The 2016 Orioles are still a work in progress as we are about to enter 2016. They are hardly the only baseball team for whom this is the case in the middle of a slow-developing market for free agents. There's money to pay somebody, with the big question being who that someone will end up being. A Tuesday afternoon rumor relayed by MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez connects the O's to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, noting that the Orioles, along with the White Sox, are "emerging as leaders for now."
Before flying into a state of panic, or excitement, keep in mind always the first law of baseball rumors: Probably nothing will happen. We have spent all offseason hearing about how the Orioles are out there looking for another left-handed hitter. No wonder that they are considering that right now their lefty lineup presence consists of switch-hitting Matt Wieters and newly-signed outfielder Hyun Soo Kim. Wieters has been noticeably worse as a lefty batter in his career to date, so even that's only worth so much.
Cespedes, as a right-handed batter, certainly does not fit the need of a lefty batter. Having said that, if what the Orioles are actually looking for is a player who is better at hitting right-handed pitchers, since after all most pitchers are right-handed, then perhaps Cespedes is up their alley after all.
In his four year major league career, Cespedes, who turned 30 in October, has performed slightly better against righties. This was even more pronounced in the most recent season, where Cespedes put up a .909 OPS against righties with a .736 OPS against lefties. You don't necessarily have to sign a lefty if you sign a righty batter with reverse platoon splits.
Then again, the Orioles already have two players who exhibit this same tendency in Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Over the past two seasons, it's been true of J.J. Hardy as well, to the minimal extent he has hit at all. Little surprise that the O's were the second-best team by OPS (.752) against righties in the AL; they were second-worst against lefties (.662). Carrying over much of the same roster, this situation will likely continue into next season.
So, if they are really looking for a lefty batter, Cespedes doesn't fit that. And if they're trying to address a need from this past season, that's also not a problem that signing Cespedes solves. You can color me skeptical of this rumor as a result, although if the Orioles are just looking to load up on anyone who hits dingers, well, Cespedes is coming off of a season where he hit 35 of them. That's pretty good.
There's a point where it's not worth worrying about the platoon splits that much. In an unlikely hypothetical world where Cespedes wanted to sign for four years of the major league minimum, spitting on that offer because he fits no need would make no sense. You always want to sign good players, even if they have some flaws. It's all about finding the price point where it makes sense to sign Cespedes.
The idea floated on MLBTR in November that Cespedes would get a six year contract worth $140 million is well into "makes no sense" territory. Which doesn't mean it won't happen, just that right now, looking at everything, it doesn't seem to make sense. Choosing not to re-sign Chris Davis only to sign an equally expensive player with similar questions about how he'll age just doesn't feel like something the Orioles would do at this point in time.
This is the extent of the rumor:
Yoenis Cespedes market taking shape. Source: CWS & BAL emerging as leaders for now. LAA & SFG also in the mix with TX monitoring situation.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) December 29, 2015
This is fairly standard in the realm of baseball rumors, saying just enough to get your attention without really saying much of anything at all. What does "emerging as leaders for now" mean in concrete terms? What does "also in the mix" mean, or "monitoring situation"?
Consider also that, with this information apparently being provided by one source, that source could well be Cespedes' agent. Who else would be one person in a position to make statements about five teams' level of interest in one player? Any one of those could be wrong, or overblown, or could have already changed in the time since the tweet was made.
All of which goes to explain why I always say that probably nothing will happen. But maybe this time something will! It could be horrible or great or just kind of meh. What do you think?