At some point on Wednesday, I learned to love the will-they-won't-they nature of the free agent outfielder drama.
Kinda refreshing to see MLB teams approach outfielders the way I make big purchases: identify need, research, then drag feet for months.— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) December 30, 2015
If there's any merit to this, you know what this means -- the process will drag on indefinitely until one owner, sick of hearing his personnel personnel hem and haw over the decision, cracks and bellows, "If you didn't want it, you wouldn't keep talking about it. Will you just buy the GD thing already so we can get on with our lives?!?"
Sure, maybe I'm just projecting, but the way Wednesday's lone updates countered Tuesday's momentum made me laugh just the same:
O's maintain conversations re: Cespedes are reps calling them. Here's Roch Kubatko on Cespedes/O's. https://t.co/hBVDWmm64N— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 30, 2015
The #WhiteSox have had dialogue w the 3 big OF left in FA market but not close to a deal with anyone.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 30, 2015
That makes it especially easy to envision the paralysis-by-analysis stage. Just when they start re-re-re-reckoning that Cespedes (or Alex Gordon or Justin Upton, etc.) would be a massive upgrade over Avisail Garcia in right, here comes Mike Petriello with another potential guide to buyer's remorse:
The point is, hot streaks happen, and they shouldn't substantially change your understanding of who a player is or what he's likely to provide. Cespedes is who he is, which is a 30-year-old player who is an above-average hitter and a very good defensive left fielder with a great arm. But he's also a stretch in center field with a four-year streak of declining walk rates -- which points to on-base concerns as he ages -- and a weakness against high fastballs.
So, what is a player like that worth? It goes back to what you think he is. From 2012-14, Cespedes hit almost exactly like the identically-aged Mark Trumbo (albeit with much stronger defense), and Trumbo was traded by Seattle in large part so it could avoid his estimated $9 million arbitration award.
Eno Sarris posted one on ESPN.com last week, which kinda underscores just how long this has been going on. The pitchers' market didn't really get second-guessed like this, even after the big-ticket items came off the board and brought the guys with worrisome trends -- Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto to name a couple -- to the fore.
The need for outfielders just isn't the same as the need for pitchers, and Cespedes, Gordon and Upton all come with enough warts that missing out on one over another isn't particularly regrettable. Missing out on all of them, on the other hand, is when a team could feel the pain. That might be why one outfielder doesn't want to sign first, because the guys who wait the longest might be able to better sense actual, palpable desperation from the buyers.
Apropros of everything, Cespedes is leading Gordon in the latest super-scientific fan-preference poll: