That just happened. The Oakland A’s have landed Cuban star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes with a four-year deal worth $36 million, reports the SF Chronicle. The deal shocked many people around baseball, as many analysts and writers expected the Cuban star to sign with a bigger and more well-known franchise.
That wasn’t the case, though, as the A’s reportedly came out of nowhere at the last minute and snatched Cespedes with a cool $36 million.
The deal itself is a risk, but for the A’s Cespedes could be the uncommon cure for their middle-of-the-order ailments. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSport.com, though, calls the deal very peculiar, especially for the penny-pinching A’s. It counters, Rosenthal argues, Oakland’s Moneyball approach and calls the whole deal a “gamble.”
Cespedes represents the type of hitter the A’s haven’t been able to land via free agency over the past few years. The team went into last year’s offseason very aggressive and came up empty handed. Well, almost empty handed.
The A’s landed a couple of veteran relievers in Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour, and hitters Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham. Fuentes was shaky at best in his debut with Oakland, while Balfour put in a year’s worth of solid work.
Offensively, Matsui and DeJesus were two big disappointments. Only Willingham, who was acquired via trade with the Nationals last offseason, proved to be a nice pick-up for the A’s last year.
Willingham led the A’s offense last year in home runs and RBIs, but as the story goes in Oakland, the A’s lost him to free agency this offseason.
Aside from Willingham, the A’s suffered mightily on offense last year. Entering this season, the team has a few hitters vying for spots on the starting roster, but Cespedes’ name is now the most intriguing.
At $36 million, Cespedes isn’t a cheap, but he is young enough to fit the whole “Go Young or Go Home” image the A’s are currently trying to evoke. Still, there are questions, much like the ones Rosenthal asks, surrounding Cespedes.
Why would the A’s, a team dying in an outdated stadium, want to sign an unproven guy like Cespedes for four years? How will Cespedes perform in the North American system, and more importantly, in a venue like the cavernous O.co Coliseum? These are only a few questions that most skeptics are asking at the moment, but there are plenty more surrounding the Cuban outfielder.
If Cespedes performs the way the A’s hope he will, that doesn’t bode well for their chances at resigning him once his deal is up. He brings some serious power potential to the table and figures to hit 20 or so homers in his first big league season despite playing in the Coliseum.
That would be huge for the power-starved Athletics. Currently, though, the team has more than a few options in the outfield. Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Michael Taylor, and Collin Cowgill to worry about in the outfield this year. Adding Cespedes to the mix only makes this list longer.
The thinking is, though, that the A’s will allow Cespedes to compete for a starting role immediately. Given the fact that they’ve forked over all this money already, I’d be shocked if they didn’t give they guy a shot this season.
If the Cespedes-experiment fails, however, that would be an even bigger blow for the small-market Athletics. They’re banking a lot, in my mind, on this deal working out for the best. And if it does, in fact, work out, where will that leave the green-and-gold at the end of Cespedes’ four-year deal?
Is there really any reason to think they’d be able to resign the guy if manages to post monster numbers for four years in Oakland? Conventional wisdom suggests the A’s would fall victim to yet another big market team and lose Cespedes after his four-year deal is up.
If the team gets granted permission to build a new ballpark in San Jose, though, that could entice Cespedes to stay with the Athletics after his deal is up.