Yankees Should Think About Signing Yoenis Cespedes


The New York Yankees are going to make moves in the offseason and they must think about adding a power bat. Yoenis Cespedes might be available. But does his approach match his bat?

The Yankees biggest problem this year was not pitching, it was hitting for power. Three teams from the AL East went to the playoffs and all three were built around powerful lineups. While I doubt the Yankees could have overtaken the Red Sox for first as their pitching was the best of the contenders, they could have beaten out either the Jays or Orioles if they had consistent power in the middle of the line-up.

That brings us to Yoenis Cespedes. He will do one of two things in the next month. Either he will opt out of his current contract and become a free agent, or he will leverage his 2016 season to augment his contract. My guess is he will do the latter and add one guaranteed year and one player option year, all at 25 million per.

But he might not. He might become a free agent. And if he does, he automatically has to be considered to wear the pinstripes. If you live in NY, you already know why.

Deja Vu

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Two years ago I was completely against the Yankees pursuing Cespedes; then I saw him play the last year and a half. He can do what few can do: carry a team for several weeks. Yankees fans know what that looks like because we just watched Gary Sanchez do it.

When he arrived at the Mets last year, they were a stagnant, boring team. He immediately gave them a shot of adrenaline and an MVP-caliber close to the season. Paying tangential attention to him this year, I saw him hit several big hits and home runs when the Mets needed it most. For the year, he slashed 280/.354/.530 with 31 homers.

You could argue that Carlos Beltran did just as well, if not better. For the Yankees, he hit .304/.344/.546 with 22 home runs. Had the Yankees kept Beltran and added Sanchez, they might have hit their way to the postseason. I have already argued that the Yankees should bring Beltran back for one year but, if not, Cespedes would be an upgrade.

One of the elements that does not show up in that stat line is the day-to-day benefits of a younger player. Again, the Yankees gave us a good view. I wanted Beltran at the plate but Tyler Austin on the base paths. Also, younger players have fewer bumps and bruises that put them on the pine instead of swinging it.

Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

The thought of Sanchez and Cespedes going back to back and perhaps belly to belly is exciting. Cespedes will play all of next season at age 31 and in the heart of his prime. If the Yankees signed him for four years and an option, they would be getting the best of him. And the best of the Mets.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Two years ago I was completely against the Yankees pursuing Cespedes; then I saw him play the last year and a half. Now I am…completely against it. Yes, he swings a mighty bat. But it is his other qualities both as a person and a player that disqualifies him from the pinstripes.

First and foremost has to be his frequent loss of focus in the outfield. Again, I have only seen him play in 30 or 40 games but it was enough to know he does not always do everything he can to win. I remember highlights of him last year in the regular season and playoffs committing costly defensive faux pas.

Winning a championship takes talent, a lot of hard work, and some luck. You throw a lot of that away when you do not bring your talent to bear on every play. I expect Yankees to show up every day with a drive to win and the focus to do so.

Which brings me to point two: the attitude coming into spring training. The Mets lost the World Series last year. I expected them to come into camp hungry, angry and all-business. Instead, Yoenis led the charge to show off what the spoils of success look like with a daily car show. And as important as riding horses is when getting ready for a baseball season, a part of me thinks they overdid it.

I know there are many who do not think this is important. Some might say, look at the results. His slash line and dynamism clearly helped propel the Mets to the postseason. I agree we should look at the results. If he and the rest of the team started and ended with single minded purpose, they might have overcome their many obstacles.

Oct 31, 2015; Yoenis Cespedes in game four of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

Just ask Willis Reed

For reference, let’s look at some past evidence. The 1987 Dodgers finished in fourth place in their division. After the season, the organization felt the team was missing two things: a power bat and a change of attitude. The legendary Tommy Lasorda knew he needed to focus on solving both problems; enter Kirk Gibson (and Rick Dempsey) and his World Series ring and his World Series attitude.

In spring training a player decided to welcome Gibson by pranking him; Gibson responded with anger. He told reporters that the reason this team has not won is that they are focused, in part, on childish things. That focus and determination provoked the Dodgers to the World Series, where that overcome all obstacles attitude went from hopeful to historic. In game one, Gibson pulled himself from the whirlpool and hit an inexplicable home run, dictated by destiny.

The Dodgers won that series as soon the ball left Gibson’s bat and long before he finished hobbling around the bases. If you look back at the two super teams of the era, the Mets and the Athletics, and wonder why neither one won more titles, this unspectacular Dodgers team is one great reason. They beat both of those teams while possessing far less talent.

Unpleasant Memories

Coming into the 2008 Rays spring training, third year manager Joe Maddon knew he needed to change the culture of losing in the Tampa organization. I sense of ennui can set in after so many seasons of losing. He preached this change and win every game attitude, and his players listened. In a meaningless spring training game, Elliot Johnson barreled into catcher Francisco Cervelli. It knocked Cervelli out for the season and fueled the Rays fire, a fire Maddon stoked all the way to the Rays first World Series.

One more. The Yankees beat the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS; it is still the greatest series I have ever seen. The Sox came into that season thinking they had enough talent to win it all. You can see the shock and disappointment on the faces of the players as effin Aaron Boone rounds the bases.

When they came back for the 2004 season, things were different.

The biggest difference was that we could no longer see any looks on their faces. They had grown beards, and they had grown angry. It was that attitude that kept them fighting hard in games 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the ALCS. And after they beat their ancient foes, they could have folded in the WS, basking in the glory of a battle well-won. Instead, their focus and determination drove them all the way down Yawkey Way.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

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This is the kind of reaction I expected from Cespedes and the Mets. I expected Yoenis to come into spring training with a far away look in his eyes, as if he can only see the WS. I wanted him to come in with a hunger that only winning can satiate.

To be clear, the Mets lost this year because their pitching broke down. But Cespedes showed he is a great player, and a clutch player, who is neither able nor willing to do everything he can to win. If getting that close to what should be your only goal and not realizing it do not make you obsessed with winning it all, then you cannot be on the Yankees.

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Many people do not know that right inside the Yankees locker room is a cardboard cutout of Jeter. The caption below reads, “You must be at least this focused on winning to enter here.” Cespedes swings a mighty bat but will never measure up to Yankees standards.