The Orioles haven't had a whole lot happening in the public's view this offseason, but behind the scenes, movement continues. The latest bit of information to bubble to the surface comes from MASN's Roch Kubatko, who reports from what he describes as an industry source that the O's have made an offer to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
This is both significant and not significant. It's not significant because, obviously, if Cespedes had accepted the offer, then we'd be talking about that instead. There's no years or dollars attached to this offer, and when you get down to it, it could just be another one of those Orioles offers that's the free agent market equivalent of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride." You've probably noticed that the Orioles get linked to a lot of players they don't actually end up signing.
Even from the time an offer is made, there's a lot to get through to get a player signed, which is why I always offer the reminder that probably nothing will happen about any given rumor. That the O's have made an offer leaves them closer to something happening than most rumors ever get, though.
We've been hearing for a while that the O's have been interested in Cespedes, so that part's not new either. What is new is that on Wednesday, multiple baseball writers, including MLB Network's Jon Heyman, made note of the fact that the "bargain hunters" seem to be coming out for Cespedes, including the Mets and Braves. We know the Orioles love a bargain. Another team, the White Sox, who two weeks ago had been described along with the Orioles as favorites to land Cespedes, is reportedly not going beyond three years for Cespedes.
Three years isn't very many years for a guy who is, while on the wrong side of 30, nonetheless only 30. Putting down stakes on a three-year contract for a 30-year-old who has played in at least 152 games each of the past two years isn't an awful plan. Even if they have to go four years, that's not so bad. And if it's three years but they have to out-bid other teams, well, who cares, right?
UPDATE: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has got at least a broad range on the O's level of monetary interest in Cespedes:
It's believed the #Orioles are willing to go to five years and the $75-90M range to sign Yoenis Cespedes.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 15, 2016
That's more than three or four years, but a $15-18 million per year contract is not something that would be potentially franchise-crippling. By the time the fourth or fifth year of the contract rolls around, that might represent 10% of the O's payroll. It'd be a lot to have sitting around as dead weight, but if that's the price the O's have to pay to get some solid production in the outfield in the next three years, that could be worth paying.
The question remains of whether this is a dollar range that could potentially get Cespedes signed or whether it's the typical Orioles free agent offer that's close enough to get them in the discussion but not enough to get the player signed.
It's only money, and money paid to a guy who just batted .291/.328/.542 in the 2015 season, at that. Plus it's way less money than the original six year contract being predicted for Cespedes at the beginning of the offseason.
What makes the offer to Cespedes significant is what it might signal for the O's plan for the remainder of the offseason. Kubatko notes that the O's seem to be zeroing in more on Cespedes rather than fellow free agent Justin Upton at this time. Additionally, he notes that while the O's continue to hope to sign Chris Davis, their patience is "wearing thin".
If Cespedes is really going to have to settle for a shorter-term contract, no wonder he'd be a preferred option for the O's, compared to the younger Upton who will likely be seeking a longer contract. Additionally, Cespedes would not cost the Orioles the #14 overall pick. They'd have to give up that pick to sign Upton. Cespedes might not come cheap for those three years, but he seems like a good bet to be a solid performer for the length of a contract of that duration. When you have to find that on the free agent market - which the O's do, at this point, for an outfielder - it isn't going to come cheap.
Kubatko mentioning Davis is a key to this whole thing. How sincerely are the Orioles really interested in Cespedes? This has been the question every time the O's are linked to Cespedes or Upton. Are they really trying to sign those guys or are they just trying to signal to Davis and agent Scott Boras that, yes, they're really going to move on, totally, they're serious this time, see how serious they are that they have made an offer to Cespedes now?
No rumor will answer those questions - only the Orioles decisively acting in one direction or another. You could look at Kubatko's rumor and see it either way. MASN is 84% owned by the Orioles, so in the uncommon occurrence of an Orioles writer breaking a big story about the O's making an offer to a big-name free agent, well, there's a most obvious guess as to who's signing the paycheck of whoever passed that information along. On the other hand, he says "industry source" rather than "Orioles source," so maybe it comes from somewhere else?
What do you think about this rumor? Will you be happier if it's true or if it turns out to be a load of nonsense?