Cuban outfield sensation Yoenis Cespedes still is not a free agent.
While the intensity of Cespedes-related anticipation hasn’t quite been the same as it was for Japanese ace Yu Darvish (who is the superior, more likely to “make it,” international star), the wait has certainly been as long. We’ve been talking about the 26-year-old stud outfielder for months now, while he slowly established residency in the Dominican Republic, a necessary prerequisite to reaching MLB free agency.
According to Joe Frisaro, residency is about five days away for Cespedes, with free agency to follow soon thereafter. Thus, we could see a bidding war for Cespedes, who’s been attached to as many as a dozen teams this Winter, develop next week.
The expectation at this point, given the Cubs’ remaining payroll flexibility and long-standing interest in Cespedes, is that the Cubs will make a strong offer for the outfielder.
How much is a “strong” offer? It’s impossible to say, given the lack of a truly comparable player on the market, and the unknown factors involved in signing an international player who hasn’t played big league pro ball. (By way of comparison, how much would you pay for a 26-year-old prospect who has played six years in High-A ball, absolutely destroying the competition? There’s undeniable talent there, but what happens when he starts seeing better pitching? And, at his age, there aren’t many “development years” left.)
We’ve heard that the floor is the approximate six-year, $30 million deal his countryman Aroldis Chapman signed with the Reds a couple years ago, and the ceiling is somewhere closer to $60 million (for six to eight years). Frisaro says he’s heard that the price is coming down on Cespedes, with a realistic target somewhere in the four-year, $32 million range (whatever team signs him still gets six years’ worth of control, though, if they would want to keep him after those four years). Given the Cubs’ situation, the reduced ability to get young talent for just money in the coming years, and the upside attached to Cespedes, that price tag shouldn’t even make the Cubs blink.
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