Tigers Emerge as Front-runner for Cespedes

Even with Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder on the free agent market, there is one name that may have stolen the show early in the off-season. That is the name of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. With a workout video that quickly went viral and plenty of speculation surrounding his potential contract demands, a lot has already been discussed about this 26-year old.

One team that has been rumored to be involved in recent weeks is the Detroit Tigers, and those rumors are legitimate and not simply idle speculation.

"If I had to put my money on anybody to get this guy, it would be the Tigers hands down." said one rival front office executive.

The Tigers haven't shied away from big-money deals to players they liked in recent years, inking Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit, Jose Valverde, and Justin Verlander all to big contracts in recent seasons. By all accounts the Tigers really like Cespedes.

"They've been around him as much or more than any other team," said a scout in the Dominican Republic. "It seems like every time there are teams there to see him, the Tigers are right there in front."

If true, the Tigers are not alone in their pursuit of Cespedes. One agent familiar with but outside the situation noted that as many as "five teams have shown very serious interest in Yoenis." The same agent confirmed that the Tigers, Yankees and Marlins have been three of the most active in their chase of Cespedes, though he acknowledged that the Marlins may be heading in a different direction with Jose Reyes already in the fold and serious overtures made toward Albert Pujols.

So what is everybody up in arms about?

Cespedes is without hesitation a potential impact Major League player; a potential superstar. He is an absolute physical specimen that has transformed his body into something spectacular. His raw strength allows him to generate at least above-average to plus bat speed. He has the potential to slug 25-30 home runs annually.

Some scouts do question how much he will hit for average, but many scouts I have spoken with are comfortable projecting him to hit .280-plus as a big leaguer. He has a more patient approach than many Latin American players and should draw some walks.

Cespedes is an above-average to plus runner right now though many believe he will lose a tick as he ages. His present speed allows him to play center field but he could move to either outfield corner down the line. He has plenty of arm strength for right field.

In total, while Cespedes can handle center field right now he may profile best as a classic slugging right fielder. Despite being 26-years old, many believe Cespedes will need at least some time in the high minor leagues, more to allow some adaptation to US culture and the style of play.

Though he's the fresh face of the free agent market, many teams have been on Cespedes for a while. "We have seen Cespedes over a number of years," said one American League executive. "[He is] a legit 5-tool talent. He is everything I am sure you have read about."

There are no guarantees in the free agent world and that is even more true when dealing with someone like Cespedes who lacks the stateside track record.

Rumors are swirling that Cespedes' camp will be seeking a deal well in excess of the $30 million contract left-hander Aroldis Chapman received from the Reds. Demands of that nature and the uncertainty surrounding Cespedes' transition to the Major Leagues will push many teams away from a serious pursuit.

As it stands now though, the Tigers appear to be in the center of the race for Cespedes services, with one NL international director stating "The Tigers are going to get that guy. I promise you that."

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