There are few, if any, bats available this off season comparable to that of Hanley Ramirez. Some say that players now available from Cuba are the answer. They are younger and, though unproven in the U.S., have more upside. The question in this post: proven, older player v. unproven, younger player? Where would you spend your money if you were say, the New York Yankees?
Brian Cashman is the general manager of the Yankees. Is he planning some late talent grab or is he in suspended animation, unable to make the kinds of decisions needed in this fast moving signing period? Does Cashman already have a secret deal in place for one of the generic Cubans? Why did Cashman not act on the four recent Cuban defectors to enter the Major Baseball League (MBL)? Has Cashman learned from that or is he seized with indecision? Let's look at the four Cubans to come here since 2012 and then at the two who will arrive for next season and see how Hanley Ramirez compares.
Yoenis Cespedes: Low spending Oakland made the bold move of signing Cespedes Feb. 13, 2012.
"July 31, 2014: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with 2015 competitive balance round B pick to the Boston Red Sox for Jonny Gomes, Jon Lester and cash."; OF.
Yasiel Puig: 21 year old Puig was next and he looks like a real bargain now but back on June 29, 2012 neither the Red Sox or Yankees were willing to pay him; teammate of Ramirez on the Dodgers 2012-2014; dynamic, if erratic, all around player; OF.
Jose Abreu: White Sox signed Abreu October 29, 2013. In his only White Sox season led American Conference in SLG (.581) and OPS+ (169); 1B.
Rusney Castillo: The Red Sox, after acquiring Cespedes at the trading deadline, finally signed a Cuban defector: Castillo August 23, 2014. 40 PA for Boston in 2014: 159 OPS+; OF.
Except for Puig, none of them was a kid when he first played in the MBL; Even Castillo was 26 when he first played in 2014. Here are their rounded contract numbers as shown in baseball-reference.com:
Ramirez Red Sox money is shown in red. I'm not sure about his 2019 "Vesting Option".
The conventional wisdom now is that Boston will trade Cespedes but who knows? Maybe they will move him to right field and play both Cespedes and Ramirez. The fielding of the Cubans is seemingly vague, especially before they arrive. Abreu is a poor fielding first baseman and the others are outfielders. Let's look at their batting using OPS+.
The value of Cespedes has fallen. In 2014 with Boston in 213 PA his OPS+ was only 100, league average. Is that worth $10.5 million? When people blindly urge that a team spend money to sign unproven players they need to consider if they are likely to acquire Cespedes or, Puig or Abreu.
Which brings us to the two current Cuban prospects: Yasmani Tomas (24) and Yoan Moncada (19).
Yasmani Tomas is expected to be the next in a growing line of Cuban players to make an immediate impact in the big leagues.
By TYLER KEPNER The New York Times
The impact of that performance extended far beyond Chicago. Abreu was the latest, and best, example of a Cuban free agent making a quick transition to major league stardom at a reasonable price. In an industry awash with revenue — but always looking for bargains — the secret is out...
(Tomas) listed at 6 feet 1 and about 230
Wow, that seems simple. Just sign him up. But yesterday on the Brian Kenny show on MLB Network an "expert" described Tomas as "tremendous power, tremendous risk".
If you were paying about 80% of what Ramirez got from Boston, would you rather have Tomas who is supposed to be seven years younger? If YOU were paying, not some billionaire owner? If it was YOUR money, how would you spend it?
Yoan Moncada supposedly has the most upside and is much younger at 19. He may be able to play second but not short, or in the outfield. However, the MBL has plenty of convoluted rules that bewilder its team decision makers:
Yoan Moncada Is Affecting All of International Baseball
by Kiley McDaniel - November 19, 2014 fangraphs.com
The 30 clubs are having a hard time figuring out what MLB’s international intentions are.
I won't even try to summarize this mess. Plow through it yourself. Then ask yourself how much of YOUR own money you want to throw at people who have never set foot in the United States.