The big rumor of the week circling the Yankees has been their overwhelming interest in Cuban defector, Yoennis Céspedes. On the surface this move looks to be the end of Yankees fan favorite, Nick Swisher. Céspedes is a natural center fielder with plus speed and a plus bat; and could very well be an upgrade for the Yankees if moved into right field. The Yankees will almost certainly deal Swisher, as they will not want to carry a 4th outfielder earning a $10 million salary.
To me, moving Swisher would be the obvious move, but surely not the biggest ramification of the Céspedes signing. By signing the 26 year old Cuban phenom, the Yankees will have also notched another young hitter that Yankee fans can watch for years to come – someone for the Yankee faithful to get behind and be excited about. Maybe someone that gives the Yankees a feeling of youth, and power at the plate that a certain, Jesus Montero, currently exudes. This move does a few things in my eyes: Montero is the big piece of the puzzle that becomes available with the Céspedes signing. Swisher gets moved. Yankees make a run at Felix Hernandez, or another top flight young ace.
When you look at the prospect of Montero being a long term player for the Yankees, a few things don’t really add up. Many scouts will verify that Montero is not a major league quality catcher, and may not even grade out (defensively) higher than three catchers currently in the Yankees organization. So taking this into consideration, and assuming that Montero does not fit in as a defensive catcher – where does he play? is he a DH? can he play 1B? The obvious answer is that Montero would be slotted in the DH spot for years to come – but not so fast. The Yankees have the DH spot filled for years to come with aging, large salaried vets that will need days off, or eventually have to become full-time designated hitter(s). This puts Montero in flux with a defensive position.
Céspedes put up a .333/.424/.667 batting line with 89 runs, 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 90 games in the 2010-2011 season. These types of power numbers are very similar to what Montero could provide, but with also providing the Yankees a very capable right fielder, and another true threat on the base path. This guy is a five-tool threat all the way.
The Yankees have been completely silent all Winter – but maybe they are just taking the snake in the grass approach, assessing the possibility of dealing Montero for the top flight, true number one pitching stud, while not losing the high quality bat in the organization. I truly believe that this signing could be the most beneficial move that the Yankees have made in a long time, and open up the possibility of landing the King.
After all – we know that there is nothing better, and no equal to a dominant pitching staff in October .