As the offseason rolls along and Yoenis Cespedes’ suitors dwindle, the Detroit Tigers have once again been linked to the team’s former left fielder.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that Detroit is “at least giving some consideration” to the slugger.
While Detroit fans are very familiar with the outfielder after his half-season stint in Motown, here’s what a potential Cespedes signing would actually mean for the Tigers.
Due to injuries to some of Detroit’s best hitters in 2015, Cespedes hit in a number of places in the lineup. However, when the batting order was predominantly healthy, the 30-year-old either hit second behind Ian Kinsler and ahead of Miguel Cabrera, or sixth behind either Victor Martinez or J.D. Martinez.
Should Cespedes return, he would likely hit in one of those two spots in the order. Hitting second seems like the most likely outcome.
A Kinsler/Cespedes pairing in front of the heart of the order is much more imposing and productive than say Anthony Gose and Kinsler, or even Cameron Maybin and Kinsler. The continued improvement of Nick Castellanos and James McCann will also lengthen the Tigers’ lineup, lessening the need for Cespedes to hit sixth.
The former Oakland Athletics player would likely hit third, fourth or fifth on most teams, giving the Tigers a particularly standout lineup.
The most obvious statement is that Yoenis Cespedes would play left field for the Tigers.
In only 99 games in the field for Detroit, the outfielder graded out extremely positively in nearly every defensive metric. He was such a standout that managers and coaches gave him a Gold Glove last season—in the American League.
With Cespedes and J.D. Martinez in the two outfielders, Detroit would once again
have two above-average defenders in the outfield. While neither Anthony Gose nor Cameron Maybin graded out particular well in terms of fielding metrics, both can cover a significant amount of ground in center. Additionally, both have a history of producing solid defensive seasons in the past.
Bottom line, Cespedes would give the Tigers a borderline-elite outfield in terms of defense.
This is the tricky part. Cespedes will be (and rightfully so) looking for a large contract. That happens when you’re a Gold Glove-winning outfielder who just hit .291 with 35 home runs, 105 RBI and posted a 6.3 WAR.
However, the Tigers may not want to hand out another large contract.
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The reality of the situation is that Justin Verlander, Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez are on substantially significant deals. New additions Cameron Maybin, Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe weren’t exactly cheap either. This is all without mentioning that Detroit probably needs to give J.D. Martinez a hefty contract at some point as well.
Want to add an aging Cespedes to that mix on a long-term contract? Monetarily, the answer is probably no.
However, if the team could sign him to a shorter contract, it would benefit the Tigers. Detroit can get out of Maybin’s contract next season, while Pelfrey and potentially Sanchez and Kinsler come off the books following 2017.
Still, the fact that the team considered signing Chris Davis shows the Tigers’ willingness to win. We’ve seen owner Mike Ilitch make moves that aren’t exactly cost-cutting in the past (see Fielder, Prince). Could Cespedes be another?
World Series Contenders Again
If the rotation and bullpen perform well, the Detroit Tigers have the look of a playoff contender. However, the signing of Cespedes would push the team towards World Series contender status due to everything the outfielder would bring to the club on both sides of the ball.