Is Yoenis Cespedes The Outfielder The Washington Nationals Are After?

With restrictions coming under the new CBA on how much MLB teams can spend on international free agents, some are expecting 26-year-old Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to command a hefty sum since it's the last winter major league teams will be able to spend freely. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote this weekend in an article entitled, "Yankees, Red Sox may not bid high on Cespedes", that, "... many if not most scouts believe that he should spend time in the minor leagues first," but he's nonetheless expected to command more than the $30.25 million left-hander Aroldis Chapman received from the Reds when the pitcher signed with Cincinnati in 2010. According to Mr. Knobler's report the Yankees and Red Sox aren't likely to get involved in the bidding for Cespedes, while the Marlins have a difference of opinion in their front office about the outfielder.

The CBSSports.com writer has the Nationals, Cubs, Tigers, Rays and White Sox listed as teams with interest and he predicts Cespedes could get as much as $40 million from one of the teams. FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi left the Nationals off his list of teams with interest Sunday when he wrote in an article entitled, "Offseason twists to continue into 2012", that after speaking with baseball officials with "expertise in Latin American" his own list of interested teams included the Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers, Marlins and White Sox."

The Nationals, however, Mr. Morosi wrote, "... can’t be ruled out because some scouts believe Cespedes will be a center fielder," and that's, "... a position Washington has been unable to fill for the long term." The Nationals are, as they've noted often all winter, looking for a center fielder/leadoff man, and Mr. Morosi writes that there's a difference of opinion about whether Cespedes is better suited for center or right, but there is a point on which most agree, and it's that, "A relatively low number of scouts view Cespedes as a potential leadoff man."

D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern recently that the Nats' scouts were of the opinion that Cespedes could work in center, describing the outfielder as, "... a hit-and-power package that can play center field... runs extremely well and he throws well... [and] has the chance to be a five-tool player." Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo noted in his weekly Baseball Notes column on Sunday that Miami and Washington were on top of his list of interested teams.

"The Marlins are being very aggressive, and the Nationals are right behind them," Mr. Cafardo wrote, the Nats, Mike Rizzo said last Friday, are looking, "... for a long-term, permanent fit for us and just haven't found that yet and we're still attacking all avenues to try [to] get one." Some time in January when he's expected to become available, the Nationals will have to decide if Cespedes is that player or the hyped-up product of a wildly successful viral marketing campaign.

Cespedes' agent, in a recent MLB Network Radio interview, said that though the outfielder gained a lot of attention with their highlight videos, baseball scouts have been aware of Cespedes for a while now, "He's been way more heavily scouted than has been let on. People have seen him and know what they have here, so it's not quite the unknown quantity that people are sort of saying." If the Nats think Cespedes can play center will they ignore the fact that scouts don't see him as a leadoff man and let Ian Desmond hit at the top of the order? Will they spend on Prince Fielder instead of Cespedes? With Cespedes set to become available at some time in January, the time to make a decision is coming soon...

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