Nationals Baseball: Are you a Cesped-ophile?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Are you a Cesped-ophile?

Wait.  That phrasing may be problematic. Oh well.

The Nats are kicking all the tires on Yoenis Cespedes. He has been seeking a big-time deal in the range of what Justin Upton got (6 / 132, opt out after 2). The Nats didn't offer that. In fact, we have no idea what the Nats offered. If they really want him the deal has to be at least 3 years which is what the White Sox offered him. Other than that we have no idea. 3 / 75?  4 / 90? Guess away.

Does he fit? Not exactly. It would leave the Nats a bit defensively challenged and he's exactly the opposite of the contact driven team it seemed like the Nats were putting together.

But he can hit and honestly if Revere was manning centerfield and not MAT then the defense was going to take a hit anyway. It gives the Nats another power bat when it all it's righty bats (Zimm, Werth, Rendon) are in a state of flux. And this would have to free up someone - either Revere or MAT - for a deal.

I'll take it for 2016. It's the time to go all in.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've said all offseason that the best way to improve the Nats is to get an outfielder - I think Harper can play an average CF there at least for the next couple of years. Cespedes is a good player and I'll be happy if they sign him (and I would assume such a signing would portend a MAT trade, which could bring back a pretty useful piece).

But if they do sign him, I will forever wonder why they didn't target Alex Gordon. Less power, much better OBP, more consistency, slightly older, left handed, probably cheaper. He seems like a much better fit.

Chinatown Express said...

Here's the real problem: Whom do you send to the home run derby, Cespedes or Harper? Or finally both?

I'm 100% onboard with this move. His offensive prowess outweighs his defensive ineptness; 4 years is a reasonable duration and overlaps with our remaining time with Harper; and signing him allows us to trade one of our spare outfielders plus a prospect for a better, controllable catcher. I'd be thrilled about this.

Chinatown Express said...

A friend just pointed out that Cespedes has a great arm. It's Harperesque. We'd better have a catcher who can confidently make plays at the plate.

Jay said...

I like the move. I'd put Harper in CF personally. I've been saying for 2 years that Harper is more valuable in CF than RF as long as he stays healthy. Harper in CF immediately becomes the 2nd best CF in NL and probably 3rd best overall behind Trout and McCutcheon. Do you put Werth back in RF where he looked more comfortable or leave him in LF? I'd be tempted to keep Ramos and go get a SP. Also, Heyman mentioned on the tweeter that Nats are still looking for more BP help. Trade MAT for Andrew Miller?? or Lucroy?? or a number 2 or 3 SP?? We'll see, but I am in favor of this move. I agree with first post that Gordon would have been nice in LF, but I don't think he was leaving KC.

Rob Evans said...

This is the move I've wanted all off season. My interest level would go from a 3-4 next year to a 9-10. I think this would make this team much more exciting to watch personally. Some people are worried about team chemistry but if they are winning, I don't think it's an issue. Chemistry only seems to be a problem when teams start to struggle.

I'd stick him in RF, Werth in LF and Harper in CF. Let Revere be the 4OF and trade MAT for a catcher if you can.

JE34 said...

Sure it would be fun to have Harper and Cespedes hitting 3-4... but the Nats have been spurned a few times this offseason already, and this one feels like another to add to that list. Can't see the Nats offering him 5-6 years and giving him what he's looking for. I also think the Cespedes who was seeking big bucks will be significantly better than Cespedes with a long term deal already in hand. If this somehow works out, I hope I'm wrong.

JE34 said...

That said... I just went into the MLB At Bat app on my phone, and turned on news alerts, so I can be alerted if they in fact do sign Cespedes. I realize I run the risk of getting *breaking news* alerts on my phone for Ladson articles like "Murphy excited to play" and "Baker says new players are new and good".

Froggy said...

Wishful Cespedantism...

Rob Evans said...

"Baker says new players are new and good"

Haha! Got a good chuckle outta that one, thanks!

DezoPenguin said...

Like Jay, I think this move makes sense if Harper is following Mike Trout to CF; while Cespedes is below-average in center if we're lucky, he's been a good overall corner OF and has a cannon arm, so Werth (or Revere)/Harper/Cespedes from left to right wouldn't be a train wreck...*IF* Harper can handle CF.

If the idea is to play Cespedes in CF, then I'm against it. He isn't a CF, even more than Ben Revere isn't a CF, and he'd need to hit like he did in 2015 to negate that bad defense.

On the other hand, if it's half of a move whereby Rizzo ships Werth to the American League...say, for a catcher...and Cespedes slots into LF, then I'm all for it. 2013-4 Cespedes is a perfectly useful corner outfielder, providing competent defense and power hitting at the expense of OBP, and if 2015 is actually a breakout year instead of a fluke and he can keep it up for 2-3 more years, then all the better.

