Could the Red Sox attempt to trade Yoenis Cespedes during the offseason? After getting him in exchange for Jon Lester, Boston would seemingly prefer to keep him as a right-handed complement to David Ortiz in the middle of its lineup. Cespedes could also provide good range and a strong arm in right field for the Red Sox.
However, according to the Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo, there are rumblings throughout baseball that general manager Ben Cherington could make the 29-year-old outfielder available in trade. Cespedes is set to become a free agent after next season and is hesitant to sign a long-term extension. In addition, the Cuban slugger isn’t enthused about moving to right field (switching places with Allen Craig moving to left), something Boston had envisioned for next season.
With a logjam of outfielders, Cespedes’ reported unwillingness to work with the front office and coaching staff may make him a problem the Red Sox prefer not to deal with. And if that makes him expendable, Cherington will find a huge demand for a right-handed power bat that can play left field — and possibly even center. Here are 10 teams that should open discussions with the Red Sox about a deal for Cespedes, if he does indeed become available.
New York Mets: General manager Sandy Alderson should be on the phone with Cherington as you read this. There may be no other team in greater need of a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder than the Mets. This season, their left fielders hit a combined .219 with a .615 OPS, worst in the NL and 28th among 30 MLB clubs. Cespedes is an obvious upgrade. The Mets also have young pitching to spare, something that the Red Sox need, and could build a package around Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard.
Miami Marlins: The Marlins already have the best right-handed power bat in MLB with Giancarlo Stanton. But unless the team is truly serious about signing him long-term, which is doubtful with his future free agent value, can they really afford not to trade him with two more years of club control remaining? Boston has long been rumored to be interested in Stanton. Perhaps Cespedes — a Cuban star whom the Marlins pursued as a free agent — could be the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade for him. The Marlins might not want to pay Cespedes’ $10.5 million salary for 2015, but Boston might eat some of that if it meant giving up fewer prospects.
Texas Rangers: Guess which team had the worst production from its left fielders this year? The Rangers got a .217 average (last in MLB) and .632 OPS from the position. New manager Jeff Banister could use another power bat for the middle of the batting order to go with Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder. GM Jon Daniels may not be crazy about Cespedes’ salary, but it’s less than the team would have paid Alex Rios had his 2015 option been picked up.
Philadelphia Phillies: GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has been seeking a right-handed outfield bat for years. Cespedes would be a great fit, and could also make Domonic Brown expendable in trade. (Maybe he could go to Boston as part of the exchange.) The Red Sox have long been interested in Cliff Lee and have the pitching prospects Philadelphia needs so badly. But Lee has at least $37.5 million left on his contract (or $52.5 million if Boston picks up his 2016 club option). If Cherington agrees to take that on, he may be able to trade less in a deal.
Cincinnati Reds: Here’s another team that didn’t much out of left field with a combined .233 average and .627 OPS at the position. The Reds have also long sought a more reliable right-handed bat for their outfield than Ryan Ludwick. If GM Walt Jocketty thinks his team still has a shot at playoff contention, he might be willing to take a one-year chance with Cespedes. Additionally, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are set to become free agents after 2015, which makes a straight-up deal possible. Or if Cincinnati wants to shed Homer Bailey’s contract, Jocketty might find a willing partner in the Red Sox.
Detroit Tigers: This isn’t an ideal fit, as the Tigers have breakout J.D. Martinez penciled in as their left fielder for next season. Moving him to right field to accommodate Cespedes probably isn’t a good idea. And if Cespedes doesn’t want to play right field, he likely won’t like Comerica Park’s huge right-center gap (especially if Detroit can’t find a center fielder with range). But the Tigers have a potential opening at that position if Torii Hunter moves on (as expected) and Double-A outfielder Steven Moya isn’t ready to make the jump to the majors. Could Cespedes play center field in Detroit, as the Tigers once envisioned when pursuing him as a free agent?
San Diego Padres: New GM A.J. Preller would have to move around some pieces to make this happen. For instance, ditching Carlos Quentin and his $8 million salary for next season. (Quentin won’t trigger his mutual option for 2016, which required 320 games played from 2013 to 2015. He’s currently 188 games short of that.) Or trading Cameron Maybin. (Hello, Detroit Tigers.) The Padres probably aren’t interested in trading for one year of Cespedes, and he’s likely not keen on signing a contract extension with a team playing in a ballpark that will affect his power numbers. But San Diego desperately needs a right-handed run producer.
Oakland Athletics: Hey, since some people think the A’s went into the tank because they traded Cespedes for Jon Lester, why not try to get him back? Then everything could just go back to the way it was before July 31, when Oakland had the best record in baseball at 66-41. Right? Getting Cespedes back would be like Billy Beane hitting a reset button or putting his roster into a hot tub time machine. But if it took Cespedes to get a No. 1 starter like Lester, what would the A’s have to give up in trade to re-acquire him? Jeff Samardzija would probably be a starting point.
San Francisco Giants: Another way to return to the Bay Area! If the Giants win the World Series, no one — except Giants fans, of course — will want to hear about them adding a bat that makes them even better. However, the team could lose Michael Morse after the season, and Cespedes would not only provide the same level of power — if not more — but greater athleticism in left field and on the basepaths. Cespedes also gives San Francisco another middle-of-the-order bat, albeit a right-handed one, if Pablo Sandoval ends up departing via free agency.
New York Yankees: OK, no way the Red Sox make this deal with the Yankees. But use your imagination. With Carlos Beltran looking destined for a future as a designated hitter, there could be an opening in the Yankees’ lineup for Cespedes. (Whether or not Alex Rodriguez can play third base or keep a spot on the Yanks’ roster could also be a determining factor.) One hang-up might be Cespedes’ reported reluctance to play right field. But Brett Gardner has to stay in left field to cover the larger territory in Yankee Stadium. Maybe playing a shorter right field area that’s not as tricky as Fenway Park could persuade Cespedes to switch positions willingly.