While his signing decision will not be watched with quite the same intensity as the Yu Darvish bidding process, Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will be the next big international name to drop.
Cespedes, 26, should officially reach free agency within another week or two, and I’d say it’s a fair bet he’ll sign soon thereafter. Even though he’s not technically a free agent now, surely teams have been in regular contact with his agent, and they know where they stand with respect to an offer. There will be some last minute jockeying, but I wouldn’t expect things to drag out much after he’s declared a free agent.
The exception to that expectation, I suppose, is if the majority of teams in on him don’t expect him to contribute in the bigs at any point in 2012, and thus aren’t in any rush to get him signed early (lest it continue to muck up their outfield plans). I tend to think that, while most teams don’t expect him to start in the bigs right out of the gate, they are thinking that he’ll be in the mix at some point (I certainly expect that’s what the Cubs are thinking). Combine that with Cespedes’ desire to play in the bigs this year, and you’ll probably have a number of teams that will want to get him under contract as soon as possible.
But the list of teams pursuing him the most aggressively may not include two of the big boys, the Yankees and Red Sox. This, according to Danny Knobler, who says neither team is expected to be heavily involved. Knobler adds that there is a divide in the Marlins’ front office about how heavily to pursue Cespedes. That could leave the Cubs as one of the outfielder’s primary suitors – but, keep in mind, there may be as many as a dozen teams that make an offer.
Knobler adds that 19-year-old Cuban prospect Jorge Soler continues to draw plenty of interest (he, too, is awaiting the official grant of free agency), including from the Cubs. Unlike Cespedes, however, I don’t necessarily expect Soler, who is a true prospect rather than a potential 2012 contributor, to sign right away upon reaching free agency. So long as he’s signed before the middle of the summer, his signing doesn’t count against the soon-to-be-imposed international spending limits. In other words, while he may not sign right away, he’ll sign at some point in the coming months, lest he see his bonus check reduced tenfold.
That the Cubs are expected to be heavily involved with both players makes sense, even if there weren’t sourced reports suggesting the same.
If Cubs plan to put all baseball revenue back into the organization, there is still a great deal of money available to spend in 2012. From the hip estimates of (1) revenue that will exceed $200 million, (2) a payroll that currently stands at $95ish million, (3) organizational/operational expenses approaching $20 million, and (4) draft and international spending effectively capped at $15 million, say there’s upwards of $70ish million left to spend. Even if a large chunk of those remaining dollars go to debt service payment/principal payment (the McDonald’s purchase was by the Ricketts family entity, rather than by the Cubs), there’s still a ton of money available to be spent on adding players to the organization.
If that money isn’t going to go to free agents like Prince Fielder or Edwin Jackson, it’s fair to guess that the Cubs will bid healthily on guys like Cespedes and Soler, who, incidentally, could both help with that whole “future” thing.