Washington Nationals: Is Yoenis Cespedes The Right Fit In 2017?

After missing out on Yoenis Cespedes last year, will the Washington Nationals be able to sign him this offseason?

Last offseason, the Washington Nationals were one of the teams that were interested in signing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. However, Cespedes decided to go back to the New York Mets. But, after opting out of his three-year contract, Cespedes is a free agent once again and has received a qualifying offer from New York.

At the GM Meetings in Scottsdale yesterday, Rizzo did not address specifically about the team’s interest in Cespedes. However, he did mention that he is an improvement to any ball club that he signs with:

With the Mets last season, Cespedes had a slash line of .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI’s in 132 games. The 31-year-old has had back-to-back 30+ home run seasons and has driven in 85+ runs in each of the last three years (over 100 RBI’s in 2014 and 2015).

Yesterday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote about another comment by Rizzo, which talked about how the team would have to move money around to make another big signing, such as the Max Scherzer one in February 2015:

“Rizzo said the club might have to remove payroll in another area to make a big signing such as Cespedes, but that Nationals ownership has generally provided him resources when he has requested them.” (h/t Sherman, New York Post)

As I mentioned, the Washington Nationals were one of the teams who inquired about Cespedes last year before he went back to the Mets. Last year, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network wrote in a column last year about Cespedes: Joining the Nationals also might concern him, given the number of strong personalities in their clubhouse.”

This past offseason, there was a different atmosphere around the Washington Nationals clubhouse with Dusty Baker as the manager. Plus, another former Met, Daniel Murphy , had a MVP caliber season in D.C. Could the addition of Murphy end up helping the Nats take another key piece from their NL East rivals?

While Cespedes has experience playing center field, he is a much better defender in left field, where he won an American League Gold Glove in 2015. In 2016, Cespedes actually played more innings in left field than center and the sabermetrics support him more as a left fielder.

According to Fangraphs, he had four runs saved as a left fielder compared to -7 as a center fielder. Due to Jayson Werth having one more year left on his contract, Cespedes would have to play center field for one more year and then transition back to left field in 2018. That would allow Turner to move back to the shortstop position.

Cespedes has only played in 12 games at Nats Park in his career, but he is a .313 hitter in that ballpark with three home runs and nine RBI’s. He has four home runs and 11 RBI’s in his last 25 games overall against the Washington Nationals. While that is not the numbers Giancarlo Stanton and Freddie Freeman have against the Nats, he is the hitter that the Nats would gameplan for the most when they played the Mets.

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If Cespedes signs with the Washington Nationals, it would be a good thing because it adds another impact bat to this lineup and adds more depth up and down the order. The question is, will he sign?

Right now, I think Cespedes is going to re-sign with the Mets. He is the most popular player on the Mets and is a star. He was the player who helped the Mets win the NL East in 2015 after they acquired him from the Tigers. There was an interesting quote I read from John Perotto of Today’s Knuckleball who talked to an executive about Cespedes:

“He loves the spotlight and no place offers a bigger spotlight than New York,” an executive said. “Mets ownership also likes the star power he provides.” (h/t Perotto, Today’s Knuckleball)

Even though many other suitors could emerge in the Cespedes sweepstakes, my prediction is this will come down to the Washington Nationals or the New York Mets. If that happens, it will be interesting to see if the Nats come out on the winning side this time around.

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