Yoenis Cespedes is supposed to provide the Red Sox lineup with some much-needed power, but with just a year remaining on his contract, the Cuban outfielder could also be used as a trade chip this offseason.
When the Red Sox acquired Yoenis Cespedes prior to July’s trade deadline, the 28-year-old slugger was billed as an antidote to the club’s power woes on offense. With Cespedes’ proven bat and a winter of spending ahead, Boston’s brass felt the team could bounce back next season after a last-place finish in 2014.
That doesn’t necessarily preclude Boston from dealing the Cuban outfielder this offseason, however, a potential scenario that has gained some traction in recent days. The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman wrote on Sunday about how the club’s offseason might just hinge on what Cespedes could yield on the trade market.
In one sense, the idea of trading Cespedes has some merit. He has only a year left on his contract, and although the Red Sox certainly have the money to lock Cespedes up long-term, the team does have plenty of outfield depth from which to deal from.
Cespedes’ poor on-base ability might hold an even greater influence over what Boston ultimately decides to do this winter. Sure, his power is an asset in a league increasingly devoid of elite sluggers, but Cespedes’ approach at the plate doesn’t exactly fit with what has made the Red Sox so successful offensively for much of the past decade. After arriving in Boston this summer, for instance, Cespedes walked just seven times in 213 plate appearances, and his .298 on-base percentage since the start of 2013 ranks as the 10th-lowest in baseball.
But, as Silverman notes, trading Cespedes for a starting pitcher doesn’t make much sense either. After all, the Red Sox just acquired the outfielder by dealing away an ace in Jon Lester, and the team looks more likely to spend money to add pitching depth considering the likes of Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields will be free agents (not to mention another intriguing Japanese import in Kenta Maeda).
Unless the White Sox are suddenly willing to discuss the possibility of trading Chris Sale, Cespedes likely won’t be dealt for pitching.
So just who might tempt the Red Sox into trading Cespedes?
Giancarlo Stanton represents the most likely target, and while the thought of him playing home games at Fenway Park might just seem wishful thinking on the part of Red Sox fans, he won’t be signing a long-term contract to stay in Miami. This reality means Stanton’s trade value will drop the longer he remains a Marlin, and the team would be smart to cash in on their star slugger sooner rather than later.
And to be clear, Stanton would be a legitimate upgrade even though he and Cespedes can both be described as power hitters. The 24-year-old finished 2014 with the fourth-highest slugging percentage in baseball and looked to be headed for an NL MVP award before a gruesome HBP ended his season in early September.
Furthermore, Cespedes would be a cheaper long-term option for a Marlins team that suddenly has a solid young core, and the Red Sox certainly have enough upper minors prospects to add in to help sweeten the deal. While other clubs will be bidding for Stanton’s services, few could offer the type of major-league bat the Red Sox can in Cespedes along with an attractive group of near-ready prospects from which to choose. (Names like Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Brian Johnson, Matt Barnes and Manuel Margot spring to mind.)
All of this remains hypothetical, of course. Until the winter months, at least, the Marlins will continue to insist Stanton is unavailable, and the Red Sox will maintain that their crowded outfield is not a problem.
Even so, the signing of Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts’ arrival have changed Boston’s outlook considerably since early August. While the Red Sox lineup will still need further pop to improve on the offense’s 2014 performance, Cespedes is far more expendable than he initially appeared. If his value can be leveraged to acquire a major piece—a big if, to be fair–don’t be surprised to see Ben Cherington pull the trigger on a deal.
Although Cespedes is supposed to help lead Boston’s offense back to prominence in 2015, he might provide greater value to the Red Sox via trade. Where Cespedes ultimately plays his baseball next season, be it in Boston or elsewhere, is perhaps the biggest question facing the Red Sox this winter, and one that will impact how they approach the rest of their offseason.