Cespedes takes home AL Gold Glove in left
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Tigers' first Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner since 2009 is a former Tiger. Yoenis Cespedes hasn't played in the American League since being traded to the Mets at the end of July, but the now-free agent made enough of an impact over four months in Detroit to win the AL Gold Glove in left field.
Cespedes' first career Gold Glove ended Alex Gordon's four-year reign as the award winner in left. It also ended Detroit's five-year Gold Glove drought.
Neither of Detroit's other two finalists -- second baseman Ian Kinsler and right fielder J.D. Martinez -- won the Gold Glove this year.
Whatever the league, whatever the uniform, it's an award the cannon-armed Cespedes -- a regular on defensive highlight reels for his throws -- has been pursuing since he broke into the big leagues in 2012.
Cespedes played 99 games, 87 of them starts, in the AL in 2015 before the Tigers traded him to the Mets at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He racked up nine assists in those games with Detroit, and metrics -- including 11 Defensive Runs Saved and a 15 Ultimate Zone Rating -- that easily eclipsed the numbers of players with at least 800 AL innings there.
"He was as impressive a defensive left fielder as I have seen," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said in a text message Tuesday night. "He has tremendous closing speed."
Project his Ultimate Zone Rating over 150 games, and his 21.3 UZR was more than double Gordon's 10.5 UZR/150.
Kansas City's Gordon and the Yankees' Brett Gardner were the other finalists. Voting took place near the end of the regular season among AL coaches and managers, with statistical input from the SABR Defensive Index providing an additional component.
No Tigers outfielder had won a Gold Glove since Gary Pettis in 1989, part of three consecutive Gold Gloves for Pettis. The Tigers' last Gold Glove winner at any position was second baseman Placido Polanco in 2009.
Several players have won Gold Gloves in a year that included a midseason trade. Hall of Famer Greg Maddux was the last to do it, winning the NL Gold Glove at pitcher in 2008 after splitting the season between the Padres and Dodgers.
Winning a Gold Glove following a midseason trade between leagues, however, is much rarer. Vic Power won the AL Gold Glove at first base in 1964, even though he ended the season in the National League in Philadelphia. He was traded twice that season. According to STATS, Cespedes and Power are the only Gold Glove winners to play an inning in the other league in the same season.
There's still a chance Cespedes could end up a Tiger again by the time he's formally presented with the award next season. He became a free agent at season's end, and while the Tigers have placed a priority on adding pitching this offseason, general manager Al Avila has said this week they're looking to add a left fielder in either an everyday or platoon role. Cespedes, meanwhile, told teammates upon being traded that he enjoyed his time in Detroit.
Kinsler lost out on what would've been his first career Gold Glove despite leading all AL second basemen by a wide margin in Defensive Runs Saved. Houston's Jose Altuve was the AL winner at second base.