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On Cespedes Opting Out

Yoenis Cespedes has opted out of his contract, leaving $47.5M behind in New York. We discuss possible landing spots and his stability as a power hitter.

The Record-USA TODAY Sports

If you aren't already using the RosterResource MLB Transaction Tracker, you should be. The staff at RosterResource has provided the baseball community with numerous fantastic products. The fun aspect of the Transaction Tracker is the 2017 Fantasy Impact column. This system ranks each transaction on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest fantasy impact and 1 being the lowest.

Here's an example: RP Luke Hochevar: Mutual Option Decline by Team - Ranking: 1
Here's an example: OF Yoenis Cespedes: Opted out of Contract - Ranking: 5

While the thought of writing up a transaction analysis post on Luke Hochevar might sound exciting... it's not. The Cespedes' news on the other hand is a great reason to go behind the projection scene and examine the core skills that has turned Cespedes into a fantasy monster in recent years. 

After an impressive .861 OPS during his debut 2012 season, Cespedes took a step back in overall performance in the following 2013 & 2014 seasons. The power remained, however, fewer balls traveled over the fence those seasons. Cespedes was also chasing more unhittable pitches, resulting in an on base percentage around .300 during this period of time.

Cespedes started the 2015 season with the Detroit Tigers and only improved his eventual trade stock by hitting .293/.323/.506 with 18 home runs in 102 games. Following the trade to the Mets, Cespedes suited up for 57 games and upped his slugging percentage to .604, thanks in large part to 17 post-trade home runs.

When you smash Cespedes' 2015 free-agent year all together, we're left with a .291/.328/.542 slash line, with Rotisserie counting statistics of: 35 HR | 101 R | 105 RBI | 7 SB. At 30-years old, many expected Cespedes to land a five or six year deal on the open market. Said deal never came to light and Cespedes ended up back with the Mets on a 3-year $75M deal, with opt-out clauses after both the first and second year.

As the title suggests (spoiler alert), Cespedes decided to exercise his ability to opt-out of his contract following the first year, leaving $47.5M behind with the Mets. The weak free-agent class of 2016 may have helped make this decision easier - Jose Bautista and Yoenis Cespedes are the two big name outfield free agents this year - but also playing into his decision was another strong offensive season, equally as impressive to his 2015 campaign. 

The biggest change for Cespedes this season was an increase in his ability to take a walk. Not only does this provide more opportunity to score a run, but it also could mean Cespedes was picking better pitches to swing and drive. Plate Discipline metrics back up this idea, with a 4.4% decrease in O-Swing% from 2015 to 2016. While a 33.1% O-Swing% is still 2.5% above the league average rate, it was quite an improvement for Cespedes and could help explain the next improvement Cespedes made - hitting the ball even harder. Using Batted Ball data we see Cespedes increased his Hard% from 35.8% in 2015 to 39.3% in 2016. The 2016 league average Hard% was 31.4% for reference. 

So where will Cespedes end up this winter? While I suppose it's still anyone's guess, I came across this article from Mark Townsend of Yahoo, speculating on four potential landing spots.

  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. New York Yankees
  4. New York Mets

The reasoning behind each is interesting enough and I encourage you to check out the full article for details. In terms of a fantasy-friendly landing spot based on the teams above, I'd prefer:

  1. Yankees
  2. Angels
  3. Mets
  4. Giants

While the above may appear to be a simple ballpark factor ranking, it's not entirely. Yes, Yankees Stadium would be a great landing spot for a power hitter such as Cespedes, but Angels Stadium is quite a step down in terms of home run ability. The main reason I include the Angels above the Mets is simply for the DH ability of the American League. Of course with Albert Pujols manning that lineup spot more and more in recent years, perhaps the Angels and Mets should be 2a & 2b. Being right-handed would help Cespedes some in AT&T Park, but moving out West to San Francisco would still be the worst move if we are strictly talking home run ballpark factors. 

Cespedes had some solid years in Oakland so we shouldn't be too worried about a massive power outage regardless of where he ends up this winter. The skills appear to be improving and at 31 years old, at least one more season around this level of production should be expected. His profile is one that I will want to take year-to-year in terms of analyzing skill and underlying performance metrics, which might make me a little uneasy in Dynasty formats.