The Orioles were a third team in on outfielder Yoenis Cespedes late last week, joining the Nationals and Mets, Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. Baltimore had a five-year offer on the table, says Heyman, but it was obviously turned down.
It appears, then, that Cespedes rejected two separate five-year concepts to go back to the Mets for three years and $75, with an opt-out after the first season. But it hasn’t been reported what kind of guarantee and payout structure was involved in the O’s offer. And it’s important to bear in mind that recent reporting suggests the Nationals’ five-year deal had extensive deferrals that put a huge dent in its real value.
Aside from the historical interest, this news is chiefly relevant because of what it says about the Orioles’ willingness and capacity to keep spending. Expectations were that the club would not be involved on Cespedes — at least, not to that level — after promising $161MM (with major deferrals) to slugger Chris Davis. In all likelihood, the Cuban star would have followed Davis in topping the team’s prior record for largest guarantee.
Looking ahead, Baltimore still has good reason to pursue another outfielder and at least one additional starter. It seems that the club will have at least the possibility of deploying some rather significant resources to fill those needs. There are options on hand, of course, and it could be that Cespedes was a somewhat unique target. But the news suggests that the O’s have the means to participate in the markets for top remaining players such as Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, and Yovani Gallardo.
There are also some trade possibilities that could be opened up by the presence of salary space. Hypothetical trade targets like Carlos Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Jay Bruce, or even Ryan Braun could, in theory, be made to fit from a payroll perspective. Likewise, pricier arms — say, Tyson Ross or C.J. Wilson — could be considered under various scenarios. (The point here is not to say any of these particular players are being or should be pursued, but rather to provide examples of the range of conceivable options.)
Longer-term payroll developments are an interesting element of the story, too. Baltimore not only added Davis, but also took on a significant obligations this winter to backstop Matt Wieters (via the qualifying offer) and reliever Darren O’Day. The club’s estimated Opening Day spending already tops last year’s ~$118MM mark, and that’s before accounting for the still-undetermined salaries of Zach Britton and Brian Matusz, which figures to cost another $10MM and change. Needless to say, whatever the offer, adding Cespedes would have pushed the payroll well outside the team’s prior spending bounds.
As noted, it’s entirely unclear whether Baltimore will pursue other ways of re-deploying the funds that might have gone to Cespedes. Indeed, it’s not impossible to think that adding him might have required the team to shed some other salary. Regardless, the possibility of significant additional payroll space is intriguing to consider moving forward.