So after a weekend of being lazy and putting off taking care of responsibilities, I woke up early this morning and thought I should at least update the blog sometime today. I was at a bit of a loss earlier when thinking of possible topics of discussion, but thankfully it didn’t take long before I received some delightfully surprising news.
At around a quarter to ten this morning I was wasting time on Facebook when I saw a friend post a status update that said the A’s had just come to terms with 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. In utter disbelief, I went to MLB Trade Rumors to get more information, or to confirm that my friend has finally taken his nights of drinking a bit too far. Sure enough, the A’s had actually gone out and surprised pretty much everyone by signing the Cuban defector. The terms of the deal are four years for $36 million. Cespedes will make $6.5 million this year, $8.5 in 2013 and $10.5 in each of the final two years.
As of yesterday, it seemed very likely that Cespedes was going to end up with the Miami Marlins. It had been reported that they had made an offer to Cespedes for six years worth about $35-$40 million, and he went on a tour of their new ballpark last Wednesday. Despite their gleaming new yard and promises of being competitive after an off-season spending spree, the Marlins were unable to sign Cespedes. I guess he’s one of the few ballplayers on this planet who doesn’t shudder at the thought of hitting in the run-down, pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum.
While the signing comes as a complete shocker to all of us, it should be noted that the A’s have been pursuing international talent pretty aggressively the past few years. In July 2008, the A’s signed highly touted Dominican prospect Micheal Inoa. Two years ago, the A’s made were in the running for Aroldis Chapman before he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. The deal for Cespedes set a new record for a contract for a Cuban player, surpassing Chapman’s deal.
Although he has no Major League experience, it seems likely that Cespedes will be given a shot to win a starting job in Spring Training. He’s already 26, so he’s at the age when prospects either prove they belong in MLB or show that they’ll always be a mere AAAA player. Scouting reports say that Cespedes has immense power (a huge need for the A’s), a very powerful arm, and his legs cover huge chunks of real estate with each stride. There are some questions concerning his ability to hit for average and make contact with off-speed pitches. And there are the obvious concerns over his lack of big league experience.
Cespedes defected from the Cuban team in July of last year, establishing residency in the Dominican Republic and then becoming an MLB free agent.
With an outfield that was already overcrowded before signing Cespedes, the A’s are going to have to make some interesting maneuvers to make sure there are enough at-bats to go around. As I discussed in my last post, the A’s could use the DH spot to rotate guys in and out of the outfield, but somebody still has to sit the bench. Coco Crisp figures to be the starter in center, so that leaves left and right field to be determined with Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, Collin Cowgill, Michael Taylor, and Seth Smith all fighting for playing time. We also shouldn’t forget that with Daric Barton healthy again Brandon Allen might be forced back to the outfield. Given what has happened in the off season so far, another trade to make some room certainly isn’t out of the question. Right now it seems as though Billy Beane is content to throw as many options as possible against the wall and see what sticks.
Whatever the case may be, it’s exciting to see the A’s make news for a big free agent signing as opposed to trading away homegrown talent, something we’ve all gotten used to. Although Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said any team signing Cespedes would be taking a gamble, which I agree with, it’s a gamble that the A’s can certainly afford to bet on.