Phillies Linked With Yoenis Cespedes

If you were on the Internet yesterday, you probably heard about Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. The highly-touted outfielder has drawn the interest from at least one-third of the teams in Major League Baseball, including the Phillies, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. If you watch the YouTube video below, it’s hard not to get a little psyched about the guy’s potential. Even more so if you read Kevin Goldstein’s narration of the video at Baseball Prospectus.

If you’re wondering how international signings work, Dingers Blog posted a primer here. The last four paragraphs deal with Cubans. It’s not particularly complicated, but interesting nonetheless.

Bill’s Take: Given the holes on multiple fronts that the Phillies need to fill with a limited budget, I wouldn’t expect to see the Phillies in hot pursuit of Cespedes, but you never know. The Phillies don’t have any center fielders nearing a call-up and Shane Victorino becomes a free agent after the 2012 season, so Cespedes could cover the Phillies for the next five years or so. However, it is more likely that the Phillies will work out an extension with Victorino during the season or trade him by the July 31 deadline in order to fill that hole.

The Phillies are suspected to have between $30 and 40 million left to round out the roster. Furthermore, they have been more heavily linked with relievers Ryan Madson and Jonathan Papelbon. Assuming that one of the two is signed for something near $10 million annually, the Phillies still have to sign Cole Hamels to an extension, find a shortstop, address left field and first base somewhat, and round out the bench and bullpen with $20-30 million. Given the widespread interest in Cespedes, I can’t see the Phillies competing in and winning a bidding war for his services unless Ruben Amaro plans to dumpster-dive to fill out the 2012 roster.

Paul’s Take: To be frank, I don’t know much. Like all of you, I had never even heard of this gentleman until about a week ago, when that hysterical promotional video made its way around the web.

Like Bill, though, I see financial constraints as a hindrance here. If this guy wants Aroldis Chapman money, I don’t know how that fits into the payroll with other needs more pressing. I can see how the allure of a player like Cespedes – a supposedly solid defensive center fielder with nice offensive upside – would draw big-time interest, but with so many teams supposedly interested at this point, it seems tough to put the Phils near the front of the pack.

Ryan’s Take: The Cuban free agents have a way of exploding onto the market with a comet’s tail of hype and folk legends for obvious reasons. Not only is there an added element of mystery about the player’s true ability, but I would bet there is also an intelligence cold war being waged between teams, just under the surface; none can be sure how much data any other has gathered on the player, which is important as the market for him takes shape. To those of us with only the video to go on, there are a few things that are obvious. For one, he has physical tools for days — he can jump very high, run very fast, and do a variety of squats and lifts with assorted giant weights, grand pianos, old-timey anvils, human beings, etc. attached (I’m even leaving out “explosive ability” and “core power” which, per the video, entail jumping up and down a lot of times consecutively, and thrusting your crotch into an unfortunate spotter’s face, respectively). For another, he appears to have a tremendous amount of power, and a swing that looks mechanically sound and conducive to sustaining that power. Of course, power is only useful if you can put the ball in play, and it remains to be seen how well he can do that against the caliber of pitching that exists in the MLB, replete with secondary pitches that are likely better than anything he’s seen in a league that Keith Law characterizes as “equivalent to low Class A or worse.” We’re also unable to make any inferences about his plate discipline, which itself involves a giant competitive leap for a Cuban player coming to the majors.

The Phillies aren’t known for making big IFA splashes, but, now that they’ve established a new spending power, it might be time to take full advantage of what that market has to offer. Last season’s Hunter Pence trade put the Phils’ system in an unfortunate state, and it would be nice, with the departure of Jon Singleton, to add a bat with Cespedes’ potential to it. But other big market teams are reportedly quite high on him, which will drive up his price. He’s also “26,” so he’s not really a “prospect” per se, and if it turns out that he’s major league ready in the near future, the Phillies don’t necessarily have a spot for him (granted, they could always keep Domonic Brown roasting in the organizational bronze bull for no reason at all). At the right cost, Cespedes is definitely a worthy pursuit, but the Phillies should invest generously in Cole Hamels and a starting shortstop first.

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24 comments

  1. Nick

    November 08, 2011 12:01 PM

    Why does this organization hate Dom Brown so much? If we’re not going to use him on the field, at least use him as a trade chip while he still has some value.

  2. Phillie697

    November 08, 2011 12:41 PM

    And to think, LTG made a joke about him yesterday…

    What I don’t get is, why is it someone like Melky Cabrera can get six full seasons in the majors with results only his mother would be proud of, but Dom can’t get the Phillies to let him play just one full season to see what he can do. People keep saying, “well, WS caliber teams don’t play unproven players,” until they realize, oh wait, Melky Cabrera played for the Yankees, who are ALWAYS WS caliber. In other words, Brian Cashman > RAJ.

  3. Ryan Sommers

    November 08, 2011 01:54 PM

    Yeah, and “unproven” is such a misleading word anyway. You always have some information about a player’s abilities, and a certain level of uncertainty about how well they will manifest themselves and progress. If you use “unproven” as a blanket term for all these varying amounts of information, then every player arriving at the big league level for the first time is “unproven.” The only way to increase your certainty is to play them. Otherwise, you might as well just sign expensive free agents exclusively.

