Boston Red Sox Catching up with Old Friends: Yoenis Cespedes


You know that nostalgic feeling that you get when catching up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while? This offseason the BoSox Injection staff will be checking up on a number of former Red Sox players to see what they have been up to since leaving Boston, while reflecting on how the team has managed to replace them since they left.

The 2015 season for the Boston Red Sox was doomed from the moment that they let go of Yoenis Cespedes.

As their season quickly spiraled down the drain, the Red Sox approached the 2014 trade deadline prepared to unload any veteran on an expiring contract that they could find a new home for. That included Jon Lester, who was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for Cespedes.

His time in Boston would be short lived, as Cespedes’ meager on-base percentage and defensive lapses failed to make the right impression. This led to the ill-advised decision to sign Hanley Ramirez, who the front office felt could take his place in left field while providing a bigger bat for the middle of the lineup. They would be proven wrong on both fronts, as the experiment of shifting Ramirez to the outfield was a disaster and his offensive production tapered off after a scorching start to wind up far below expectations.

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Meanwhile, Cespedes was shipped to the Detroit Tigers in an offseason deal that brought Rick Porcello to town. The Red Sox immediately lavished Porcello with a lucrative extension that was regrettable from the moment the ink dried, as the right-hander’s struggles showed he was a far cry from the ace they were paying for.

Cespedes flourished in Detroit, slashing .293/.323/.506 in 102 games, before a sinking Tigers team dealt him to the New York Mets. The 30-year old would take his game to another level upon his arrival in the senior circuit, as he blasted 18 home runs and produced a .941 OPS with the Mets. New York finished the season on a 37-22 run following Cespedes’ arrival, catapulting them to a division title and sending some overzealous media members clamoring that Cespedes deserved consideration for the MVP award.

Despite the team’s run to the World Series, the excitement surrounding Cespedes dampened during a disappointing postseason in which he hit .222/.232/.352 with only three extra-base hits and 8 RBI. Cespedes entered New York with a roar, but will enter free agency with a whimper. His lasting impression was set by a 3-for-20 performance in the World Series, as the Mets fell to the Kansas City Royals in 5 games, with Cespedes driving in only one run during the entire series.

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October struggles aside, Cespedes proved to be far superior to Ramirez. In his time split between the Tigers and Mets, Cespedes hit .291 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI, while producing a 6.3 WAR that ranked 11th in the majors among hitters. Compare that to Ramirez, whose declining offensive production failed to offset his atrocious defense, resulting in a -1.3 WAR that was among the worst in the league.

You have to believe that the Red Sox would have been far more successful with Cespedes roaming the outfield instead of Ramirez stumbling his way through it. Even if they still weren’t enamored with Cespedes over the course of a full season in Boston, they could have simply let him walk away in free agency this winter. Keeping him around for one more year would have saved them from lighting $88 million on fire by handing Ramirez a four-year deal. It also would mean that they never would have traded for Porcello or wasted another $82.5 million on him. It’s not as if the Red Sox don’t have the financial resources to afford a few albatross contracts, but their salaries essentially force the team to allow them to take up space from a limited number of roster spots.

2015 may have been a lost season either way, but carrying two under-performing veterans may hamstring the franchise moving forward. If they can’t find a way to dump either contract then they’ll now have to try to make a move to first base work for Ramirez, while also seeking an ace to front their rotation with Porcello already being paid like one at the back end.

Just think, this mess could all have been avoided if the Red Sox had held on to Cespedes for at least one more year.