Bottom line: He's put up 2.9/2.4/3.3/6.7 fWAR the last four years, Steamer projects 2.9, he's only 30 so he's not likely to tail off sharply even if 2015 was a fluke, he plays adequate-to-excellent (well, last year he was genuinely very good) corner OF defense, he hits dingers, and most of all he's been respectably healthy. So long as he's not playing CF, he's a guy I'd like on the team, with a 4-year or at most 5-year deal at reasonable rates.

Froggy said...

Dezo~
How exactly does Rizzo 'ship Werth to the American League' when he is owed $42MM for the next two years and has a no-trade clause?

Re Cespedezzzzz I think we should stop thinking it is 1:30am and the bartender is making Last Call and we need to find someone to go home with. Cespedezzzz is a drama queen who, altough he can hit fairly well, won't become a better fielder with age. Fast forward 3-4 years and we are talking about him like folks are talking about Werth right now, except that Werth is 5 times the athlete and more importantly a knowledgable guy and clubhouse Leader (read: non drama queen).

Unless a deal is for no more than 3 years I don't do it.

Anonymous said...

Love DezoP's analysis.

Also, Jay, I think Harper is better than McCutcheon at this point.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 11:32

Actually, I believe Froggy's analysis holds greater sway. (Plus, I don't think Werth huffs Lucky Strikes in the dugout tunnel between innings.)

DezoPenguin said...

@Froggy:

Heck if I know. I'm still trying to figure out how the Blue Jays got the Angels to take Vernon Wells and his contract off their hands. My point is just that Cespedes is more likely to be healthy, is better at defense, has higher expected offensive production, and has a higher ceiling than Werth, and therefore replacing one with the other would improve the team. It's not a "the Nats should plan to do this" suggestion; it's a circumstance in which I would feel comfortable with the Nats signing Cespedes.

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy - I think I'm with you generally speaking (don't feel like we have to commit at all, although your language was much more colorful than mine).

But I don't think the Werth comp is a good match. We signed Werth at 32 (compared to 29) and for years 3 & 4 of that deal (age 34 & 35) he was putting up 4.5+ rWAR. Werth also never struck me as the "freak athlete" type so I don't put him far ahead of Cespedes in that category. I'm not sure its fair to say we'll be stuck with Werth in 2015- for the last couple years of this Cespedes contract.

John C. said...

As always, it's the price. And the subsequent moves. Between Cespedes and Upton I'd rather have had Upton, but Mike Ilitch stomped on that idea. For Cespedes, the fact of the matter is that he is 30yo and is coming off what was, for him, a career year. The team that signs him is more likely to get the guy who put up a 102 wRC+ in 2013 and a 109 wRC+ in 2014 than the guy who put up a 135 wRC+ in 2015. There's a pretty good chance that Werth outhits Cespedes this season, even allowing for the aging curves (Steamer projects Werth at 112 wRC+, Cespedes at 111 wRC+). Cespedes is a better defender and baserunner (although Werth is a surprisingly good baserunner), sure - but does that justify adding $20+M payroll per year for the next [x] number of years? Even if you have the $20+M of payroll to spend, there might well be other moves that would make more of an impact.

SM said...

@DezoPenguin

Since you dredged this up . . .

Vernon Wells's basic (BA, OBP, SLG) career line: .270/.319/.459

Yoenis Cespedes's career line: .271/.319/.486

Some team will sign Cespedes for the same reason the Angels acquired Wells: The owner ordered the GM to do so.

JE34 said...

...and it only took two hours to be victimized by an utterly useless MLB At Bat app alert.

"Breaking news: I have nothing to tell you about the interest in Cespedes that you don't already know."

Jay said...

I have to disagree. Sure Cespedes isn't one of the best OF in the game, but he is as good as Upton. He helped carry (and at times did so single handedly) the Mets to the World Series. Cespedes has never played in a OF of Harper and Werth (when Werth is healthy and hitting). Harper had one of the best offensive years in history with no one hitting in front of or behind him. Now he'll likely have Murphy and Cespedes hitting around him. Plus the alternative is Ben Revere or MAT. I don't see how this isn't a no brainer. We have all complained on this board for years about the Nats apparent lack of hitting.

Now they are likely to trade MAT for something of value - something Rizzo is great at doing - and we have really improved our line up. Imagine if they turn MAT and someone else into Andrew Miller or Lucroy. Again, signing Cespedes frees up other moves. I vote go for it. Cespedes was well liked in Oakland, Detroit, and New York. He was moved from those teams because they traded on his talent (or in the Mets case wouldn't spend the money) to improve their team. The guy has never been or ever will be Vernon Wells despite the stats.

On a side note - I think McCutcheon is slightly better in CF bc of his superior defense compared to Harper. I'd still take Harper over anyone - not named Mike Trout - but McCutcheon is pretty special in CF.

Jay said...

JE34. I just follow twitter. I usually find stuff out long before it is posted on ESPN or the MLB app.

Anonymous said...