    If there is one thing we know with certainty about Brown it’s that he can mash minor league pitching. We’re not going to ever find out if he can sustain that at the next level without giving him a complete and fair chance to demonstrate it.

  4. Phillie697

    November 08, 2011 02:36 PM

    @Ryan,

    Moral of the story? Tis better to play in a communist country and have an 18-minute promotional video on YouTube than to treat AAA pitchers like it’s batting practice. The former you make $30 mil; the latter you get stone-walled by RAJ.

  5. kmac96

    November 08, 2011 03:04 PM

    If I were the Phillies I would try to bring in a big name closer like Paplbon and try to resign JRoll. Also they should bring in this guy Cespedes. I know he is unproven but 5 mil a year is nothing in baseball. Then our lineup would be stacked in my opinion if this guy works out. We could slide Victoino to Left and if he doesnt work out we have Brown looming.

  6. Phillie697

    November 08, 2011 03:34 PM

    Bill, you’re right. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out when people are trolling or when they are serious.

  7. Ryan Sommers

    November 08, 2011 04:26 PM

    Wait, does Cespedes really project as an MLB CF? I seriously doubt that

  8. Matt Sylvester

    November 08, 2011 04:34 PM

    kmac96 – I hope you’re not serious. Papelbon is incredibly overrated and would cost the same as Madson who is significantly better. Also, I know this wasn’t mentioned but what are everyone’s thoughts on cuddyer? I feel like the money he’s projected for is about the same as J-Roll, which if thats the case I think it’s a no-brainer to retain Rollins. He plays the most important infield position especially when you consider there are no alternatives outside of Jose Reyes. I like Cuddyer, but I have Madson and shortstop ahead of him on the to-do list.

  9. Matt Sylvester

    November 08, 2011 04:36 PM

    And according to that video Cespedes is like 32 or 33. Why would you put multi-millions into an unknown player past his prime on an aging team? Sounds foolish to me

  10. Richard

    November 08, 2011 04:43 PM

    “Papelbon is incredibly overrated and would cost the same as Madson who is significantly better.”

    This is assuredly based on something.

  11. JC

    November 08, 2011 04:47 PM

    I can almost hear it now on the radio..

    “Hey ya uh first time long time. The Phillies need this guy Yoneys Suspends. They need the RBIs and to trade that pop up dummy Victronio.”

  12. Bill Baer

    November 08, 2011 05:05 PM

    There’s almost no difference between Madson and Papelbon. In fact, one could argue that Papelbon is slightly better. Personally, I’d prefer Madson but you really can’t go wrong either way.

    EDIT: Here’s a comparison between the two, 2007-11. Favors Papelbon more than I thought: bit.ly/uq3a30

  13. Matt Sylvester

    November 08, 2011 06:58 PM

    Papelbon has the same fate as Broxton in my opinion. How can you trust a closer who blows a game to the Orioles with your playoff hopes on the line? I would have no faith in him, although I admit I haven’t looked at the statistics.

  14. Mcboo

    November 08, 2011 07:52 PM

    I’m a little surprised that Papelbon is getting as much positive reaction as an option. I’m personally not a fan and even though our BP has been a source of concern for some time I just don’t trust him to be the answer to the situation. One could argue that the Boston “pitching culture” has been in decline and that affected him in some way but I’d be skeptical of that too.

    Lidge delivered over the years but every outing was a heart attack. My heart and I would really appreciate a reprieve from that. The only difference having Papelbon on the mound would probably be that it would add another 25+ minutes to any game with his 3 minutes per pitch delivery. He’s simply a heart attack in slow motion!

  15. LTG

    November 08, 2011 11:02 PM

    RAJ working on 4/44 for Madson… the conservative half of me is ecstatic with this; the radical half of me thinks this is the end of the world.

  16. hk

    November 09, 2011 06:50 AM

    $44M for 4 years is about what I expected if RAJ re-signed Madson. $27M per year for 3 years seems like the ballpark…so with RAJ’s free agency math, you add 1 year and ~20% to the AAV and you get the actual contract.

  17. Phillie697

    November 09, 2011 10:11 AM

    @hk,

    Not to mention a 30-something player. RAJ loves 30-something players. This is why Dom needs another year in AAA, because he’s not 30 yet.

    @Phylan,

    Truth hurts sometimes. I apologize.

  18. Dan K.

    November 09, 2011 07:01 PM

    Can’t tell if Matt is trolling. If not, Madson has blown at least one save against the following teams:

    Baltimore, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Florida, Houston, Milwaukee, Mets, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington.

    Note the first team on the list. Blown saves =/= a bad pitcher. No matter what team they’re against.

  19. hk

    November 10, 2011 06:28 AM

    @ Phillie697,

    True. I’m already prepared for RAJ to give Jimmy 4 years at $14M with a 5th year vesting or team option.

  20. LTG

    November 10, 2011 08:41 AM

    hk,

    Out of deference to what Rollins has meant to the team, that 5th year will be a player option…

  21. Mandy

    November 15, 2011 12:29 PM

    Papelbon is slightly better.

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