Everyone was expecting big things out of Yoenis Cespedes this season. After battling minor maladies in the first half of the season, Cespedes has really cashed in for the Athletics after the All-Star break, hitting with a whopping .402 BA and a .455 OBP. He's helped lead the bargain-basement Athletics back to playoff contention and appears to be getting better as the season rolls along.
But A's GM Billy Beane is notorious for his wheeling and dealing ways, making no payer safe on the roster, even a star like Cespedes. Cespedes is under contract for the next four years, but that likely won't keep Beane from exploring what value he could get in return for the Cuban defector (or anyone on the roster).
However, with the A's returning as a playoff contender with a young roster and huge upside, dealing Cespedes at this time would be inherently foolish. Here's a few reasons why.
Four years, $36 million might have seemed like a lot for a rookie when they signed him last offseason, but Cespedes came well groomed (at least at the plate) into the big leagues and was able to make his debut for the Athletics on Opening Day.
In fact, at a $9 million per-year average, Cespedes is tremendously undervalued given the numbers he’s put up in 2012 (.307 BA, 14 HR, 56 RBI, .367 OBP through 290 AB). When Cespedes hits free agency, given that his production hovers or improves upon his 2012 stats, he could sign for Jayson Werth (seven years $126 million) or Vernon Wells (seven years $126 million) money.
Those two guys combined make almost as much as the entire Oakland payroll in 2012. The small-market Athletics could never fathom bringing on another player like Cespedes for that kind of money, so keeping their star outfielder around while they can afford him might just be in the team’s best interest if they want to keep their winning trend.
If you’ve seen Cespedes play the sport at all, you’ll know that he's a unique type of player. His power, size, speed and athleticism set him apart from many players in the league, and we could be looking at a budding, one-of-a-kind ball player in the Cuban defector.
It’s not just that the A’s can’t afford another guy like Cespedes on the free agent market, it’s that there might not be another player like him out there. At age 26, the sky is the limit for Cespedes, and we could be looking at the next face of baseball should he progress even further as his career rolls along.
A’s fans are sensitive about their stars having ‘prone to injury’ asterisks after the Eric Chavez saga, and with Cespedes missing substantial time this season due to injury (including a trip the DL in May) there was cause for concern for Oakland’s newest $36 million man.
However, Cespedes’ injuries have all been minor this season, have no long-term effects and shouldn’t consistently nag the slugger through his tenure with the team. His explosiveness and his ability to cover large portions of the outfield have more than proven that his hamstring injury has completely healed and his wrist (though he recently missed a game after aggravating it sliding) looks good to go—as Cespedes has the second highest batting average in the AL post-All Star break (.402).
Cespedes and Reddick are two of the most intriguing young outfielders in baseball.
Cespedes is just one of many young studs that have helped lead this undervalued, under-appreciated squad to an improbable playoff hunt in a year which many thought the A’s had thrown in the towel in the offseason.
Josh Reddick, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin, Jemile Weeks and Derrick Norris are just a few of the A’s youngsters poised for outstanding big league careers, and with these players already competing at the major league level in 2012, who knows just how good this team can be given a few years experience.
This nucleus, with Cespedes as one of the core pieces of the roster, is starting to prove itself as a bona fide formula for success in the other city by the Bay. It just doesn’t make any sense to break it up during its infant stages.
Cespedes' stat line is impressive, and he's putting up All-Star caliber numbers now that he’s been in the lineup everyday—but keep in mind that the Athletics inked the 26-year-old Cuban defector last winter knowing that his game was still developing.
Cespedes broke out early in Oakland, and were it not for a few minor maladies, he would almost surely lead the A’s in every statistical category. It’s almost scary to think there’s room for him to improve, but should he work on his plate discipline and fielding skills, Yoenis Cespedes could be on his way to a potential Hall of Fame (yes, you read that correctly) career.
So if the A’s were to sell him in the offseason for a slew of prospects, they might be selling him at his lowest value. It might be tempting to Beane given the multitude of outfield prospects he has in the A’s farm system, but it makes the most sense for Oakland to hold onto Cespedes until he’s able to play a full season.