Why Cespedes makes sense for the Nats: Even though Washington acquired Ben Revere from Toronto earlier this month, the Nationals' outfield still has warts. The only sure thing is reigning MVP Bryce Harper, and given how hard he plays and his knack for getting dinged up, even that’s not so sure. Left fielder Jayson Werth turns 37 in May and has had trouble staying healthy in recent years. Revere brings speed and contact to the top of the order and range to the outfield, but his arm strength could be an issue in center field, the position he’s currently projected to play.
If Cespedes comes to D.C., new skipper Dusty Baker could slot him and his cannon arm in at center, allowing Revere to move to left as part of a timeshare with Werth, if needed. Alternatively, if Werth can’t stay whole, Cespedes could simply take over in left, his more natural position. In either case, with second-year man Michael Taylor also in the mix and able to back up all three spots, the Nats would suddenly have some serious outfield depth.
Offensively, adding Cespedes -- whose power bat seemed to single-handedly carry the Mets for extended stretches during last season’s pennant run -- would give Baker another wall-banger in the middle of a lineup that at times last season struggled to score runs. It would also give the Nats another right-handed option to hit behind the lefty Harper, who set a franchise record for walks last year in part because, with cleanup hitter Ryan Zimmerman injured for much of the season, opposing pitchers weren’t afraid to pitch around the MVP.
Money shouldn’t be an issue, either. In the short term, the Nats’ projected 2016 payroll is about $35 million less than the $174 million they spent last year, so presumably there’s cash to burn. Long term, Werth’s fat contract (he’s due $42 million over the next two years) comes off the books following the 2017 season, giving the team plenty of fiscal flexibility.
Oh, and not for nothing, Cespedes has reportedly been in talks with the Mets about re-signing. So by signing him, the Nats would not only improve themselves, they’d be raiding their rival’s closet.
Why Cespedes doesn’t make sense for the Nats: $21 million a year is a lot of dough to pay any player, much less a part-timer. But that’s what Werth could become if Cespedes signs with Washington.
There’s also the not-so-small detail that in his four-year big league career, Cespedes has already been employed by four different clubs and has been traded three times. That’s a conspicuously large amount of movement for such a talented player, and it speaks to the fact that, when it comes to clubhouse chemistry, Cespedes isn’t exactly what you’d call a glue guy. For a team that had its share of reality-show moments last season and still has closer Jonathan Papelbon on the roster, this matters. On the flip side, if there’s one manager in baseball who would relish the opportunity to get everyone on the same page, it’s Baker.