The baseball world has been buzzing about a possible top-line Cuban defector over the past couple of days, and, while initial reports didn’t have the Chicago Cubs listed among the player’s possible suitors, a source tells me the Cubs are indeed interested.
The player is 26-year-old outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, whom Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein called “arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation.” He tore up Cuban baseball last year, hitting .333 with an OPS over 1.000. He had a record 33 homers in just 90 games. Add in the fact that he’s got speed, and is a talented defensive center fielder, it’s no wonder a dozen teams are interested in the Cuban defector.
One of those teams, according to a front office source, is the Chicago Cubs. The outfielder is expected to demand a contract as great as, or exceeding, the approximately six-year, $30 million contract top Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman received from the Reds before the 2010 season. Despite the hefty price tag, the Cubs are expected to be “involved,” says the source.
Phil Rogers has also suggested that the Cubs may have interest in Cespedes (calling the Cubs “intrigued”), but his column on the subject suggests that was more of a “the Cubs should pursue Cespedes,” rather than a “the Cubs will pursue Cespedes” kind of thing.
But, together with my source’s comments, I’d say it is fair to conclude that the Cubs are, at a minimum, monitoring the situation. If they decide to make a move on him, they’ll find plenty of competition, with the Yankees and Marlins among the most fervent suitors. The Marlins, in particular, could decide to spend inordinately on Cespedes in the hopes of strengthening the Cuban fan base in Miami commensurate with the opening of a new ballpark.
If the Cubs managed to land Cespedes, he could slide into any outfield spot, depending on what happens with left fielder Alfonso Soriano, center fielder Marlon Byrd, and top prospect Brett Jackson. That is assuming that Cespedes is immediately big league ready, of course.
Interestingly, outfield is one of the few system areas where the Cubs have a number of solid, athletic prospects. In addition to Jackson, there’s Matt Szczur, Jae Hoon Ha, Reggie Golden, Rubi Silva, and others – some closer to the bigs, some further away. Regardless, if the Cubs like what they see in Cespedes, he sounds like the kind of player you sign now, and ask organizational questions later.
Now that you’re excited about the mere possibility of Cespedes, allow this promotional YouTube video to temper (or multiply, depending on your bent) that excitement. It’s … interesting. It begins with a ‘Star Wars’ flying paragraphs thing, titled, ‘A New Hope.’ So, um, yeah. Kevin Goldstein talks you through the entire 20 minute work of art, in case you’re interested in his humorous commentary (it’s also useful if the video should happen to be taken down, as it has been multiple times).