The Oakland Athletics’ signing of Cuban phenom, Yoenis Cespedes, raised a lot of eyebrows across the league. $36 million over 4 years for someone that has never seen a minute of major league action? Seems like quite a gamble.However, it got us thinking about which $30 million player we would want as a Rocky: the known commodity in Cuddyer or the tremendous upside in Cespedes?
Cespedes, who profiles as a younger, more athletic, but unproven outfielder, presents a high-risk/high-reward player. On the other hand, Cuddyer, who is an older, proven commodity, comes with less risk but also less reward.
The Rockies’ management evidently was more comfortable with paying for a known, successful commodity in Michael Cuddyer rather than a terrific but unproven talent in Yoenis Cespedes. Only time will tell if the Rockies made the correct choice.
Yoenis Cespedes is widely regarded as a 5-tool player who is ready to step in (at least defensively) at centerfield.The big question on Cespedes is his ability to adjust to major league pitching.His production in the Cuban League was impressive (.319/.404/.584 over 8 seasons) as was his performance at the World Baseball Classic in 2009. Although Cuban players are often surrounded by great uncertainties, some have become very effective players (Livan and Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and Kendrys Morales).
Cespedes is a terrific athlete and his swing appears to be compact with power to all fields.Although it is difficult to predict how he will perform at the plate this coming season, he is only 26-years-old and was projected by Dan Szymborski to eventually become a 27 homerun type of offensive player in a neutral park.Despite his tremendous potential, we doubt that Cespedes will immediately perform at a level befitting his projections.
Because we have not been able to watch Cespedes play in the Cuban League, we watched the interminable and pretentious marketing video created by Cespedes’ agent.
Once you sift through the drawn out intro and the Star Wars rip off, you see that Cespedes is a physical specimen with athleticism to spare.The video conclusively demonstrates that Cespedes can hit in both batting practice and the Cuban leagues, which begs the question, can Cespedes hit major league pitching?
Despite all the uncertainties of Cespedes, it is tempting to imagine him in purple and patrolling the spacious Coors Field outfield with Fowler and CarGo.That would give the Rockies plus-defenders at all three outfield positions with the possibility of 60 homeruns from the corners.Of course, it is doubtful that Cespedes will be able to perform at that level in 2012, so the worst-case scenario is that the outfield would have continued to produce in a manner similar to last year (where Smith/Spillborghs performed at replacement level) with the real improvements being realized in the next few seasons.Cespedes is still a young player and the Rockies would have controlled his rights for the next four years with plenty of trade potential if he was unable to fit into O’Dowd’s culture club.
For all of the long-term potential of Cespedes, Cuddyer brings short-term stability to a position in dire need of an upgrade.There is no doubt that Cuddyer can handle major league pitching (.272/.343/.451 over 10 seasons). Also, the change of scenery from pitcher-friendly Target Field (0.944 park factor for runs, 21st overall) to hitter-friendly Coors Field (1.347 park factor, 2nd overall) should extend Cuddyer’s productive offensive seasons, but it remains doubtful that he will be able to produce at his 2011 level in 2014. Although Cuddyer has proven himself to be a productive hitter, he is a potential defensive liability in the outfield.
One of the keys to the Rockies clear objective this offseason was to change the clubhouse culture with O’Dowd placing a premium on “competitive men.”Cuddyer fits this mold well both with his maturity (assuming older is the same as wiser) and his recent experience with the Twins, who either won or finished within 2 games of the division crown in 3 of the last 4 years.The Rockies are hoping that Cuddyer can improve the offensive production from the non-CarGo corner outfield position and also be a leader in the clubhouse.
Both players have their own strengths and weaknesses and a case can be made for either one being the more prudent signing.Cuddyer brings an instant offensive upgrade and mature approach to the game while Cespedes immediately brings defense (and unknown work-habits) with the potential for stardom in a few years.When it comes to the question of who the Rockies should have signed, the answer depends on the desired outcome: 2012 success or future potential.The Rockies chose immediate success over upside, which not only diverts from their recent history of decision making, but also may indicate that O’Dowd is finally feeling the pressure to put a winner on the field THIS year, rather than trying to sell the “wait and see” approach we seem to hear so regularly.This change in approach is simultaneously welcomed and unfamiliar, and it indicates that the Rockies are in a win-now mode.Regardless of who becomes the better player, this change in philosophy alone is something worth getting excited about.
Who do you think the Rockies should have signed? Let us know in the comments below.
Brendan Giles: While I like the Cuddyer signing (it’s better than nothing, right?), I have to go with Cespedes. Cespedes has the tools to be a star and provides CF insurance in case the Fowler of the second half of last year was a mirage. The combination of ceiling, age, and price makes Cespedes the better signing.
Kevin Giles: I agree with Brendan. Cuddyer is a nice signing and provides an upgrade over the Smith/Spilborghs combination. However, I have concerns about Cuddyer’s defense in the spacious Coors outfield. I prefer the Cespedes’ signing because of his defense, youth, and offensive potential.
Ned Giles: Does anyone remember Rockies’ prospect Derrick Gibson? A complete stud athlete who could kill the ball in BP and run like the wind in the outfield. Widely believed to have a stratospheric ceiling, he couldn’t adjust to major league pitching. Cespedes also looks great, but his entire career has been spent in the Cuban league against unknown competition.Can he hit in the Bigs? I will take Cuddyer.