagadone for him Id do it. That might get their attn. a power LHRP with multiple yrs of control.

A cpl other players on the Red Sox I would like to see the Indians inquire about are young SP prospect Matt Barnes, 24 and RH hitting RF prospect Bryce Brentz, 25. Brentz prospect status has slipped, but, when given the chance in the bigs he showed well in a short audition. Brentz is a guy I think could be at least a role player / platoon type (think SVS) maybe more...I think he gets caught in the roster crunch with the Red Sox and might eventually be DFA or traded.
November 26, 2014 - 9:28 AM EST
Since the Tribe is already on the hook in 2015 for roughly $8 million for their two current right-fielders (Murphy and Raburn), would be willing to take on any significant additional money to add a 3rd right--fielder to the mix. Add Cespedes and when all is said and done we'd be paying $18 million for a 3 person platoon in right field. Think dolan would go for that? To simplify things a bit, they could just cut the cord with raburn and give him his $2 million for nothing. Think Dolan would go for that? .......Nah
November 26, 2014 - 9:07 AM EST
I believe the Indians might have to over pay to get Van Slyke. I think the Dodgers like him just as much as people on this site.
November 26, 2014 - 5:15 AM EST
Jerry Sands actually was Van Slyke 1-2 years ago for the Dodgers and is a FA right now. He is the platoon bat we're looking for to replace Raburn. He's even younger than VS and would be a smart addition
November 25, 2014 - 11:22 PM EST
If you look at Van Slyke's minor league career, there are no pronounced splits in his history. The Dodgers merely use him that way because they can. I think he can play every day and put up numbers that, well, let's face it, for the production he'll provide for $600,000 or whatever he'll be paid, he'll be a bargain compared to the production Cespedes's production will bring. The Dodgers just recently traded for another right-handed hitting outfielder who is ready for prime time. They have a LOT of outfielders. I'm not saying Van Slyke comes cheap, but I'd be willing to give up a guy I love--Bryan Shaw--to get it done. Heck, I'd trade Jason Kipnis tomorrow for Van Slyke if they would do it, but I don't think they would. It would be great for us, opening up second base for Jose Ramirez and getting out from under that obligation to Kipnis through 2019...ugh.
November 25, 2014 - 10:45 PM EST
Van Slyke would be interesting and sort of that platoon guy I mentioned early in the piece to tandem with Murphy. I would have no problem with that. I think he may be a bit pricey to acquire, but I'd take a shot at him.

I think Cespedes just fits exactly what they are looking for, a one year guy and stop gap in right field who fills a middle of the order need and such. I am not sure the Red Sox will get what we think for him considering he has one year left and there is no chance to extend a QO. Perhaps the Red Sox just keep him and trade one of their other outfielders.....but I think they want to keep the others and try to get what they can for Cespedes now. Will be interesting to see what he ultimately goes for.
November 25, 2014 - 10:40 PM EST
It's silly trading anything of value that we control long-term for a one-year rental. That's what poorly run clubs do. Much better trading for a Scott Van Slyke who you can stick in right field and forget him for another five years. Costs less on the front end in the transaction, and that $10 million you would have paid Yoenis can pay Van Slyke for many years. Tony is right in what we need, but dead wrong on how to approach it. We've done quite well finding guys like Asdrubal, Choo, Kluber, and's the time to get the next guy: Van Slyke.
November 25, 2014 - 7:27 PM EST
Jimmy, I don't think the Indians trading their two bad contracts for two contracts that are much worse would help much.
November 25, 2014 - 6:03 PM EST
Not sure what Boston thinks of their pen but maybe shaw could be apart of a package
November 25, 2014 - 5:50 PM EST
Wasn't Boston the same city and front office that said Terry Francona lost control of his clubhouse and fired him? It may be a legit issue with Cespedes.....or just hot air. Either way, I don't think that's a deal breaker at all.
November 25, 2014 - 5:39 PM EST
Tony, fwiw, Cespedes' clubhouse distractions are coming from Boston, not Oakland.
November 25, 2014 - 4:53 PM EST
We have been needing a right handed power bat and I think if we couldn't get Cespedes with trade that we should in turn try to get B.J. Upton from Atlanta, who is under contract. Maybe sent Bourn back to Atlanta in trade.
Then trade Swisher bad contract for bad contract. Maybe a trade with Chicago Jackson or Baltimore Jimenez.
If those two trades happen, we would be pretty solid. Go Tribe
November 25, 2014 - 4:51 PM EST
It's tough to really get a feel for what the Red Sox would want, but I would have to guess a Salazar or Bauer.....but as some suggested, if the Indians were to consider that, then the Indians need to get a pretty good starting pitching prospect that is near ML ready in return. The deal would obviously have to be expanded from just Cespedes for x young pitcher. As for the noise about being a clubhouse distraction and such, not sure what to make out of that if anything. Often times it is just propaganda spewed out by the former team to make the trade more palpable to fans.
November 25, 2014 - 3:51 PM EST
Hate the idea of giving up six(!) years of a young cost-controlled pitcher like Bauer or Salazar for the privilege of paying Cespedes $10.5MM on a 1-year rental.

Sure he is a good hitter, but the inability to use a QO on him clearly reduces his value going forwards.
November 25, 2014 - 3:47 PM EST
I actually think it is something very doable for the Indians. However, I would suggest they might have interest in expanding the deal. A cpl scenarios I could see playing out....

Carlos Carrasco and Scrabble for Yoenis Cespedes and Brock Holt
Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister for Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Barnes
November 25, 2014 - 3:38 PM EST
phil thaT IS my first thought with hitting at such a premium why would boston and oakland unload him yes oakland got a lot for him however Ferrell doesnt seem to relish bringing him back and there were rumors that he didnt get along well with melvin in oakland either. With young team that can end up to be malignant. Ill pass the price tag is too high and the risk too steep.
November 25, 2014 - 3:31 PM EST
I wouldn't trade any of Bauer, Carrasco, or Salazar for Cespedes alone, and I'm guessing that is what it would cost. I would do the trade Matthew suggested, but I can't see the Sox doing that.
November 25, 2014 - 3:29 PM EST
I would really doubt any major league team would give the Red Sox anything close to a Salazar/Bauer + prospect for Cespedes. Salazar/Bauer alone for Cespedes would be a huge overpay, Cespedes is an average-ish player, getting paid a fairly average amount of money. Without the QO, there's very little surplus value there. The only way I could see it working would be if it was one of those pitchers for Cespedes plus a prospect. Or perhaps if the Red Sox also took Bourn off their hands to free up some cash for the Indians to also sign a pitcher, the Indians might be interested. Though I'd probably want Jackie Bradley and Cespedes anyway to do that.
November 25, 2014 - 2:27 PM EST
Red Sox want pitching. I wonder if the Indians could pull off something like Bauer for Cespedes and Manuel Margot.
November 25, 2014 - 2:26 PM EST
No thank you. Extremely overrated player with an unrealistic price tag attached to him. Not worth it for a one year and bail type of player. I know for a fact Boston would be looking for either Salazar/Bauer to start discussions plus a solid almost major league ready prospect. Pass
November 25, 2014 - 2:17 PM EST
Seeing as the Sox received Cespedes in return for Lester AND Gomes, I'm thinking their asking price will be pretty steep... but yes, there is no argument he would be an incredible fit and, really, a best case scenario-type acquisition if we could pull it off. We'll see!
November 25, 2014 - 2:12 PM EST
Yeah Cespedes might be a good player but he's alienated two clubhouses already in two year's time.

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