cubaFor myriad financial and rebuilding reasons, the Chicago Cubs of late have been … cautious with the use of their discretionary dollars. In general, the front office has eschewed traditional free agency in favor of amateur spending and the pursuit of younger free agents, some of whom are of the international variety. Yoenis Cespedes, for example, as a mid-20s outfielder, made a lot of sense for the Cubs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, as a mid-20s pitcher, made a lot of sense for the Cubs. Masahiro Tanaka, as a mid-20s pitcher, made a lot of sense for the Cubs.

The Cubs (and 28 other teams) didn’t land each of those players, but the pursuits were undeniable, as were the overlapping characteristics.

Given that, and the Cubs’ obvious needs in the near-term, if there was a big-time international free agent outfielder with a big bat in his mid-ish 20s, you’d think the Cubs would get all hot and bothered, yes?

Well, Ben Badler has a story to tell, and it’s one we should be following very closely.

In Badler’s piece, he recounts the story of 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Alfredo Despaigne (whose name you may already know – he’s big-time), who is currently playing in Mexico as part of Cuba’s recent process of allowing its star players to play internationally a bit more. We already knew about that, and the fact that Despaigne is outside of Cuba playing baseball really doesn’t impact his future vis a vis defection. For all intents and purposes, he is a non-defected Cuban player, who may or may not at some point defect, but we know what a harrowing process that can be. It might never happen, and that wouldn’t really be a surprise.

But here’s the crazy angle Badler is reporting: Despaigne’s passport in Mexico? It’s from the Dominican Republic.

It’s unclear whether this actually means anything, as the Mexican League, because of its loose relationship with Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball, prefers that its players from Cuba also have a passport from another, non-Cuban country. Despaigne apparently obtained his from the Dominican Republic last year before playing in Mexico (and, you’ll note, he didn’t defect last year).

The situation is quite complicated, and Badler is careful not to directly imply anything here with respect to a defection. However, he does note that, because Despaigne is already in Mexico and already has a DR passport, he could seek to receive MLB free agency at any time. Whether his Mexican League team would still control his rights at that point is yet another opaque issue. I strongly encourage you to read Badler’s piece, because the mere fact that he’s reporting this could be the start of something happening.

As for more on Despaigne, he’s a shorter, compact outfielder with huge power, and multiple MVP awards in Cuba. He turns 28 in June, and has posted huge numbers in Mexico in recent years, as you’d expect. For years, he’s been right there with Jose Abreu as one of the top hitters in Cuba’s highest professional league.

If he suddenly became a free agent midseason or later this year, it would be fair to expect the Cubs to have interest. Although at 28, he might be a couple years older than preferred, that’s still plenty young to capture value when the team is competitive (especially if their window opened as soon as 2015 – and a bat like Despaigne’s would help). As a corner outfielder, Despaigne’s presence is unlikely to immediately block any Cubs prospects who are knocking on the door (and, even if you consider Kris Bryant a sure corner outfielder and consider Jorge Soler knocking on the door, that’s a bridge you cross when you come to it). The Cubs have only a couple places that they could add a sure-fire long-term free agent bat, and corner outfield is one of them.

Further, having missed out on Tanaka, the Cubs have said they rolled over the funds that would have been spent there into future possible spending. Well, this could be future possible spending.

We’ll see where this goes, if it winds up going anywhere.

  • Cerambam

    Please please please please please

  • Karl Groucho

    If he defects, someone is likely to give what looks like a stupid contract to the guy and commentary will be that they went too high. See: Puig, Abreu, Tanaka all getting relatively blown away by one high bidder and at best drawing arched eyebrows.

    If I’m being honest: I wouldn’t hate if, this time, we were the team to do so.

    • DarthHater

      There’s another term for stupidly high bids: market price.

      • Karl Groucho

        To the extent market price adopts such an ipso facto flavor when you know better the lay of the land, it certainly doesn’t do so when dealing with a very small sample of highly unique assets.

