With just a couple of days left in the calendar year, it is surprising that the major free agent left fielders are still available. With a more desirable roster than most other teams, the San Francisco Giants have the inside track on acquiring one of them.
Players go where the money is. But when money isn’t an issue, a team can be the winner in negotiations just by being available, and the right fit.
The Giants’ success in recent seasons gives them a leg up.
It wasn’t too long ago that I asked my friend, who is an Oakland A’s fan, if he would trade me Cespedes for the rights to build a stadium in San Jose. Hypothetical I know, but fun to ask. He said he would think about it.
So his value was very high in my eyes at the time, since I understand how important it is to the Giants to own the rights to that area.
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But the state of the franchise has changed a little for the Giants. They no longer have to spend top dollar for a home run hitter, because the collection of doubles hitter that they have comprised makes up for it. So if Cespedes is an option, it should only be because he has lasted so long on the market that he falls into their lap.
The good news is that if they did sign him, they would not have to give up a draft pick in the upcoming draft since he was traded mid-season. Both of the other options do require the loss of a draft pick. But it will be a second rounder as they already lost their first rounder when they signed Jeff Samardzija.
The next candidate is Alex Gordon. It is a surprise that Gordon is still available. He is the oldest of the three, and should be had for a contract with less years. He may be waiting, as they all might be, for one of the others to set the market.
Gordon is the best defensive outfielder out of the three, but is also the lightest hitting. His ability to get on base is a plus, and his all-out approach on the field is also a major positive.
Upton is the wild-card in this trio. He is the youngest and most consistent of the three on both sides of the ball. Where Cespedes is more dynamic with his cannon for an arm, Upton’s is more average. But then, if you position yourself correctly in the outfield, and use good footwork as Barry Bonds did, you don’t have to have a rifle out there.
The three in consideration also could be looking at a shift to center field in the future. This does not bode well for any of them, for several different reasons.
Gordon has never played there, and you would be asking a guy to leave a position he has won Gold Gloves in to one that is a major challenge at AT&T.
Upton is not a good fit in center at all with his lack of a quick first step. He gets to most balls within his area, but at AT&T you need to be fast and quick. And Upton would face difficulties out there.
Finally there is Cespedes. His play in left field is outstanding. His value in center, maybe Aaron Rowand. I could be totally off on this, but the year before Rowand came to the Giants he hit 27 home runs and had a .309 average with the Philadelphia Phillies. He also went to the All-Star game and won his only Gold Glove.
Cespedes hit .291 with 35 home runs last year and won a Gold Glove.
As we know, Rowand never again approached those numbers at AT&T Park, it just doesn’t lend itself well to power hitters. So if you move Cespedes, and his plus defense in left field becomes average to below average in center, you lose some of the value on defense. Along with losing some of the power numbers on offense because of AT&T.
So the jury is still out on who will flinch first. But the more time that passes, the more likely the Giants may get a bargain for one of the remaining free agent left fielders.
And even then there are always trades available.