The Tigers May Not Be Done Now That Yoenis Cespedes Is A Free Agent

Lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s news about Prince Fielder (hey, did you hear, 9 years, $214 Mill and he is now a DETROIT TIGER) is that the Cuban Missile*, Yoenis Cespedes is now officially a citizen of the Dominican Republic and is thus a Free Agent according to Major League Baseball.  The list of suitors for Cespedes is rumored to be the Chicago Cubs, the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals. the Chicago White Sox (wait, I thought they were rebuilding) and the…Detroit Tigers?!?!

While many national writers have crossed the Tigers off the list, Danny Knobler (for Tigers beat writer, now at CBSSports) disagrees with that premise.  Dave Dombrowksi was actually asked about him (Cespedes, not Knobler) specifically at the Prince Fielder press conference today and gave his patented non-answer answer.  The specific quote, thanks to Jason Beck:

 Dombrowski on whether #Tigers are out of Cespedes running: “I don’t want to say on that. Most likely, but you never can tell.”
So, in reality, the Tigers may be out of it, or they might be the front-runners.  We truly won’t know until Cespedes signs with someone (and even then, I would not be at all surprised to see the team backdrop to be pulled away to reveal the Tigers logo and have Leyland, Dombrowski and Ilitch jump out from behind the curtain…nothing will surprise me from now on when it comes to this team).

Make no mistake, Yoenis Cespedes still makes a ton of sense for this team.  Perhaps even MORE sense now that Miguel Cabrera is being shifted to 3B.  With the assumed decline in infield defense an improvement to the outfield defense would be welcomed by all (and judging by Twitter, the national writers and some of the comments here – I literally mean ALL).  With Austin Jackson patrolling Center Field and Cespedes in the other Center Field (or Left Field if you want to get technical…Lynn Henning joke, HAHA) the Tigers pitchers could rest easier knowing fly balls will not be the adventure they would be if Delmon Young was out in Left.

In addition to the defensive prowess that Cespedes could add to the Tigers, he also brings the dimension of speed, something the Tigers are lacking.  While Jim Leyland will never been one to encourage stolen bases with the Tigers, that is not the only way to gauge team speed.  The Tigers still need someone to go from 1st to 3rd on singles, or score from 1st on a double in the gap.  Cespedes would only add to the run scoring prowess the lineup already contains.  I am not going to project any sort of numbers except to say that if he put up similar splits as Delmon Young last season he would be immensely more valuable to the club thanks to his defense and speed.

There will be a lot of people that will immediately dismiss the idea of Cespedes signing with Detroit.  With Danny Knobler reporting that he (Cespedes once again, not Knobler) may not want to sign with the Marlins, it makes their promise to break the bank for him to be irrelevant. Then the Tigers are left to compete with the Nationals and Cubs, two teams that they could reasonably match offers with. If the money is the same, wouldn’t you think that a man who is leaving his country and family to play baseball (and make millions of dollars) would want to go to a team that was a contender rather than a team that is rebuilding or a few years away from truly contending.  Granted, all of this is predicated on the Tigers feeling a need to sign him…but if I was building a team to contend for the next few years, I think an investment in a super athletic outfielder may not be a bad idea.  Right now, Yoenis Cespedes is the only available player on the market that could truly improve the team and the Tigers brass and ownership are clearly committed to doing just.

* If he doesn’t have that nickname already he really should – it works on so many levels

Topics: Austin Jackson, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Danny Knobler, Dave Dombrowski, Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers, Jason Beck, Jim Leyland, Lynn Henning, Miami Marlins, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Ilitch, Prince Fielder, Washington Nationals, Yoenis Cespedes

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  • timoteus

    Well, that would indeed be very, very nice; but I just don’t see how they could afford to do it. You’re looking at maybe up to 50 million, for a guy that probably shouldn’t even start the season with the big league club. Don’t get me wrong: I would LOVE to get this guy. In fact, I would probably have preferred to get this dude, and not gone after Prince. (I know, I know: sacrilege!). We need speed and people getting on base up top in the order. I mean, I have no idea how this all going to shake out, but it would suck if we just mortgaged our future for some sort of knee-jerk reaction to V-Mart going down for ONE YEAR. I don’t know – I just seriously do not know ….