        • Karl Groucho

          Economic theory is a fine way to understand some things, but applying it hamfistedly to say that one discrete instance proves itself is something of a corruption of the project.

          • DarthHater

            Blah blah blah … surplus value … blah blah blah … bourgeois ideology … blah blah blah dictatorship of the proletariat …

            • Karl Groucho

              Don’t bring that up on a thread related to Cuba, it’s a sore spot for me 😉

            • college_of_coaches

              Cubs failure to exploit the forces and relations of power, #FireTheo

          • Brocktoon

            But we’re talking about those discrete instances. The market value for those players at those time are what they got paid. It doesn’t say that all players of similar value should get the same amount of money. Markets change based on supply/demand and how skillset valuation changes over time.(even short amounts of time like a couple offseasons)

            • Karl Groucho

              We’re wandering down a rabbit hole here, probably too deep for both these boards and for the work I should be getting accomplished this afternoon. But I think it misunderstands “market value” in the context of this type of asset to say that the price has proven itself, especially when we’ve seen relatively divergent prices, when we’re dealing with relatively unknown quantities, and when we have limited history in which to see comparable assets.

              I don’t think this applies in context of known-quantity ML FAs, where it would misunderstand the market to say that any high bidder is “overbidding.” We have there a lot of history — in terms of comparable assets, the asset in question, and past prices — that can help shape valuation more properly.

              • Brocktoon

                The issue is, we’re looking at “buying” assets from the Cubs perspective. Ceteris paribus, the Cubs need to outspend the highest buy price by one tick in order to acquire it. Whether the next nearest bid is 20 cents or 20 million away is of no concern to what it takes to secure the asset in question.

                If there’s one team out there willing to go to a level deemed crazy by the others, well that’s the level you’re going to have to match + 1 in order to secure the asset.

                On stocks/futures markets you obviously don’t see such wildly differing values from one bid to the next unless it’s an incredibly scarce market, and that’s what MLB is. It’s a woefully inefficient market place due to the fact that there are only 30 participants in the market, and for any given player, there are far less than 30 teams looking to “buy.” But in the same way a seller (be it on an exchange or at a flea market) is going to get the highest price they can get for an asset, as is a FA(for the most part)

                If Corn closed overnight trading session at $5.00, and on the opening somebody bids 10,000 contracts at $5.10, well that’s your market. That’s far from out of the ordinary and that’s on a market with millions of buyers. It doesn’t mean you have to buy it there, or that your evaluation of what that corn is worth to you is, but if you’ve got a big short position, and you need to get back even, you’re going to have to pay what that asshole at $5.10 set things at.

                • Brocktoon

                  And yes, I realize now I’ve delved into sports as real life analogies that I hate so much

                • DarthHater


                  • Brocktoon

                    He said ipso facto, it was my only defense!

                    • DarthHater

                      res ipsa loquitur!

                • Karl Groucho

                  But there’s a difference, isn’t there, between what a discrete buyer is willing to pay and “market value.” The former has relevance to a competitive buyer, to be sure, but it is not dispositive of market-wide valuation.

                  • Brocktoon

                    1 discrete buyer out of millions, sure. 1 discrete buyer out of 30, I’m not so sure.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      As a caveat, Abreu’s offer from the ChiSox was not outrageous compared to other offers: the Sox and Astros are thought to have offered nearly as much money as the ChiSox did.

      Puig was, of course, an out-of-the-blue offer, although that might have had more to do with the fact that no other team was prepared to make an offer yet: nobody had had a chance to see him! (Again, the Dodgers might have been over-reacting to their near-misses on Cespedes and Soler.)

      • Karl Groucho

        Indeed I misremembered the former; though the Darvish bidding stands in nicely as someone going well above all others in an int’l context.

        The Puig point strikes me as a distinction without a difference; regardless of why no one else was going as high, the Dodgers still went far above others at the point the deal was made. (This changes if the Dodgers somehow saw Puig before other teams had a shot, but I’ve yet to see a confirmed report of that.)

