In an astonishing and shrewd move, the Oakland Athletics snuck out of nowhere and snagged the coveted Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, signing him to a four-year, $36 million deal, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Interestingly, the 26-year-old center fielder was offered longer-term contracts (reportedly $40 million over six years by the Miami Marlins), but he actually wanted fewer years so as not to be locked into one place for too long.
Good thing he selected Oakland.
For one, he won’t be in the city of Oakland for very long, if the Athletics have their way—because the team won’t be there for much longer. By the time his four years are up, Cespedes will hopefully be roaming the outfield in San Jose, a goal A’s owner Lew Wolff and Company have been eying for some time.
But realistically, Cespedes won’t be in Oakland beyond August of this season, possibly sent packing to another team before the midseason trading deadline. Yes, Cespedes could end up as another Oakland three-month lease.
Cespedes is considered an incredibly well-rounded middle-of-the-order hitter, whose athleticism in the outfield and strength in the lineup are incredibly attractive. His talent will be perfectly suited for teams that will be competing for the playoffs this October.
Surprise! The A’s will not be.
In the interest of their petite payroll, the Athletics will surely find themselves in a strong bargaining position come July 31. Much like their rental of Matt Holliday in 2009, the A’s will have a slew of teams inquiring about the availability of Cespedes as the trading deadline approaches. As soon as Oakland realizes how much they can receive in return in a basketful of prospects. Cespedes’ four-year deal is not exactly large enough to deter suitors, and the Athletics will have plenty of options in stocking their farm system.
Why would Oakland sign Cespedes and then trade him in July? The question should be, why wouldn’t they? The A’s have ticked off fans all offseason with the deluge of trades, revamping nearly the entire clubhouse. And yet management blindsides all of baseball by signing one of the hottest names on the free-agent market in Cespedes. Everything fans expect to happen doesn’t, and everything that shouldn’t happen does.
Such is the perplexing decision-making of Oakland and general manager Billy Beane. Why sign a player to a long-term free-agent contract when all the A’s have been doing this winter is contracting their roster?
Who knows? It’s odd for the A’s to add payroll when they’ve been cutting so much of it. But it makes sense to experiment with money for Cespedes.
International players are hard to evaluate, so who knows exactly how he’ll perform in the major leagues? He could project, according to rotochamp.com, to hit something like .273 with 22 home runs and 109 strikeouts in a full season—not great, but also not unattractive to playoff-contending teams. In this case, the A’s have a valuable bargaining chip to acquire more young talent to fill their pool.
Furthermore, if Wolff and the A's are not given approval to move in the next couple of seasons, saving Cespedes in order to field a competitive team in 2014 or beyond will not happen either. Therefore, it makes sense that Cespedes will be traded sometime before his four years are up. The A's would consider dealing him now while his value is still relatively fresh in the minds of contending teams.
Make no mistake, the acquisition of Cespedes is a wonderful surprise. It injects some life into a team of no-names and inexperienced players. But what truly would not be surprising is if the Athletics somehow move him soon after the All-Star break.
Don’t get too comfortable, Yoenis. You might not be in Oakland for very long.
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