Yoennis Cespedes Declared a Free Agent and Chicago Cubs Will Be Suitors

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Yoennis Cespedes Declared a Free Agent and Chicago Cubs Will Be Suitors

 

The kid said it himself: "Of all the teams who have come, the Chicago Cubs have been most interested." And now that MLB has granted his free-agency rights, expect the Cubs to go hard after the Cuban outfielder.  

Many expect Yoenis Cespedes to sign a deal eclipsing the $30.25 million Aroldis Chapman received from the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.

In fact, some even speculate Cespedes' potential contract could more than double this amount if the bidding gets hot.

In addition to the Cubs, the Yankees, Phillies, Rangers, Blue Jays, White Sox, Marlins, Orioles, Tigers and Indians have apparently shown interest in Cespedes.

 

Meanwhile, a Cespedes signing would fit in well with what Theo Epstein has been talking about in how he wants to build the ballclub. Young, controllable players who play the game the right way.

So just what kind of player is Cespedes? I don't claim to have personally seen him, but I know that he hit .333 with 33 homers and 99 RBI for the Cuban national team in the 2010-11 season.

The Marlins watched him in a private workout and came away very impressed. And, with all the Cubans already in Miami, the Marlins would seem a logical destination for Cespedes.

 

However, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports recently tweeted that Cespedes doesn't want to play in Miami.

Cespedes, a right-handed hitter, has been hyped as a five-tool player. He might just be the big catch that Epstein and the Cubs have been saving their money for this winter.

Cespedes was 5-for-35 (.143) with a home run, no walks and 10 strikeouts in a brief winter-ball stint in the Dominican Republic, but that's such a small sample size that it hardly matters.

The center fielder could fit right into the Cubs' Opening Day lineup by moving current incumbent center fielder Marlon Byrd, who should be relatively easy to trade.

FanGraphs recently did a piece on Cespedes and came away with the conclusion that he plays solid defense and can run. They estimate that he could be worth "maybe somewhere between 2.5 to 3.5 WAR."

 

The Cubs are far from establishing the kind of sustained competitiveness that Epstein has talked about. So, with Byrd being 34 years old and in the last year of his contract, it makes sense that they would prefer Cespedes.

Epstein has talked about "building assets" that can lead to "sustainable success," and Cespedes would seem like a logical candidate for the Cubs to start to build their team around, along with guys like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. 

 

So where would that leave Brett Jackson, the Cubs' top prospect? Maybe the Cubs anticipate shifting one of them to a corner outfield spot, assuming they can dump Alfonso Soriano on somebody.

But even if they don't have a spot for Jackson, is it really a reason to pass on a player like Cespedes? According to Keith Law, Jackson projects "as an average big leaguer at this point, solid across the board but lacking a plus tool." 

Jackson's ceiling is lower than Cespedes, even if the Cuban outfielder is older and hasn't played American baseball yet.  

Cespedes makes sense for the Cubs. Now, start the bidding!

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