While the Hot Stove is a beautiful respite from the dreary world, it can be complicated sometimes. To help, we've created the Cespedes Family BBQ Free Agent Matrix to determine where this offseason's top free agents could end up.
We've come to know Lorenzo Cain as one of the premier center fielders in baseball. However, it wasn't always a sure bet that he'd become that type of player. While his fellow Royal free agents Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas were top-3 overall Draft picks, Cain took a far different journey to stardom.
Cain did not play baseball until his sophomore year of high school, and was ultimately selected in the 17th round of the 2004 Draft by Milwaukee. Traded to Kansas City before the 2011 season, it was another four years before Cain had his big breakout season in 2015 as a 29-year-old, finishing third in AL MVP voting and helping the Royals to a World Series title.
Now entering free agency as the best center fielder on the market, where could the 31-year-old land this winter?
The Dark Horses
Royals: It's a safe bet the Royals would love to bring back any of their free agents at the right cost, although Cain seems like the least likely, considering his age and high number of potential suitors elsewhere. Regardless, Cain has proven to be the perfect center fielder for the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield and if anything, we'd love to see his hilarious friendship with Salvador Perez continue in Kansas City.
Mariners: Last offseason, the Mariners brought in another popular former Kansas City outfielder in Jarrod Dyson and that worked out fairly well until Dyson's season-ending pelvic surgery in early September. Without Dyson, the Mariners' outfield featured almost exclusively rookies -- Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, and Mitch Haniger. The young trio performed well, but lacked the offensive firepower that Cain could provide, in addition to his stellar defense and baserunning.
Mets: While Yoenis Cespedes' sporadic days in center field seem to be over, it's unclear if the Mets see their young superstar Michael Conforto as more of a center fielder or a corner outfielder. Regardless, the third outfield spot is very much up for grabs in New York as Juan Lagares continues to struggle with injuries and Brandon Nimmo has yet to really establish himself at the Major League level. Cain would fit rather nicely for a team in need of speed and defense.
Rangers: It was a disappointing year for Texas, but they will still enter 2018 with an exciting young core of offensive talent in Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and Willie Calhoun. However, with youth comes uncertainty -- and adding a proven star like Cain would provide some surefire production in the lineup ahead of Living Legend Adrian Beltre as the Rangers try to get back to the postseason sooner rather than later.
Giants: San Francisco outfielders combined for a .684 OPS in 2017, which ranked last in baseball. This is an outfield -- and team, in general -- that needs a dynamic talent like Cain to jumpstart the offense at the top of a lineup. Having played seven years in the cavernous Kauffman Stadium, Cain would also certainly be able to handle tracking down fly balls in the similarly enormous outfield at AT&T Park. For a team that finished with worst record in the NL, the Giants have a lot of improving to do -- and Cain would be a strong start.