        • Eternal Pessimist

          I don’t remember a lot of harping on “overpaying” for darvish. And Abreu also was ‘t thought to be a good fit for the Cubs (no NL dh, blah, blah, blah). Tanaka’s contract sucks (even if he performs well enogh for the four years of control…or seven years he will force on the Yanks if he suffers an injury or develops the “yips”).

          Yes, I say this even after his hot start. I’m thrilled they didn’t lock up all that money in him when he may break before the competitive window and linger long after his arm is shot!

          • Karl Groucho

            Texas went $35M over the next closest bidder (us, as a matter of fact! damn you, Texas) according to Buster Olney, and in so doing set a bid record. An ESPN article from a few months ago referred to the deal as looking outlandish at the time.

            • Eternal Pessimist

              It sounds like he outperformed his projections. One way to look at it is the Cubs were being cheap…the other is to say his performance was a big surprise. Sure hope they scout these guys well in the future.

              • Karl Groucho

                That was a huge bid at the time! I don’t think it’s really fair to hold any “misses” on int’l players against our FO, and I don’t know where you seem to be getting the impression I’ve said that.

                My point with all of this was simply to say that it is likely someone will offer a deal that looks outlandish — as the Darvish bid did, as the Tanaka 4-year opt-out did, as Puig’s deal did given such limited data. Since nearly all of these skeptically-received deals have worked out (though as you note the jury is still out on Tanaka), however, I wouldn’t be disappointed if we went farther than seems reasonable.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      Except all of the contracts above look to be tremendous value after a few months. The jury may still be out on Tanaka, but all three were opportunities to add tremendous MLB tallent for cash only. To overspend the Cubs would first have to spend. Or maintain a payroll beyond that of the 2005 club.

      • Karl Groucho

        Hence, “looks like” and “I wouldn’t hate if we were that team” :)

  • Ron Swansons Mustache

    If he becomes available and the front office wants him I am on board. Sounds like he could be a very good fit. I also don’t see a repeat of the minimal spending from last offseason either.

    On another note, the renovation must get started as soon as the season ends. It cannot be delayed another year.

  • waittilthisyear

    so we would nickname him “Sauce” immediately, fair?

  • Jon

    Why would sign this guy? So we can win 66 games instead of 64? Pass.

    • ericmichel

      I’m going to surmise it would not be a one-year deal, but maybe that’s just me.

  • CubChymyst

    Shorter compact was a pretty nice way of putting it. If baseball reference is right he is 5′ 8″ and 214 lbs. That is one stocky dude.

  • ssckelley

    Not really wanting to get disappointed again. So, nope, don’t want. This guy sucks, his walk rate is too low and his K rate is too high. Plus he hits way to many singles for a corner outfielder.

  • Luke

    Sounds good to me.

  • CubFan Paul

    With Abreu getting $70MM, Despaigne is definitely showcasing his talents and gauging MLB intere$t under the radar

  • Funn Dave

    “In general, the front office has eschewed traditional free agency in favor of amateur spending and the pursuit of younger free agents, some of which are of the international variety.”

    This sentence would be great if it used the word “whom” instead of “which.” C’mon Brett, douche it up!


    • ssckelley

      Dave, I just have to say…..your awesome!!!!

      Keep up the good work.

      • JB88

        I wonder how much Dave’s blood pressure spikes when reading this …

        • ssckelley

          Hopefully not to much.

          • Funn Dave


          • DarthHater

            Your to mean.

            • Aaron

              So clever.

              • DarthHater

                I’m entirely derivative. That should be evident to everyone by now. 😛

            • ssckelley

              Dave might have passed out after that one.

              • Funn Dave

                Yup. Now I’ve awoken to a sea of bad grammar.

  • Bret Epic

    I’m just excited for Kenta Maeda becoming a free agent. Price shouldn’t be nearly as high as Tanaka, but I expect his talents to transfer to the MLB.

    • Luke

      I’d be very happy to land him too.

