It has been an interesting week for all things related to Yoenis Cespedes.
A report in the N.Y. Daily News came out saying with Cespedes switching agents to Roc Nation, that “increased” the chances of the Red Sox trading him this offseason with Roc Nation, like it did with Robinson Cano, seeking a larger, long-term contract.
The report also said, “[Cespedes] marches to his own drum and the coaches all hate him.”
Appearing on the Hot Stove show with Mike Mutnansky, Rob Bradford and Alex Speier, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington shot down both those claims.
When the Red Sox traded for Cespedes at last year’s trade deadline they knew his contract status — a free agent after the 2015 season without the chance to give him a qualifying offer. Cherington said Cespedes changing agents isn’t going change the Red Sox’ stance of possibly signing him long-term.
“We evaluated [the trade] based on having him a year-plus,” Cherington said. “I think to put in anything more than that would have been presumptuous and not would have made sense in terms of our evaluation of that field versus the alternatives we had at the time. We look at it as OK we have him for a year-plus. Once we have him, we’ll get to know him and we’ll see if it makes sense to talk about a contract past 2015.
“So now that we’ve had him, we have a sense of who he is and the change in agents is not going to do anything to our perspective on that. It’s not going to change our position on it. Obviously right now he is under contract for next year and we are looking forward to having him in the lineup next year.”
Cherington, like manager John Farrell, was “surprised” by the report of the coaches not liking Cespedes.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I think most of the people in the office, and John — we were talking about all sorts of stuff each day to gear up for the offseason and we saw that and it was a surprise because of the words that were used and it was so far from anything any of us had heard. John said what he said and I would echo that.
“We were excited to get Yoenis at the deadline and he fit in very quickly we thought in the clubhouse. He’s an extremely talented guy, an important guy for our team, an important guy for our lineup. All we’re trying to do is put him in the best position to succeed and to maximize his ability. We think he has the ability to be a terrific impact player for us and in baseball for a long time. We’re trying to help him be that guy and we really enjoy having him. The article was surprising on that front.”
It’s clear the Red Sox have money to spend this offseason as according to Speier, the Red Sox have roughly $45 million to spend after Thursday’s re-signing of Koji Uehara. Cherington said agents know the Red Sox typically have plenty of money to spend and they are prepared to spend it this offseason.
“Agents know and players know that the Red Sox have always had a competitive payroll amongst the top payrolls, at least in the tenure of this ownership group, amongst the top payrolls in baseball,” he said. “We’re going to spend what our budget allows us to spend and usually that leads to a payroll that is amongst the top payrolls in the game and I would expect that to be the case next year. … The history is we’re going to put a lot towards our payroll to put the best team out there possible in an effort to win games and get into October. That is what we will do next year.”
As will be a major topic the next few months, Jon Lester was brought up and whether or not the Red Sox reached out to his agent on Thursday — the first day teams were permitted to do so with free agents as the World Series wrapped up Wednesday night. Cherington didn’t respond directly about Lester, but gave a glimpse of what typically takes place.
“The way that agency business works is that there is a number of agents who represent the majority of players in baseball, so you can often make a single phone call and express interest in a number of guys on the same phone call,” Cherington said. “That happened today with several people. I won’t get into specific names and timing of when we made calls, but it’s safe to say we’ve expressed interest in the guys we feel like are priorities and we look forward to further dialogue over the next several weeks.”
Cherington did acknowledge the importance of having a durable pitcher who can go deep into games into October, as displayed with Madison Bumgarner’s MVP performance going 2-0 with an ERA of 0.43 in the World Series and a total of 52 2/3 innings pitched the entire postseason. He added every team is in a position to want a player like that, it’s just a matter of finding a way to get him — something the Red Sox will be actively doing over the next few months.
“That guy, the guy that is capable of pitching at a really high level to a high innings total and doing that over the course of the season and deep into October, absolutely is valuable,” said Cherington. “It does make it harder to get to the end of October without it. The question is how do you get those guys? Where do they come from? How do you cultivate that? That is the question that every team faces and is trying to answer how to find and keep that guy and how long that type of guy can keep doing it. That is the fundamental challenge. It’s not a question of any team would like to have that guy, it’s a question of how to get it, how to keep it and who is going to be that guy over the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years.
“Hopefully by the end of the offseason we’ll be in a position we’ll have more than one candidate to be that kind of guy over the short, medium and long term. That is what we’re trying to do and we’ll see if we can figure out the best way to do it.”