The Marlins have identified their center fielder of the future. Now all they have to do is sign him when he’s declared a free agent.
Yoenis Cespedes, a 26-year-old Cuban who defected last summer, should get the go-ahead to begin negotiating with major league teams later this month. According to an American League source who attended his showcase Friday in the Dominican Republic, the buzz is the Marlins have the inside track.
That is two pieces of very intriguing information for Marlins fans hungry from some fresh-cooked rumors. For a town that has seen their ballclub let loose player after player via trades and free agency, it is exciting to hear the Marlins' name attached to two of the bigger names around. Where would these players fit, and why would the Marlins be interested in them?In the case of Cespedes, the involvement of the Marlins should not be surprising. Yahoo's Jeff Passan reported that the 26-year-old Cuban defector is expected to be cleared for free agency in due time, and as soon as that information came out, numerous suitors lined to be a part of the Cespedes sweepstakes. Given the hype behind him, no one should blame those teams; for example, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had this to say about the outfielder:
He's a tremendous talent—arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation. He's a legitimate centerfielder with plus power and speed and is in his prime. Much like Aroldis Chapman was the best pitcher from the island, Cespedes is the best position player, and Mercedes will be expecting (and likely getting) a Chapman-like deal in the neighborhood of $30 million.
Those are some extremely strong words, and it would seem that Cespedes is the real deal according to scouts. The super-hype 20-minute video sent to numerous baseball folks (which has since been pulled from YouTube) certainly added to the mystique of this kid's talent. His latest 2010-2011 season line of .333/.424/.667 in 87 games in the Cuban National Series also helped.
Seeing the Marlins interested in him is also no surprise given their dearth of talent in center field. After last season's Chris Coghlan debacle and the team's inability to trust Scott Cousins or Bryan Petersen with the position, the team has been left with something of a hole between Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton. Acquiring the toolsy Cespedes will provide the team a prospect who ideally would be major-league ready within the year (he is, after all, 26 years old). Having said that, the team would be paying Aroldis Chapman-money (six years and $30 million) to acquire him, and unlike in the case of Chapman, Cespedes will have little time to establish himself because of his advanced age.
For Reyes, the team's interest is appreciated but still on the surprising side. The Marlins have already mentioned that they have not discussed moving Hanley Ramirez to another position, which would be a requirement if the team were to pursue and sign Reyes. There are also legitimate concerns about Reyes's health; he missed 37 days and 29 games with injury last season, which marks the third year during which he has missed at least a month due to injury. His asking price has not decreased, and the readers of FanGraphs still expect him to ink a deal around six years and $104 million.
If the rumors regarding Reyes are true, the Marlins are saying that they would be interested in risking many years and dollars on a player with a substantial injury risk. The cost does seem prohibitive, but the concept of Reyes in Miami makes sense. The team has to at some point move Ramirez away from shortstop, as his growing physique and previous difficulty at the position likely preclude him from playing it well over the next few years. Moving him to third base utilizes his strong arm while minimizing the lesser aspects of his range. And of course Reyes would be a great addition on the field (he is a competent defender) and at the plate, where he has the capability of putting up five-win seasons when healthy.
It is an exciting start to what should continue to be a riveting offseason for the Marlins. Even if nothing ultimately comes out of either of these talks, the team will certainly have fans glued to their computers at all times. And if any of these signings go through, expect fans to respond with their wallets as well as their words.