      SIGN ALL THE IFAS!!!!!!!!!!

      • Hee Seop Chode

        *whispering* or just one?

    • FullCountTommy

      I definitely want Maeda. Definitely not in the Tanaka/Darvish class, but solid mid rotation guy and at 26, he fits the bill

  • Medicos

    Sign every possible Cuban refugee ballplayer. What difference does it make to any Cubs fan. It’s Rickett’s $$$$$, not ours. That’s how the Steinbrenner franchise has operated for years and the results are a team that’s competitive every year and numerous World Series Championships: Teixeira, Rodriguez, Granderson, Roberts, Sabathia, Ichiro, Swisher, Maris, Boggs, Tanaka, Soriano, Beltran, McCann, Damon, Ellsbury, Martin, etc.

    • JakeMac

      Did I catch a Roger Maris reference? Were you posting this from 1961?

      • DarthHater

        I had no idea Steinbrenner signed Maris.

      • Medicos

        Hey JAKEMAC: My best friend has been a NY fan since 1955 and all these years I’ve been listening to his comments about how wonderful and dominating his Yankees are. Just one year I’d like to kick some “shit” in his face while our Cubs are winning a WS and his Yankees are losing 100 games. Even though we’ll always be like “brothers till the end” that would be one hell of an experience!!!!

      • Brocktoon

        I think Brian Roberts might somehow be more out of place.

  • Aaron

    As long as he could be a greater than -0.6 WAR player, he has a starting spot in the Cubs’ outfield (cough cough eyes on you Schierholtz).

  • CubsFaninMS

    (Hoping that Raul Castro is not a BN’er)

  • BlameHendry

    But why would we wanna spend money on the on-field product? That sounds stupid. Passing on Cespedes, Puig, Abreu, Ryu, and Tanaka has worked out much better.

    (read: don’t get your hopes up.)

  • BT

    Apropos of nothing, I’m eating pizza next to Ernie Banks right now.

    • mjhurdle

      Can you go buy a jersey real quick, get him to autograph it, and mail it to me?

      I’ll pay you back, honest.


    • DarthHater

      Is it possible to autograph a slice of pizza? ‘Cause that would be an awesome souvenir!

    • Edwin

      I’d like to think that somewhere, Ernie Banks is posting on a blog about eating pizza next to BT.

      • Karl Groucho

        irl lol

      • Funn Dave


    • DarthHater

      Translation: You are stalking Ernie Banks while he tries to eat pizza. Right? 😀

  • Edwin

    I’d like the Cubs to sign him. Unless another team signs him, in which case it will be a good thing that the Cubs didn’t sign him.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      Finally, a “real” Cub fan👍

  • DarthHater

    Meanwhile, in an Undisclosed Location, Cubs FO saber-ninjas are hard at work calculating what it will take to make a successful second-place bid on Despaigne.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      …meanwhile, at an undisclosed location the Dodgers are shipping Cuban baseball refugees to the states where they can hide them until they are ready to sign them at discounted rates.

  • Rebuilding

    Based on age adjusted projection Clay Davenport projected Despaigne to hit the following slash in 2014: 224/299/420 with 27 HRs. As much as I’ve been for signing pretty much all of the Cuban guys recently I think you would have to pass on that unless he only gets platoon player money and he won’t

    • Hee Seop Chode

      How can you not be interested in a guy who is projected to hit 27 HR? ZIPS projected 46 home runs from the Cubs top 4 outfielders COMBINED!

      • Medicos

        HEE SOOP: Great comment about possible total HRs from Cub outfielders.

        HR–PROGNOSTICATORS projections are even for worse for Cub outfielders in 2014:

        COGLAN———— -2

        • Drew7

          Just so you know, your erroneous capitalization of random words causes me to not pay attention to anything you post.

          • DarthHater

            Really? Personally, it’s the erroneous content of random bullshit that causes me to not pay attention to anything he posts.

  • Stogie

    If he isn’t a LH bat, we should pass.

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