    • Sam Genson

      @timoteus Once again, we need to stop thinking about the Tigers as operating under some sort of traditional salary structure. While Mr. I will not throw his money away, he has shown with the Prince deal and others in the past that when his money could really make a difference, he will spend it.

      Furthermore, it has been said that Tigers could be getting a new TV contract soon, one that coudl pay up to $15 Mill more than they currently get. Add that to increased ticket sales, more merchanidising, probably playoff revenue…and the red ink suddenly gets less and less.

      Also, think in terms of beyond 2012 – if it cost just 2 more Mill per year over what you are paying for Delmon…it doesn’t seem as bad now, does it.

      I am not saying the Tigers will go out and buy whomever they want, but if Cespedes is close to what he is projected as, he could be a difference maker, and the Tigers can pay for difference makers

      • bboliger

        @Sam Genson @timoteus

        I’ll be shocked if he ends up in Detroit. Everything I’ve read has said that Fla and Chi are the frontrunners. The Cubs have lots of money available to offer him. Theo wasn’t interest in 9 year deals to get Pujols and Fielder. He is very interested in Cespedes which is why the Cubs have talked to him more than any other team. Theo needs to make at least one big signing this offseason to get the fans to show up this season.

    • ChrisHannum

      @timoteus Just because Cespedes is fast, doesn’t mean he’s a top of the order hitter. He’s a right-handed power threat like Delmon Young, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge. No guarantees that he’s a better power threat than those three either.

      • garretkc

        @ChrisHannum @timoteus I was going to say the same thing. He makes the most sense to me hitting where we’re currently projecting Delmon Young; fifth. He’s not going to hit for average or walk. He’ll also be doing a lot of striking out. Still, he’s easily an upgrade over Young, who is almost sure to be out of town in 2013 along with his salary of $6+ million (which is near what Cespedes will make annually on a long-term deal). I would like a Cespedes signing if the Tigers determine that the money is reasonable. They seem to know this guy pretty well.

        • Sam Genson

          @garretkc @ChrisHannum @timoteus This is essentially my point regarding Young – if we are paying Young 6 Mill this year why not pay 8 Mill to a guy who we think can hit just as well (if not better) and has plus speed & defense

  • Sam Genson

    Simply put: I am not saying this WILL happen, just that it COULD happen

  • ChrisHannum

    To be frank, we don’t actually know that Cespedes could improve the team. He might improve the team. But that’s a might like the Aubrey Huff might. Leyland’s most recent lineup has Dirks and/or Don Kelly in left and that sluggish Delmon Young DHing. Kelly and Dirks both have good gloves, reasonable wheels and hit left-handed. While I’d be surprised if Cespedes (or any other living being) didn’t outhit Kelly, last year Dirks demolished that Dominican pitching that rusty Yoenis couldn’t touch this month.

    • Sam Genson

      @ChrisHannum Well, technically speaking, we never KNOW that anyone could improve the team – some bets are just safer than others. And if the Tigers do NOT get Cespedes then I certainly do hope that Dirks can outperform him.

    • jgorosh

      @ChrisHannum Cmon Chris. You’re better than that. He hadn’t played in more than 6 months. A handful of meaningless AB’s doesn’t say anything one way or the other.

  • MCBjohnverburg

    We can all dance around all we want about the Fielder signing. The bottom line for 2012 is that he presents a little upgrade over V Mart’s 2011. A couple wins at most. With regressions potentially there for Avila and Peralta especially, and Boesch coming off a thumb surgery, I’m not sure our offense is going to get the jolt we expect. 2013 might be an entirely different story with Martinez coming back.

    I don’t think there is any doubt the Tigers win the Central. They have to darn near collapse or suffer an injury to one of the big guys, but this team still has plenty of holes. Fielder’s signing really just put a nice piece of gauze over the potential year long cut of Martinez.

    Sign the guy if you can get him. Clearly Ilitch is more concerned about winning a title right now. What’s another 8-9 mil per year? I’m game. It’s not my money.