Phillies offseason targets: Bautista, Cespedes

Phillies offseason targets: Bautista, Cespedes

Jim Salisbury goes one-on-one with Ruben Amaro

November 15, 2013, 6:45 pm
Share This Post

Adding either Yoenis Cespedes, left, or Jose Bautista, right, via a trade would give the Phillies stronger outfield options than they have now. (USA Today Images)

Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.

On Thursday, we looked at a pair of right-handed starting pitchers, Josh Johnson and Phil Hughes, who come with high-risk, high-rewards (see story). Today, we change it up and take a look at two right-handed hitting outfielders with power. 

Jose Bautista

Age: 33

2012-13 stats: .251 BA, .358 OBP, .510 slugging; averaged 28 HR, 69 RBI, 105 games

Remaining contract: Two years, $28 million with third-year club option

***

Yoenis Cespedes

Age: 28

2012-13 stats: .265 BA, .324 OBP, .472 slugging; averaged 24 HR, 81 RBI, 132 games

Remaining contract: Two years, $21 million

***

First things first -- a trade for either of these two stud right-handed hitters is unlikely. The Jose Bautista-Domonic Brown rumor started by Howard Eskin earlier in the week was summarily shot down by Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who noted that every deal Toronto has made the last four years has avoided a premature leak.

Still, both players could be dealt this offseason, and if they're indeed shopped, the Phils' ears would be open. Even after the signing of Marlon Byrd.

Bautista is one of the top-five right-handed power hitters in the game, but he's getting older and getting hurt. He didn't play in September in either of the last two seasons, missing it in 2013 with a hip injury and 2012 with a wrist problem.

He's declined after posting insane power numbers in 2010 and 2011, but that's really not a huge concern ... it was impossible not to decline from averages of 48 homers, 114 RBIs, a .412 on-base percentage and 1.025 OPS.

The Blue Jays' main problem last year was pitching. They added Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle yet finished with a 4.81 ERA from their starting pitchers, second-worst in baseball to the Twins.

The Jays may shop Bautista to acquire a young pitcher while also freeing up money to spend on a free-agent starting pitcher. Bautista's contract is incredibly team-friendly -- every GM in baseball would take on his two-year, $28 million remaining salary if given the chance -- but Toronto isn't flush with cash. The Jays are already spending close to what they spent last season, which was the highest their payroll has ever been. And they have plenty of holes to still fill.

Cespedes, the Cuban outfielder in Oakland, has tremendous Giancarlo Stanton-like tools. He's just entering his prime. He can play all three outfield positions well, and if the Phillies sold the farm for him he'd instantly bat third or fifth.

It may sound crazy to suggest Billy Beane would move Cespedes, but this is what the Athletics do. They develop young stars and trade them at their peak for massive returns.

Cespedes' two cheap years are behind him. He's due $21 million the next two years and will then be in line for a four- or five-year mega-deal. The A's aren't keeping him long-term. 

Because of his age and manageable salary, Cespedes would cost much more than Bautista. Any deal with Oakland would almost have to include Domonic Brown, Jesse Biddle and one more top-tier youngsters -- perhaps a Cody Asche or a major-league ready pitcher such as Jonathan Pettibone.

Phillies fans might balk at that, but it's not easy to acquire a difference-making bat at such a young age. 

They'd essentially be giving up two blue-chip prospects for the right to replace Brown with Cespedes. The Phillies seem to be OK with fielding offers for Brown this offseason, and why not? The last six months -- well, really two of those six months -- might end up being the best of his career.

Outfield defense has been made a priority by Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg. Cespedes would be an enormous defensive upgrade over Brown, and such a deal would give the Phillies the option to trot out a starting outfield of Cespedes in one corner, Byrd in another and Ben Revere in center. 

Or, since Cespedes can also play center, they could put Byrd in right and Darin Ruf in left field for a powerful outfield. Lots more options with that potential outfield than the current setup.

Neither deal would be simple to pull off, but the Phillies don't have much of a window with their aging stars. Cliff Lee will only be here a few more seasons. Same for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon. When Amaro decided to keep all of them at the 2013 trade deadline, he knew he was putting the Phillies in position to contend with that core for, at most, two more years.

So there should be some pressure for a floundering offense to acquire a right-handed hitting game-changer. Whether that pressure results in another blockbuster trade remains to be seen. Just don't be shocked if that Bautista rumor from Wednesday isn't the last you hear this winter.