Well, that escalated quickly.
News has come in this morning that the Boston Red Sox have traded starting pitcher Jon Lester & outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 competitive balance pick, blowing any notion of a return laden with prospects out of the water.
For Oakland, this makes them the runaway favorites to win the World Series. The A’s had already dominated the rest of the league in run differential, so shedding some offense here is just them dealing from depth. Oakland is still quite capable of putting up gaudy offense stats.
But this isn’t about Billy Beane trying to make sure he finally wins that final game of the season. It’s about the new Red Sox left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes.
The Red Sox finally got that young power hitter they’ve been seeking, and on top of that, they didn’t have to deal any of their beloved prospects. With a nod to Adam Jones, great players can exist without the advent of on-base skills, provided that they have prodigious power to back it up. Cespedes definitely qualifies to be one of those players. Over three seasons of 400+ PA, the Cuban outfielder has smashed 150 XBH – 66 HR – and posted an ISO above .200 each year.
Even though Cespedes’ six games played in Fenway have been unremarkable, don’t use that as a basis because 1. that’s a small sample size, 2. he was only facing one team at the time, and 3. you don’t want to look stupid. Instead, let’s use this spray chart, which shows where every single ball Cespedes has put in play has gone:
So, as you can see, Cespedes is a pretty powerful pull hitter. Sure, there’s some dots deep to right, but he’s gonna want to pull it to left field whenever he can. However, he’s no slouch to center field either. Cespedes has a .448 wOBA (!!!) on batted balls to left and a .433 mark (!!) on batted balls to center. He’s utilizing his considerable power well.
The thing is, Fenway doesn’t boost home runs – in fact, it somewhat suppresses them. It gives players more doubles instead, and you can thank the strangest wall setup in the majors for that. But Cespedes might be one of the few to buck this trend. He doesn’t hit a ton of liners – only at a 17.9% pace over his MLB career – but what he does do is swat massive fly balls. Since entering the league, Cespedes has hit fly balls 45% of the time. Of those fly balls, 13.3% of them have left the park. Since 2010, the only Red Sox outfielder to hit fly balls over 40% of the time and turn more of them into homers at a rate surpassing Cespedes was Cody Ross in 2012 – and he couldn’t replicate that feat in Arizona. With all those fly balls, Cespedes has a chance to negate the home run dampening effect at Fenway, since all those fly balls won’t be screaming liners at the Green Monster. They’ll be moon shots over it. I can’t say this enough – the power is legit.
So that’s his hitting. His defense?
Yeah. He’s gonna give Jackie Bradley Jr. a run for his money with that arm.
Since 2012, Cespedes has been worth 15 Defensive Runs Saved. His range might not be great, but the arm more than makes up for it. It’s a shame he’ll be stuck in Fenway’s left field, but moving to right field – especially considering Shane Victorino‘s injury history and the logjam of Red Sox outfielders – wouldn’t be out of the question.
There’s no question Cespedes is a great player. However, the issue with the Red Sox is that you now have a year to extend or trade him. Cespedes’ contract stipulates that he must be non-tendered after 2015. That means no qualifying offer, and the Red Sox cannot gain a pick from it. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system estimates that a 4-year, $80 million extension would be a solid offer.
Make no mistake, the Red Sox traded a great pitcher, but got a great outfielder in return. They’re signaling a return to relevance in 2015. Depending on what happens this winter, the championship window for Red Sox may open up again real soon.