The Detroit Tigers signing Justin Upton on a massive, pretty much unexpected deal leaves Yoenis Cespedes in an interesting situation. A lot of teams around the league want him: The San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves all showing interest, but his demands and the team’s own needs aren’t completely matching.
There seems to be a different list of teams next to Cespedes each day, but now that the Detroit Tigers are off the list by signing Upton to a six-year, $132.5 million contract, following the Baltimore Orioles also moving to different things after re-signing Chris Davis (they actually made a $90 million for five years offer to Cespedes), it’s getting more and more refined, but also leaving us with a couple of questions regarding the future landing spot for Cespedes.
The first one has to do with money. Cespedes was rumored to be asking for $132 million over six years, just like Upton. The Orioles low balled him, but allegedly were never serious about him, only wanting to draw out Davis back to the negotiations table. But if Upton, who is younger, but most believe is inferior in almost every way to Cespedes as a player, makes that kind of money, what kind of contract is Cespedes going to get?
The thing is that his timing might be off. The teams that do need an outfielder might not be willing to spend that much for so long. That’s why the New York Mets are still in the running: They hope Cespedes “comes around” and takes a short, one-year deal and try to gamble on next year’s market, when the outfielders aren’t as good as they were this season, and it’ll be easier for Cespedes to stand out and get the deal he wants early, instead of dragging it out.
A team that can afford him are the Angels, but they haven’t been in too much contact with him, mostly watching from afar. They aren’t too keen on moving past the luxury tax, even if Cespedes will give them an incredible middle-of-the-lineup bat paired up with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The Atlanta Braves have a chance to make a move on him, but reportedly don’t want to offer more than three years, which is somewhere in between.
An interesting contender are the San Diego Padres, that need to fill the hole left by Upton. The problem for them are the contracts they’re already tied down to, although they’re still at “only” 100 million in salary next season. Going up to $120 million or just a bit over isn’t out of the question, especially if the Padres believe James Shields, making $21 million in 2016, is going to opt out of his contract in 2017 or 2018, but they can’t predict the future.
The Chicago White Sox weren’t planning on spending that much, but might be forced to. The Detroit Tigers have themselves an expensive but fearsome looking group of sluggers once more, and the Kansas City Royals aren’t going away, and probably just got better this offseason. If the White Sox intend to compete in the AL Central this season, pulling off the Cespedes signing might be the only move left for them, or simply wait another year.