The Cardinals Should Pursue Cespedes
The 2016 free agent market was loaded with big names like David Price, Zack Grienke, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Chris Davis. The talent heavy market allowed a few players to cash in. David Price, who signed for 7 years and $217 million, was one of those players. On the other hand, there were some less proven players, though very promising, led by Yoenis Cespedes, who did not benefit as greatly from the rich pool of free agents. This is because teams generally want to know what a player is before they hand out $200 million contracts. And when there are guys on the market like Heyward and Upton, who have been around for a while, teams are more likely to give big money to them than give to a player like Cespedes, who still had some question marks at the time, even coming off a 35 home run, gold glove effort in 2015.
The Mets, liking what they saw the year before, scooped up Cespedes for 3 years and $75 million. There was an offer for 5 years and $100 million from the Nationals, but Cespedes was not interested due to money that would be deferred, bringing down his average salary. The Cardinals, who paid $80 million over 5 years for Mike Leake, of all people, and offered two players $200 million, showed they had the financial ability to go get a guy like Cespedes. He likely would have taken $100 million over 5 years had it not been for the deferred money, and that is a contract the Cardinals could have swung rather painlessly, for the 30-year-old All-Star outfielder.
Unfortunately, the St. Louis front office showed no such interest. Which was somewhat confusing and frustrating, after Cespedes had a slash of .291/.328/.542, 35 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2015, and exhibited great defensive capabilities, winning his first Gold Glove award. On top of those numbers, he is a proven playoff hitter. Though he struggled after the first round last year, he has a post-season slash line of .277/.303/.426, 3 home runs, and 14 RBI in 24 games.
There is still hope of signing the slugger after this season though, as he is predicted to opt out of his contract with the Mets after this season. The price tag for Cespedes in 2017 will be much higher than the $75 million he was offered last off season, coming off another 30 home run season in 2016. But, with Randal Grichuk having a less than impressive season, Brandon Moss being likely to be offered more than he is truly worth, and a declining Matt Holliday’s $17 million club option, Cespedes looks to be worth the money.
At 30, Cespedes would still provide security in the outfield for up to five years. He could also fill a major hole in the middle of the lineup, where the Cardinals lack the combination of power and average that he could provide. His WAR sits at 3.2 for 2016, which would rank first on this year’s Cardinal roster, ahead of their current best outfielder in that respect, Stephen Piscotty, who’s war is 2.7.
The St. Louis Cardinals would be foolish not to at least extend a respectable offer to the young outfielder if he does choose to become a free agent in 2017. He is just too valuable, and fits their needs too well not to show some interest in him this offseason.