Originally written on Sliding Into Home  |  Last updated 12/6/11


I find myself very torn on Cespedes.

The Yankees are lacking high-impact outfield prospects in the upper levels of the farm system, which could be an issue with Swisher (2012) and Granderson (2013) approaching free agency. Signing Cespedes would quash that issue immediately, albeit at a fairly high cost, while (possibly) allowing the Yankees to shop Swisher for help in the rotation. The latter, of course, assumes that Cespedes is ready for the Show ... which he very well may be. Based upon Cespedes' Cuban League statistics, ZiPS guru Dan Szymborski projects a .270/.331/.435 line, with 23 HR and 9 SB in 2012. I would take such production in a heartbeat.

It's also worth noting that the track record of Cuban position players is superior to their pitching brethren. Yunel Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, and Kendrys Morales (pre-injuries) have met expectations in recent memory, Tony Perez is in the Hall of Fame, and Tony Oliva has a fairly compelling argument, to boot.

Despite this, the risk is still obvious. Cespedes will command a fairly substantial contract and a spot on the 40-man roster, and he does not have any experience in the United States. In transitioning to Major League Baseball, he will also have to deal with language and cultural barriers. Considering that he will likely seek a guarantee to start in the Majors at some point in 2012 ... I would argue he's even more of a gamble than Yu Darvish.

In the end, I think Cespedes is a worthwhile gamble, particularly if he is willing to work his way from Double-A to the Majors. I would be hesitant to deal Swisher and open 2012 with Cespedes manning right field, but if the front office is confident in the Cuban wunderkind's ability to step into the Yankees line-up, I suppose I could be swayed.

Follow me on Twitter - @DomenicLanza
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