John C: what are the other moves you would make with $20 million? At the beginning of free agency, I would have done other things with the $20 million (Alex Gordon!!), now there are precious few options left. I think Cespedes is worth $20 million and improves the team, so I have a hard time arguing against the move.

I get that comparing Werth to Cespedes is relevant for contract valuation purposes, but it is unlikely that's especially relevant to the Nats. Werth isn't going to get traded, so we're comparing Cespedes's projected 111 wRC+ against Revere's 93 and Taylor's 82. Cespedes is a significant upgrade over either with the bat. Both Taylor and Revere (especially Revere) bring baserunning value to the table that Cespedes does not, and Taylor has defensive value that cannot be replicated by Cespedes (or Harper) in CF. But still, it's undeniable that Cespedes is a fairly significant improvement over Michael A. Revere.

Moreover, Cespedes likely makes Revere the 4th OF (the role he's best suited for), and makes MAT trade bait. MAT's youth, price, and tools make him very attractive to a rebuilding team that wouldn't be relying on him to produce in 2016 the way the Nats would be. He could be the centerpiece of a deal for a catcher or an SP.

David said...

Rumors are they are talking 5 for 100 million. I would hate a 5 year deal for him. No 9 figure deal for a player over the age of 30 ever works out, like ever.

Donald said...

Any chance this is a defensive maneuver to keep Cespedes from going back to the Mets? If they are subtracting him from their line-up, it increases his value to them. I'm just not sure how serious the Mets could be in this given their monetary limitations.

John C. said...

I'm not a big fan of signing Cepedes - I've been agnostic on getting a big stick outfielder, and I've always maintained that if they did go out and get one, I'd rather have had Justin Upton. That said, if the Nationals were to get Cespedes for 5 years/$100M with significant deferrals that's a helluva deal in today's baseball.

Fangraphs crowdsourced Cespedes as worth about 6 years/$130M, and fan crowdsourcing has historically come in below a player’s final market. Dave Cameron estimated that Cespedes would get 7 years/$150M. If Cespedes is regarded as a 4 WAR player with a normal decline curve, FG estimated that he would be worth over $150M.

If the Nats sign Cespedes (I still have trouble thinking that someone else won't step in an beat the Nats’ offer), then it really would seem to me to be a replay of the Daniel Murphy deal, and not just because they both are coming from the Mets. It seems to me that it would be another example of Rizzo seeing the drift of the market make a "bargain" possible.

But if they do sign Cespedes, Harper needs to be in CF. Cespedes is terrible in CF but is just this side of awesome in LF (in a very large sample size, too). Figuring out LF/RF between Cespedes and Werth depends on how you feel about players track record and comfort factor (Cespedes LF; Werth RF) vs. tools (Cespedes's arm would make him a much better seeming fit for RF).

DezoPenguin said...

This morning's news reports have the Mets coming back at Cespedes with a 3-year offer with a 1-year opt-out. Which, if he takes it, would make him the third different guy (Heyward, Zobrist) to take less money to not play for us this offseason.

Flapjack said...

C (I'm going to have a hard time saying his name for a while) would be a big improvement over Revere.

Some of the folks here seem concerned about the implications of his salary. Really? Let me put this in perspective. With a net worth of $5 billion, Ted Lerner has to spend a million dollars a day to keep his wealth from rising. Assuming an unlikely scenario where there are zero box-office returns from jacking up the team wRC, he could write 35% off. In the worst case, only 4% of TL's daily allowance over the next four years gets eaten up by the C contract. (And what about the Luxury Tax, you say? Well, for one thing, the current CBA ends this year.)

Then there is the intangible. Some folks fret that C ain't a clubhouse guy. But I think we learned last year that losing is toxic to the clubhouse. More to the point, losing in the playoffs, because certain players wilt under pressure, is hard on morale for all concerned. By acquiring Murphy and showing certain others the door, Rizzo has shown us that he is looking for players who lead by example when it counts. The best way to hang on to baseball's best example of the latter is to surround him more players of the same ilk.

For this and other reasons, I think Rizzo has always had his eye on C. He just hasn't shown his hand to the likes of us.

John C. said...

Dezo, Heyward got a more valuable deal from the Cubs than the Nats were reported to be offering. The higher AAV and two opt outs more than offset the total dollar figure, which for the Nats was reported at 10 years/$200M. Zobrist is the only player that I've heard of that took a lesser deal to sign elsewhere - and he also rejected better bids from the Giants and (reportedly) the Mets. So there's that.

FWIW (not much), I think that this turns out to be much like the O'Day and Heyward situations where the player uses an offer from the Nats to leverage a better deal. Rizzo has clearly shown that he has no problem walking away from a negotiation when he feels that the cost has exceeded the value.

Froggy said...

@John C.- my thoughts are similar. My Spidey senses have felt that Cedpedezzz has been using negotiations with the Nats as leverage with the Mets from the get go. 5 years at $100MM+ and you don't take it? C'mon man...