Yoenis Cespedes is learning it’s a hard knock life in Boston.
Cespedes’ recent switch to Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports turned heads, as did a New York Daily News report in which the writer cited a rift between the outfielder and Boston’s coaching staff. But while the Red Sox have 99 problems going into this offseason, Cespedes ain’t one.
To say Cespedes changing agents will be instrumental in his departure from the Red Sox is silly. It might lessen the chances of Boston working out a contract extension with the Cuban slugger — Jay Z’s group landed Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million contract on the open market last offseason, so Cespedes could be inclined to test free agency next winter — but it shouldn’t be viewed as a game-changer in negotiations.
Cespedes positioned himself for a lucrative deal long before he switched agents. And the Red Sox, for what it’s worth, just settled on a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with fellow Cuban defector Rusney Castillo, who happens to be a Jay Z client.
It’s far more reasonable to say Cespedes being on a different wavelength than the Red Sox’s coaching staff will lead to his exodus, but manager John Farrell shot down the existence of any tension during a radio appearance Tuesday. Boston’s new hitting coach, Chili Davis, also expressed his admiration for Cespedes during an introductory conference call last week. Davis coached Cespedes in Oakland.
Cespedes’ future — or lack thereof — in Boston instead is rooted in whether he makes sense from a personnel standpoint. If Cespedes is traded this offseason, it will be because general manager Ben Cherington decided to leverage one of his more valuable assets to improve the major league roster.
Cespedes, who is set to earn $10.5 million in 2015, has tremendous power, which is the most sought-after commodity in baseball these days. The Red Sox could choose to sell high based on demand, their abundance of outfielders and their dire need for starting pitching.
If, say, the Cincinnati Reds or New York Mets — two teams positioned to deal pitching for offensive upgrades — blew up Cherington’s phone with reasonable offers, he’d certainly entertain the idea of trading Cespedes, even if the ideal scenario is to keep the bopper and acquire arms by some other means.
The Red Sox’s lineup had a new look and feel once Cespedes was acquired from the Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. He added a dynamic the unit lacked — middle-of-the-order pop, particularly in the clutch — and looked like someone capable of providing adequate right-handed protection for David Ortiz, who, while still unbelievable, won’t be around forever.
But there also were negatives, including Cespedes’ lackluster on-base percentage (.296 in 51 games), his inconsistent plate discipline and defensive lapses that were enough to make one question whether he’ll ever truly adapt to left field at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox need to figure out in the coming months whether Cespedes fits into what they’re trying to do, both in the short term and long term. If he does, he’ll stay. If he doesn’t, he’ll go. It’s that simple. Other variables, including rifts that might or might not exist, are ancillary.
Call it a problem if you want. But the Red Sox sure aren’t complaining about having a talented player, like Cespedes, at their disposal.
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