The lure of the free agent signing period can attract all comers, even those who have yet to play a single inning of baseball in the Major Leagues.
Enter Yoennis Cespedes, a 26-year-old Cuban defector who will most likely be a hot commodity over the next few weeks as several MLB teams will be bidding for the young oldfielder's services for the 2012 season.
I first heard about Cespedes on Monday, when Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein did a lengthy write-up detailing a 20-minute long video that is essentially the baseball equivalent to an actor's reel. The video itself is a thing to behold, with Star Wars-eque opening credits, a soundtrack, and most importantly, lots of shots of Cespedes doing very, very bad things to a baseball.
I bring this up because, according to MLB Trade Rumors, the Phillies are one of the many teams interested in the Cuban sensation, and, if they are serious, it could really give this off-season the kick into overdrive that it so desperately needs. While Ryan Madson is almost a mortal lock to return, with Jimmy Rollins likely not too far behind, it appears as if that there will be no dramatic, Cliff Lee-like signing for Ruben Amaro.
Unless, of course, Cespedes is really in play. Now, "the sure thing" when it comes to prospects doesn't really exist, and it remains to be seen whether or not his level of play in Cuba can translate into the Majors, but he has the potential to be a game-changing signing, with great speed, great defense, and a great bat.
For more on this, I'm going to turn it over to my friend Michael Baumann, who had a lot to say about the highly-touted Cespedes:
But in truth, his reputation is as an elite defensive center fielder with the speed to steal 30 bases and the power to hit 40 home runs. That puts him in some elite territory, with Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Beltran in their primes as easy comparisons. That also makes me inclined to be more than a little skeptical -- as a player, Cespedes might be too good to be true.
It sounds like an exaggeration, but he could have the potential to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes that you rarely hear about and that every team wants. Or, he could be a total bust, it's really hard to say. What isn't hard to say, however, is how much I want the Phillies to take a run at him. He is expected to command a contract upwards of $30M, which is a gamble for an unknown quantity, but Ruben Amaro is nothing if not a gamblin' man, and I wouldn't put it past him to roll the dice, hold his breath, and hope he comes up sevens.
At the very least, Cespedes would provide the Phillies with that offseason drama for the message boards and blogs, and at most, provides them with a young, explosive player that can be slotted right into the lineup.