It’s the 2015 offseason all over again, after Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the three-year, $75 million deal he signed late last January with the Mets. He’ll draw plenty of interest again as one of the top – if not THE top – bats on the market. Expect him to sign much sooner this time around and don’t expect his deal to include a first-year opt-out. The teams that should pursue him include …
New York Mets
Although he was slightly less productive (13 homers, .884 OPS) and more injury-prone (132 games played) in his first full season with New York, Cespedes still was the team’s most feared hitter in 2016. Meaning that even if the Mets re-sign him, they need to add more offense with injury-prone corner infielders (David Wright, Lucas Duda), a second baseman (Neil Walker) coming off back surgery and an unproven left fielder (Michael Conforto).
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco has to rebuild its bullpen this offseason, but badly needs some pop after finishing 28th in the majors in homers (130) and 20th in OPS (.728). The most logical solution is a power-hitting left fielder, making Cespedes a perfect fit – albeit not at a perfect asking price, especially if the Giants spend big for a free-agent closer.
New York Yankees
Brett Gardner’s name has been mentioned in trade speculation, potentially freeing up left field. However, it remains to be seen whether New York wants make a big investment in Cespedes when it’s also looking to add a big-ticket closer and at least one starting pitcher. Still, the Bombers could use some power, and a 3-4 punch of Gary Sanchez and Cespedes would be quite impressive.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto could lessen the blow of possibly losing Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista by adding Cespedes, who would fill an offensive (power hitter) and defensive need (outfield). It remains to be seen how aggressive the Blue Jays will be, but perhaps they would be willing to spend for a slugger who is younger (31) than Encarnacion (34 in January) and Bautista (36).
Another team that potentially could lose a lot of offense (Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland, Carlos Beltran) this offseason, Texas would offer a hitter-friendly environment for Cespedes. Although center field is more of a priority for the Rangers – Delino DeShields currently sits atop the depth chart — they would have the luxury of using Cespedes as the DH.
With Mark Trumbo exploring the free-agent market and Hyun Soo Kim penciled in as the left fielder, Baltimore has needs at the corner outfield spots. Plus, it could lose Pedro Alvarez’s 22 homers. The Orioles also need rotation help and a catcher, but they could remain the kings of the long ball by adding Cespedes. Of course, that approach ultimately has failed them repeatedly.
Yes, Philadelphia is rebuilding, but Cespedes could help speed up the process. There have been comparisons between these Phillies and the 2011 Nationals, who spent big on Jayson Werth after a 69-win season. Two seasons later, Washington was the NL East champion. But after a 71-win season, it remains to be seen whether Philly is ready to make a similar jump.
Speaking of Washington, it doesn’t appear to have an outfield void but it could do some juggling to create a spot for Cespedes. Bryce Harper could move to center, Trea Turner could move to shortstop and … voila. The Nationals’ window of opportunity might never be greater, but Cespedes seems like more of a luxury than a necessity, especially with the team reportedly eyeing Chris Sale.
St. Louis Cardinals
There’s a Matt Holliday-size void in left field and Randal Grichuk underwhelmed in center after a strong 2015 season. After leading the NL in homers (225), St. Louis could remain power-focused and pursue Cespedes. But it’s worth noting that the Cardinals were among the majors’ worst-fielding teams this past season, and Cespedes’ glove certainly wouldn’t help in that department. Dexter Fowler seems like a far better fit for St. Louis.