Yoenis Cespedes

Trying to make sense of Yoenis Cespedes' situation

Rob Bradford
October 27, 2014 - 8:02 am

October has not been kind to the public perception of Yoenis Cespedes. Trade rumors. Surfaced concerns over his game. And now a report suggesting that not only would the Red Sox hesitate offering the four- to five-year deal they had been contemplating offering due to Cespedes' switch in agents, but that (according to a "Red Sox insider") "he marches to his own drum and the coaches all hate him." (To read the entire New York Daily News report, click here.) Perhaps it's time to take a step back and look at the reality of Cespedes' situation. When last we saw the Red Sox left fielder, he was catching a bit of heat for some poorly played balls in left field while finishing his two-month stint in Boston with five home runs, 33 RBIs, 48 strikeouts, seven walks, four stolen bases, a .269 batting average, a .296 on-base percentage and a .719 OPS. His new fan base loved his arm and ability to supply a much-needed commodity for an offense devoid of timing -- the ability to drive in runners when it counted, hitting .338 with a .907 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position (for the season). Cesepdes also seemingly supplied some additional protection for David Ortiz in the middle of the lineup, while possessing the much-needed skill set of being able to hit a baseball over the fence. And, as was the case in Oakland, he was a popular figure in the Red Sox clubhouse among his teammates. But there were other factors that didn't make a long-term commitment to the outfielder a no-brainer. The initial issue came when, after the Red Sox publicly gushed about the notion that Cespedes would be using his excellent side-to-side speed in right field at Fenway Park, he never played a moment at the position. Instead, there were a few days of shagging balls next to Pesky's Pole before abandoning the workouts in right altogether. Instead Cespedes would play left, with the hardly mobile Allen Craig playing left at Fenway immediately after his trade from St. Louis for one game before spending the rest of his time with the Red Sox either in right, at first base or at designated hitter. The word was that Cespedes told the team he didn't feel comfortable in right and preferred not to play there, with the Sox leaving open the possibility of a switch back to the original plan in spring training. The problem was that Cespedes never seemed comfortable playing in front of Fenway's left field wall, while developing a frustrating habit of letting catchable balls drop just in front of him both at home and and the road. Adding frustration to the limitations was a reluctance to spend time improving on the fielding issues. There were subtle steps in the right direction fielding-wise. After executing one of his always-entertaining underhand throws into the infield at Tropicana Field, the Red Sox coaching staff talked to Cespedes about holstering the softball toss, and he did. In a late August interview with WEEI.com, Cespedes also cited improving the accuracy of his throws as his biggest priority when it came to improving his all-around game. Did he spend nearly the time on that part of his game as he did fine-tuning his offense? Nope. But, for what it's worth, it was at least seemingly on his radar. As for the claims made in the Daily News report ... -- It's hard to believe that the Red Sox would instantly shy away from continuing to "engage" in talks with Cespedes just because he switched from Adam Katz to Roc Nation. This was the most recent organization, after all, to have struck a deal with Jay-Z's crew (thanks to the Rusney Castillo contract). -- Does he marches to his own drum? To a certain extent, that probably fair to say. Certainly more than the cavalcade of rookies and younger players who circulated through that clubhouse in the final months. For a coaching staff trying to get a turned-over roster on the same track, that certainly can offer some frustration. --  "All the coaches hate him" is a statement that is just not true. Were there some coaches who were frustrated with Cespedes because of some of the aforementioned issues? Absolutely. But talk to straight-talking assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez about his work with the righty hitter, and he will offer a detailed look into how Cespedes approached his day-to-day quest to eliminate a well-publicized hole in his swing. There is a genuine concern that the Red Sox are able to get back the single-minded focus they implemented on Day 1 of spring training in 2013, which makes Cespedes' uneven two months with the team open for scrutiny. But the organizational hope is some of those bumps in the road are ironed out thanks to the work in Fort Myers, and even the motivation of a contract year. The Red Sox still have too many outfielders, and at least one of them is likely to be traded. There are pros (only one year remaining on his deal/aforementioned issues) and cons (hard-to-find skill set) to making Cespedes that guy. The conversation will linger into November, December and 2015. It's just probably best we head into the offseason with the right context surrounding that discussion.