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The Rays case for Yoenis Cespedes (doesn't exist)

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This isn't the power-hitting left-fielder you're looking for.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Former front office member Tony Blengino has the Rays as a longshot to land Yoenis Cespedes. We ran through this exercise once before on Justin Upton, and it's worth recognizing exactly what we would be talking about here.

The Rays would be in the market for a one-year deal, and the Rays would need to move some outfielders off the roster to make room for a new one. Still, at the right price, Cespedes is a tantalizing addition.

His overall performance has not always equaled the hype, but certain aspects of Cespedes's game are undeniable. He has incredible power and an incredible arm, and he padded his resume with a gold glove and 6.7 fWAR performance in 2015, propelling the Mets into the playoffs. He's also incredibly durable, and given the Rays experience in 2015, importantly so.

After re-setting the market, the only team that stood out as a contender to Blengino was the Orioles, who recently dropped a lot of deferred money on Chris Davis. Everyone else is a darkhorse, but nearly everyone else could benefit from his services. The Mets, Angels, and White Sox are on the periphery of his market, but let's look at the Rays.

Here was Blengino's take:

Tampa Bay
Hole: DH
2015 Payroll: $75.8M
2016 Payroll: $68.1M

This is an intriguing example of a club that originally considered itself a non-factor, but now has to at least consider diving into the market. Their payroll is actually projected to be down from last year, the division is up for grabs, and a few wins could really go a long way. Plus, their newly negotiated ability to search for alternate stadium sites in the greater Tampa Bay area gives them at least a flicker of financial hope. They did, however, tender a contract to Logan Morrison, and aren't the type of club that can afford to sit $4 million on the bench.

Conclusion: They might be intriguing, but they're still a longshot.

The Rays have never been ones to let a sunk cost get in the way of a good baseball decision, and they showcased that last season by paying Grant Balfour and Jose Molina to sit on the sidelines, releasing each player and paying out their millions remaining. Morrison is not the issue here.

It's the money.

Last year, Cespedes earned $10.5 million in the final year of his contract, and according to Ken Rosenthal, he's looking for a $24 million guarantee. In other words, something a little better than Justin Upton received. After making a case that the Mets have money to spend, which they do, Rosenthal concludes: "Five years, $120 million, two-year-opt out, a ton of deferred money. If the Mets don't do it, some other team will."

That team is not the Rays, but let's finish the article. Here's a possible version of a backloaded Cespedes contract:

Year Contract WAR $/WAR (1.05) Value Surplus Value
1 $15,300,000 3.5 $8,000,000 $28,000,000 $12,700,000
2 $15,300,000 3.0 $8,400,000 $25,200,000 $9,900,000
3 $17,300,000 2.5 $8,820,000 $22,050,000 $4,750,000
4 $19,100,000 2.0 $9,261,000 $18,522,000 -$578,000
5 $21,000,000 1.5 $9,724,050 $14,586,075 -$6,413,925
6 $4,000,000 - $10,210,253 $0 -$4,000,000
7 $4,000,000 - $10,720,765 $0 -$4,000,000
8 $4,000,000 - $11,256,803 $0 -$4,000,000
9 $4,000,000 - $11,819,644 $0 -$4,000,000
10 $3,000,000 - $12,410,626 $0 -$3,000,000
11 $3,000,000 - $13,031,157 $0 -$3,000,000
12 $3,000,000 - $13,682,715 $0 -$3,000,000
13 $3,000,000 - $14,366,851 $0 -$3,000,000
14 $2,000,000 - $15,085,193 $0 -$2,000,000
15 $2,000,000 - $15,839,453 $0 -$2,000,000
Total $120,000,000 12.5 $108,358,075 -$11,641,925

Unless the player chose his opt out in year two, this is not a promising deal with those WAR figures, for any club. Paying a player to sit at home in his retirement, is better for a team than paying him the same large amount of money all at once, but it's still not a good deal.

Cespedes is 30 and coming off a career year, and history tells us that years like that get baseball players paid, but that assumes his performance is guaranteed to continue at the same levels it has been.

His four-year track record is not strong enough to support that type of deal, with wRC+ of 136, 102, and 109 before his monster 2015 season, and even that was "only" back up to a 135 wRC+. Those previous WAR's all danced around 3.0 and he's more likely to do the same going forward.

The two-year opt out is fair, and if he were to sign with the Rays, you'd hope they Rays could turn it into a mutual option. Even if the Rays could trust him to be healthy, they could not trust him to continue his high-end performance.

There isn't a strong case for a long term deal in the numbers above. Even if you off-load more money into the future, it still looks like a $10 million deficit. Cespedes would need to maintain a 3-WAR performance into his age 32-34 seasons to break even, and the opportunity cost to the Rays would be great. Allocating as much as $20 million to any player is a restrictive act for this club.

Conclusion

Well we've come this far, so lets say the Rays see the market falling apart, and that no team is offering this back-loaded deal. They could step in with a two-year deal, ignoring all the nonsense after the would-be opt out in a prolonged contract, and try to emphasize the clubhouse culture and lack of income tax in the state.

In that unlikely event, what's the most you could see the Rays offering a players? Something like 2/$25 with a fat signing bonus? Maybe?

Not a chance. The Orioles and the White Sox and the Mets and the Angels all have deep enough pocketbooks to nab any short-term deal Cespedes might surprisingly agree to.

So before you think about this nonsense any further...

/*waves hand like Obi-wan Kenobi

/*you think to yourself "Move along, move along."