Fantasy Baseball

Winter Meetings Update: Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes

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There is nothing quite like the Winter Meetings in baseball. Sure, the NFL has the market cornered on amateur draft hype and the NBA has an advantage when it comes to a focus on free agency, but baseball does it right with the Winter Meetings. You get a little bit of everything rolled into one. If I wasn’t a working stiff and I didn’t have family obligations, I would be take the trip every year just to watch the spectacle of it all.

What baseball adds that the other sports do not have with their respective events is the majesty of the trade. You stick 30 general managers in the same place for four days and you are bound to get some deals done, and the 2014 Winter Meetings had more blockbuster deals than any Winter Meetings in recent memory. One of the more intriguing situations came down towards the end of the meetings with Yoenis Cespedes and the Boston Red Sox.

Rumors had been flying since the Red Sox acquired him that he would not be staying long. Cespedes is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season, so that was one reason why the Sox seemed ready to deal. However, there was more there than met the eye. There were rumors that the Sox were unhappy with his work ethic and that he wasn’t working and playing well with others. One thing is certain, there isn’t a leakier organization than the Red Sox. If something is going wrong, someone is bound to speak.

Cespedes’ exit from Boston became evident when the club signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez earlier in November. Ramirez is likely headed for the outfield which means that there would be a glut of outfielders. Ironically, there is still a glut of corner outfielders even with Cespedes departure. However, there is no denying that the Red Sox were in a desperate need for pitching. They met some of those needs with the trade for Rick Porcello and the signing of Justin Masterson.

Porcello might be one of the more underappreciated hurlers in the American League. He went 15-13 a year ago with a 3.43 ERA in over 200 innings. Unfortunately for him, he toiled in the same rotation as Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and David Price at the end of the season. He was as good as all of them, but they got most of the headlines. Now he will headline a rotation that probably still needs some help. The key with Porcello’s game is control. He averaged just 1.8 walks per nine innings a year ago. You won’t get big strikeouts from him, so he won’t be one of the first pitchers taken, but he is joining a good team, so he should be on your radar.

As for Cespedes, he is joining his third team in less than a season. Team hopping always makes me nervous, but you are also talking about a guy in the last year of his contract. The Tigers already brought Victor Martinez back into the fold earlier in the offseason. Cespedes will end up replacing Torii Hunter’s bat in the lineup. It’s hard to see this as anything but an upgrade for the Tigers. Cespedes combined to hit .260/22/89/100 between Oakland and Boston. The combination of two home stadiums makes it hard to determine whether moving to Detroit would be better of worse for his numbers.

It’s easy to see why teams become enchanted with Cespedes. It’s also to see why they become unenchanted with him. On the one hand, he has all of those physical skills. We’ve seen the arm in action and he does have a tantalizing combination of power and speed. Yet, this combination has never produced a 30 home run season or more than 20 stolen bases. He produced an OPS over .800 in his first season, but he hasn’t done that since.

There is reason to believe that better things are yet to come. In Oakland, Cespedes was expected to be a bigger piece of the pie. In Detroit, he has Miguel Cabrera, Martinez, and Ian Kinsler to help keep him in the background. It remains to be seen if this will have a positive or negative impact on their ability to bring back Max Scherzer. Cespedes will only impact their long-term financial situation if they re-sign him. So, jettisoning Porcello may have enabled them to do that.

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