Warning: the following article contains outside-of-the-box ideas. One could call it a hot take, click bait, or simply ridiculous. I’d prefer to call it an intriguing possibility for the Cardinals.
We don’t know what GM John Mozeliak’s budget looks like for this offseason, but what we do know is that there’s work to be done. The Cardinals need to be a markedly better ballclub come next April if they plan to keep up with the Cubs. That right there is a phrase St. Louis is going to hear a lot of over the next calendar year: “keep up with the Cubs.” It’s not a pleasant phrase.
Like it or not, though, the Chicago Cubs are the class of the league, and it’s the Cardinals who need to search for ways to regain that title. One way to do just that would be to go out and replace their 36-year-old broken-down former left fielder Matt Holliday with perennial All Star slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
On this brisk November morning, the official website of the St. Louis Cardinals lists their 2017 starting left fielder as Jose Martinez. That’s the same Jose Martinez who has played in a whopping 12 MLB games, recorded all of 7 hits, and yet managed to stay afloat for a lengthy stay of more than 9 years in the minors. Long story short, he’s not a viable option for a starting gig.
Viable option #1 presents itself in the form of quite possibly the best free agent available on the market: Yoenis Cespedes. Let’s get the facts out of the way first. Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 HR and 86 RBI despite missing 30 games in 2016 with the Mets due to injury. He’s known for being a bit of a showoff, but it’s never been enough of an issue to hamper his incredible talent. He can handle a massive media market, and thrives off of expectations.
The Mets take a 4-3 lead on the two-run home run by Cespedes.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 28, 2016
Sure, he won’t come cheap. Some are throwing out numbers anywhere between $100 million for 4 years to $160 million for 6. What he can do is carry an offense, as he routinely was asked to do during his time in New York. He’s a bonafide offensive weapon who you can stick in the three-hole and let him go to work. Yadier Molina may have proven himself more than capable this season, but you can’t realistically count on the 34-year-old to strike fear into opposing pitchers for much longer. Cespedes changes the entire dynamic of a lineup, and in turn makes everyone around him better.
For those who will pout and frown that we’re not somehow swinging a deal for Andrelton Simmons, Javier Baez, and Nolan Arenado to shore up our defense as Mozeliak intends to, it might be important to be be reminded that Cespedes is far from a one-dimensional slugger. He won a 2015 Gold Glove award for his fabulous work in left field, and ably filled the role of center fielder from time to time with New York. Despite his odd aversion to sacrificing his body for diving catches, his absolute cannon of an arm might, just might make up for that. Take a look for yourself, why don’t you:
If I was trying to sell you on a more under-the-radar guy like Ben Zobrist, I might resort to throwing out all sorts of statistics like OPS+, Z-Swing%, or ISO. That’s the thing about Yoenis Cespedes. There’s a wonderful connection between the scout’s view and the analyst’s view of this guy. His numbers check out, and the talent is so obvious that it’s undeniable.
It’s exciting to dream of Cespedes, Randal Grichuk, and Yadi putting up crooked numbers in the 3-4-5 slots in 2017. Think about the inevitable bond that would blossom between Cespedes and his fellow countryman Aledmys Diaz. Cespedes’ glamorous attitude was too much teams like A’s and the Red Sox, but something tells me he’d be a flawless fit on this team. He’s a spark plug, and would be a huge move for a team that suffered a bit of a down year this year. Signing Yoenis Cespedes would show the city of St. Louis that the Cardinals aren’t messing around, and they plan on making it another 108 years until the next time the Cubs are World Champions.
Photo by Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports