After months of reports about Yoenis Cespedes being on the verge of free agency MLB has finally announced that the 26-year-old outfielder who defected from Cuba last summer is cleared to negotiate with teams.
Cespedes established residency in the Dominican Republic and then surprised many people by participating in the Dominican winter league, but stopped playing following a rough 10-game stretch in which he hit .143.
Initially there was plenty of speculation about Cespedes getting as much as $50 million, but those rumors seem to have died down. However, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com “he’s expected to command a contract greater than” the $30.5 million deal Aroldis Chapman got from the Reds after defecting from Cuba in 2009.
Cespedes said previously that the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, and Indians have shown the most interest, but reports vary on whether he views playing in Miami as a positive or a negative.
As for what type of player Cespedes is capable of being, projections based off his Cuban numbers show a good but not great hitter with 25-homer power and poor strike-zone control.
The White Sox have reportedly picked up first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians, according to Stadium. The return for Alonso is expected to be nothing more flashy than a “fringe prospect,” though the minutiae of the deal is still pending a formal announcement from both teams.
Alonso, 31, inked a two-year deal with the Indians during the 2017 offseason. His first campaign with the club yielded a modest .250/.317/.421 batting line, 23 home runs, .738 OPS and 0.7 fWAR in 574 PA. The real boon for the White Sox may not be a passable veteran bat, however, but something more intangible — like Alonso’s clout with his brother-in-law and highly-coveted free agent slugger, Manny Machado.
While Alonso’s 2018 output represented a significant decline from the career-best numbers he posted in 2017, he’s still a solid contributor at the plate and, more importantly, slated to remain under team control for the next two years with just $8 million owed in 2019 and a $9 million option in 2020. As MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince notes, the $17 million the Indians just erased from their payroll should give them enough room to accommodate the contracts for right-handers Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber — a bonus regardless of what they happen to get in the trade.