Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 2/11/12

Just three days after Yoenis Cespedes toured their new ballpark, the Miami Marlins have reportedly offered the 26-year-old outfielder a contract.

The contract is allegedly for six years, but the financial details are shaky at this time. While the initial report suggested the deal was worth $40 million, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald is hearing the Marlins offered less money. Unless the Marlins have offered significantly less than $40 million, Cespedes’ contract will likely break the record for Cuban-born players. That slot is currently held by Aroldis Chapman, who received a six year, $30.25 million contract from the Cincinnati Reds.

Signing Cespedes would be a huge gain for the Marlins, who currently lack a true center fielder on their roster. The Chris Coghlan experiment was a disaster last season, causing the Marlins to turn to Emilio Bonifacio. While Bonifacio experienced a breakout season, much of his success was a result for a .372 BABIP, which was the second highest BABIP among qualified hitters last season. His defense has been acceptable in the outfield over his career, but he posted a -2.6 UZR in center this past season.

We don’t know what kind of defense Cespedes will play in center, but we have already taken our best guess at what his bat will produce. Jack Moore noted that Cespedes was probably less of a risk than other Cuban-born players, and Clay Davenport projected Cespedes’ stats based on his performance in the Cuban league. Based on Davenport’s research, Cespedes should hit .260/.325/.457 in the majors. Those numbers would put him in line with the average center fielder, who hit .261/.325/.406 this past season. What sets Cespedes apart from the typical center fielder is his power potential. Few center fielders are capable of hitting 20+ home runs each season. Even if Cespedes is a slightly below-average defender, his bat should make him the best option to play center on the Marlins.

While Cespedes is likely the Marlins’ best option in center, it’s unclear how soon he’ll be able to make an impact in the majors. At 26, he’s much older than the typical prospect, but he’ll likely need time to adjust in the minors before he’s ready to take on major league pitchers. Cespedes will already have to adjust to numerous lifestyle changes once he begins his professional career in the US, which, I would imagine, can be very stressful. If the Marlins promote Cespedes before he’s ready and he struggles, that’s one more thing Cespedes will have to worry about.

Still, Cespedes’ potential makes him an intriguing candidate for most major league teams. The Marlins, in particular, are in need of a center fielder, and Cespedes looks like an ideal fit for them. Even if he’s not with the team initially, he’ll definitely make an impact at some point this season. The race for the NL crown should be tight this season, and signing Cespedes strengthens the Marlins’ chances to contend for the division.

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