Yoenis Cespedes is clearly the biggest free agent this offseason, and the team we all least want to see him go to is probably going to make a big push to sign him. The Nationals didn’t come out and say they would pursue Cespedes, but they certainly did not rule out the possibility.
“When [Cespedes] played for the Mets, the guy scared me,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post. “He’s a really good offensive player. He’s a really good two-way player. He is a middle-of-the-lineup bat. He improves any team he plays for.”
Cespedes, 31, slashed .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBIs in 2016. He would immediately upgrade the Nationals’ lineup, but it’s not that easy. If he were to be signed by the Nationals, they would have to remove payroll in another area, according to Rizzo.
Other moving pieces would be rookie Trea Turner, who would go back to his natural position at shortstop, and former MVP Bryce Harper, who would play center field with Jayson Werth in right field and Cespedes in left.
Harper’s cannon for an arm and decent speed make him a stellar right fielder, however he has played a decent center field in his career. “Harper is very capable of playing center field,” Rizzo said. “He is all about winning and if it helps us win, I know he will be all-in.”
This could all be a bluff; a ploy to scare the Mets into possibly overspending to bring back Cespedes. If the Nationals made no other offensive moves besides signing Cespedes, it would end up being a straight lineup swap between him and Danny Espinosa.
Espinosa was the starting shortstop in 2016, however Turner would almost certainly move back to shortstop, pushing Espinosa into a utility role. While that is an upgrade, it doesn’t seem like it would be worth the amount of money it would take to sign Cespedes.
Yoenis Cespedes will surely be an expensive upgrade for any team that signs him. The worst case scenario would be him being the 2017 starting left fielder for the Washington Nationals, and unfortunately, that is a distinct possibility.