Legends On Deck

Do The Houston Astros Need Yoenis Cespedes?

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Image Source: NY Daily News

It is the middle of January and Yoenis Cespedes, arguably the best hitter in this year’s free agent class, remains unemployed. Cespedes has made it clear that he wants a lengthy and lucrative contract and, although he has yet to sign one, there is reportedly plenty of interest for the 30-year-old Cuban outfielder.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote recently that the Braves, White Sox and Mets are interested, and the Angels and Tigers were mentioned as possible fits as well.

However, there was a recent addition to the Cespedes market, according to Peter Gammons. Evidently multiple MLB executives told Gammons that the Astros are going to make a run at the free agent, but is that really a good idea for a Houston team that has its eye on improving on last season’s ALDS exit?

Well, Cespedes’ terrific numbers from 2015 suggest that maybe it would be a shrewd move for the ‘Stros. He slashed .291/.328/.542 with a whopping 35 home runs and 105 RBI with both the Tigers and Mets and was ridiculously awesome down the stretch. He hit 17 home runs in the last two months of the season and played an integral part in pushing the Mets into the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Only four players in baseball hit the ball harder than Cespedes last season, according to average exit velocity data compiled by Baseball Savant, which proves that his gaudy numbers were no fluke. He is an incredibly strong man, and he hits the ball with more authority and with more regularity than nearly every other player in Major League Baseball.

Cespedes also showed in 2015 that he can make adjustments when necessary. He hit considerably fewer fly balls last year than he did during his disappointing 2014 campaign while increasing both his ground ball and line drive percentages. At the same time, he drastically increased his homer-to-flyball ratio, which means he was a much more efficient hitter and made his fly balls count when he hit them.

Moving to Minute Maid Park would further benefit his output. The two ballparks that he played his home games in last year—the Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Mets’ Citi Field—are known as larger, pitcher-friendly venues, while Houston boasts a short porch in left field that stands only 315 feet from home plate.

According to ESPN.com’s Park Factors, Citi and Comerica ranked 17th and 26th, respectively, in home run numbers in 2015, while Minute Maid Park ranked ninth. If Cespedes was able to launch 35 dingers playing the majority of his games in cavernous parks like he did last year, thinking about what he could do in Houston should make the Astros’ front office giddy with excitement.

In addition to his massive power potential, he also plays outstanding defense, as evidenced by his 11 defensive runs saved last season. He possesses one of the strongest outfield arms in the game, and while he profiles best at one of the corners, he has the ability to play all three outfield spots.

All told, Cespedes is a gifted player who can do it all on the field. He mashes home runs at a clip that few can match, especially in today’s power-starved era of baseball.

However, his attitude has been questioned in the past—Rosenthal labeled him as mercurial in a recent column—and he will surely command big bucks. Another issue that the Astros will have to overcome is the fact that there currently is not an opening for Cespedes in the lineup.

George Springer is a former first round pick dripping with potential, Carlos Gomez was Houston’s big acquisition at the Trade Deadline last year and still has one year remaining on his contract and the Astros signed Colby Rasmus to a one-year, $15.8 contract earlier in the offseason. They also have 24-year-old Preston Tucker, who impressed in his rookie season last year when he hit 13 home runs and 19 doubles in 323 plate appearances.

What the Astros could do is dangle Gomez and Rasmus on the trade market and see if anyone bites. If so, that would open up a spot for Cespedes. They could also potentially receive a nice prospect or two in return, bolstering a farm system that has been a bit depleted with some recent trades.

With that said, they should not pass on Cespedes—he is too special of a talent. Even though the financial and personnel repercussions might seem awkward now, when he is pummeling baseballs into the Crawford Boxes and onto the train tracks of Minute Maid Park, he will be well worth it.

He showed late last year that he has the capability of putting an entire team on his back and dragging them to the playoffs with tape measure home runs and laser throws from the outfield.

The Astros are one impact bat away from solidifying themselves as legit World Series contenders, and Cespedes fills that role like few others can.

Original article posted on HC3 Cold Hard Sports.

Heath Clary

Heath is currently a finance student at Texas A&M University. The Astros are his favorite team, but he is an all-around baseball fanatic who continually marvels at the game's best players. He has written for Bleacher Report and VAVEL USA in his career, and also maintains a sports blog, HC3 Cold Hard Sports.