Thursday night brought a rumor that the Orioles have made an offer to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. That was something exciting if for no other reason than that it's something different than what we've been hearing from the rumor mill for the rest of the offseason. At this point, anything that breaks out of the, "Is there anything new about Chris Davis?" "Nope" mold counts as exciting.
Longtime Camden Chat readers know my standard advice about baseball rumors is that probably nothing will happen. At the same time, it's important to remember that rumors that make sense on their face, while they still probably won't happen, are at least a bit more likely to happen. Does the idea of adding Cespedes to the Orioles roster fit this category? Well, the Orioles need a real corner outfielder who can both hit and field. That is certainly Cespedes. So, yes, it makes sense.
There are still a lot of hurdles to jump over to get from "makes sense" to "it's going to happen."
This might all be part of the Chris Davis leverage game
Every time the name Cespedes or Justin Upton has come up all offseason, you've had to wonder about it. It's now been about a month since the O's had their offer out to Davis that is off the table but maybe still in arm's reach or whatever. Are they only leaking interest in these other guys to make it seem like they're really serious about moving on from Davis, so Davis will get the hint and take their best offer? I've assumed this all along.
Maybe circumstances have changed.
No details on Cespedes offer other than he seems to be the focus at the moment. #orioles want to re-sign Davis but patience wearing thin— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) January 14, 2016
With MASN being 84% owned by the Orioles, when MASN's writer tells you the Orioles patience is wearing thin, you can hazard a guess where that information originated. Whether they mean it is another story. While another writer, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, writes the same sort of thing, that's not necessarily independent corroboration. It's quite possible the same person or people talked to both Kubatko and Crasnick.
It is new, though, that the O's were reported to have made an offer to one of these other free agents. It's one thing to go around acting interested in other free agents, but if they're out there making tangible offers, that does lend credence to the idea that they're moving along with other plans.
The offer to Cespedes may not actually be a competitive offer
Crasnick also reported that the O's are believed to be willing to offer up to five years to Cespedes with a total contract value of $75-90 million. You might see that number and think, wow, that's a lot of money! It is a lot of money, with the upper amount of that range hitting what would become the largest contract in Orioles history.
That said, $90 million over five years is not a lot of money compared to the amount of money Cespedes had been projected to get at the beginning of the offseason. On MLBTR, he was projected to get six years and $140 million. Fangraphs' David Cameron projected seven years and $150 million, and when the $90 million number was floating around last night, he offered this response:
BAL is willing to give Cespedes the Mike Leake deal, then? How generous of them. https://t.co/6hkdrLSHYY— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) January 15, 2016
Sometimes, baseball writers are snarkily certain in their opinions, which doesn't make them right. Sometimes they are right, of course. So are the Orioles making a serious offer that indicates a less intense market than expected? Or is this just the O's making one of those offers that lets them act like they are trying to sign a guy when we all know they never will? That second one is a movie we have seen before.
One thing we do know is that at the end of last year, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez described the O's, along with the White Sox, as favorites to land Cespedes at that time. Two days later, USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote that the White Sox would not exceed three years for Cespedes. It could be that one of these guys was reporting incorrect information. That happens. It could also be that a team not willing to go beyond three years for Cespedes could be seen as favorites because his market was less than expected.
A couple of days ago, there was a flurry of stories that indicated some "bargain hunters" were starting to sniff around Cespedes. Is this a case of reporters grasping for anything to talk about, reporting true but irrelevant information? It is January and there's not much else to talk about, so you can't rule it out. But maybe it's significant to show that teams are perceiving Cespedes will have to take less than was once thought. If that's the case, the O's reported level of interest in Cespedes is not deserving of Cameron's sarcasm.
Also, even if the O's designs of offering $90 million prove to be competitive in the market, we don't know how many teams who might have been turned off by an earlier price tag from Cespedes might jump back into the process having heard the price has come down. It doesn't do much good to offer $90 million max if someone else drops in to offer $100 million. You were competitive, but you still didn't sign the guy.
Cespedes is not a left-handed hitter
All offseason, the O's have reportedly been looking for a left-handed hitter, even after they signed Hyun Soo Kim, who hits left-handed. This has been an interesting thought because, although they currently don't have much lineup balance, how much does it matter? The 2015 Orioles were bad - really bad - against left-handed pitching.
Maybe what they actually need is someone who can hit lefties, rather than a lefty batter. Well, Cespedes isn't that either, as he is a right-handed batter who is better against right-handed pitchers. His performance against lefties hasn't been crippling, but it's not great. Cespedes would hardly be the only O's righty who is better against the same side pitcher, as all of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and J.J. Hardy display the same tendency.
Having lefty anxiety isn't necessarily a reason to avoid signing a player of the caliber of Cespedes. So, while it makes me go, "Hmm," it doesn't make me think this whole Cespedes business is a load of nonsense. If that $90 million number could be an attractive offer, well, that price seems to be a good one for the O's.
Anyway, if you're going to be bad against one type of pitcher, better if it's lefties, since there aren't as many of them. Right?
Cespedes will not cost a draft pick
It's another one of those things where you can only guess at the level of sincerity, but manager Buck Showalter has spoken more than once about being excited about potentially having seven draft picks in the top 100 this June. That doesn't happen if they give up their top pick to sign a free agent like Justin Upton - nor, for that matter, if they re-sign Davis. They'll currently get pick #29 as long as Davis signs elsewhere before the draft.
If Cespedes was one of the free agents who would come with the loss of a draft pick, that would make it all the less likely that this is for real. But he's not one of those guys, so while it doesn't confirm anything, it's one more reason that we can't rule out that it's for real.
Cespedes hits gigantic dingers
One of those narratives when the Orioles did not re-sign Nelson Cruz after the 2014 season was, "How are you going to replace 40 home runs?" That was a bad narrative for a bunch of reasons, one of which is that the 2015 Orioles hit six more home runs than did the 2014 Orioles. So as it turned out, they replaced 40 just fine.
There will surely be people who would ask the same question if Davis left. How will they replace 47 homers? That is a bad question for a person to ask to begin with. Yet to those who would ask it, one answer could be Cespedes:
You could do a whole lot worse than signing a guy who just hit 35 home runs and won a Gold Glove along the way.
Probably nothing will happen. But there are also a number of signs pointing to why it makes sense that something might happen. Hold on to your butts.