The Final Word on Cespedes


Cespedes is old news in the baseball world now.

He’s already been signed, sealed and delivered to the Oakland Athletics. Game over. Thanks for coming to the auction, article finished… right?

Well…. yes and no. This story goes a little deeper than that.

Cespedes was a high profile prospect that almost every team in baseball had a least some form of scouting on during the off season. He’s had an impact in just about every World Baseball Classic he’s ever played in and had a strong showing in 2011 posting a .333/.424/.667 batting line with 89 runs, 33 home runs and 99 RBI (for those who don’t really know baseball stats, that’s pretty damned good). There was a massive build up to his eventual 4 year, $36 million contract complete with rumors, drama and most importantly, Ozzie Guillen putting his foot in his mouth repeatedly.

Miami was deemed the front runner for Cespedes’ services for almost the entire time he was on the market. They scouted him, met him down in the Dominican Republic, watched him play and took him to Miami and toured the Marlin’s stadium. They did just about everything but wash his face and kiss his mother goodbye for him!

Sound familiar yet? It should.

The Cubs brass were about 3 steps ahead of Miami before they got a bead on Cespedes and took him on the same tour before Miami did. They essentially laid out the “wine and dine” strategy for others to match and Miami copied it to a tee. The only difference? The Cubs were hot on Cespedes about a month before everyone else.

The Cubs did everything right to lure a top prospect and yet, Cespedes is not a Cub.

Something is fishy here….

Maybe the Cubs didn’t have room to take on Cespedes in their payroll. At the time, Garza was not yet guaranteed to return to the Cubs in 2012 and perhaps Epstein and his team didn’t to blow too much cash on Cespedes knowing that Garza is a useful tool in the Cubs’ rebuilding process. After all, the Cubs 2012 payroll was only expected to be in the ball park of $130 million (which is quite steep for an MLB team)

Its a neat thought to entertain, but its dead wrong at the end of the day.

The Cubs are one of the most marketable teams in the MLB with an average attendance over the last 5 years of about 40 000 fans per home game. Most Cubs fans are pretty committed (insert “cubs lose a lot of games” joke here) and probably own at least one piece of Cubs apparel each. All this plus being in a city with a metropolitan population of roughly 9.5 million people spells money in the bank for the North Siders.

If the Cubs were willing to pay out the wazoo for Cespedes’ skills, then why on earth isn’t he a Cub?!  Don’t all baseball players really like money? (cough* Abert Pujols)

This deal boiled down to something that was implemented during the new collective bargaining agreement this off season: Years of Service.

The Oakland A’s won the auction for Cespedes out of the blue because they, unlike other team in the MLB, were willing to give him a 4 year contract and grant him full free agency at the end of his contract (typically, teams get six years of control, regardless of the initial contract). Cespedes will be a free agent at the age of 30 and will most likely be well acclimatized to the stressed and routine of major league baseball. At that point (if his numbers are good) he can sign with another team for big money.

Basically, Oakland gave Cespedes an offer where he could have his cake and eat it too.

Crafty move eh? It gets better.

Cespedes’ $36 million deal breaks down like this: $6.5 mill this year, $8.5 mill in 2013 & $10.5 mill in each of final 2 years.

This contract is more back-loaded than Jennifer Lopez.

It also screams “trade bait” (I guess kinda like Jennifer Lopez too)

Should Cespedes’ performance in Oakland not be up to par in the first two year of service, its likely you’ll see him traded off to another team who has more cash and is willing to gamble. Oakland never really loses in the deal because he’s going to be a free agent at the end of the 4 years, they dont have to pay off his last two (most expensive) years and are likely to get a fairly healthy return for him.

Impressive move, Oakland A’s. But don’t think the Cubs were outstmarted…

As good as this deal looks on paper, its risky.

So risky in fact, that Epstein felt it necessary to bail on chasing Cespedes and look for alternatives to fill out the outfield. This is a great move and shows the kind of attitude that the new Cubs brass have: one that is focused on smart contracts with quality players who can give the Cubs the type of return they’re looking for.

As upset as I am that Cespedes isn’t a Cub, I’d be more upset to see him in Chicago for such ludicrous contract terms.