When it comes to evaluating wheeling and dealing around Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, few steadfast rules apply to the discussion.
Days after trading for relief pitchers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson and outfielder Craig Gentry, clearly indicating an all-in approach to winning big in 2014, another trade rumor emerged involving a Beane player. This time, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, a major contributor was rumored to be exiting Oakland.
Any discussion involving Yoenis Cespedes will cause a stir, especially within the context of the moves made by Oakland earlier in the week. If the A's are truly interested in competing for a World Series championship in 2014—which they would seem to be based on the additions of Johnson, Gregerson and Gentry—subtracting Cespedes now would be puzzling.
Yet, Billy Beane doesn't deal with the logic of fans and media members. The recent recipient of the 2013 Executive of the Year award, along with nearly 16 years of shrewd and brilliant moves, evaluates and maneuvers his roster based on value.
When it comes to Yoenis Cespedes' value, Beane has more than a dollar figure in mind. The Athletics general manager is constantly looking at one of the anchors of his lineup through this prism: Is he more valuable to the Oakland Athletics than what he could bring back to the club in a trade?
As we tackle the rumor of Cespedes to Arizona, let's start with this question: Are the A's truly prepared to move on from Cespedes just two years after bringing him to the majors?
Yes and no.
As stated above, Billy Beane assigns values to players. If a great offer comes across his desk, regardless of the player, contract, perception or reality, he'll make the deal. That, more than anything else, has made Beane one of the best and most successful executives in the sport for years. Despite budget constraints that would have forced most executives to quit, resign or lose their minds, Beane has thrived in Oakland.
The Athletics would trade Yoenis Cespedes for the perfect package, but don't buy into the idea that they are shopping him right now.
On Wednesday morning, Susan Sussler of the San Francisco Chronicle joined MLB Network's Hot Stove to breakdown the recent moves in Oakland and the future of the team. During the conversation, Sussler, who knows the team as well as anyone in the media, referenced her belief that Oakland believes 2014 is their window to win.
That doesn't necessarily mean it can't extend to 2015 or 2016, or that a complete rebuild is on the way after that, but rather that the moves made this week suggest a team looking to get over the hump and deep into October.
With that revelation, it's hard to believe the team would ship a prime-aged, middle-of-the-order bat away from their offense. If the Athletics do actually pull the trigger on a Cespedes trade, a huge, franchise-altering package would be required in return.
Considering the prices of free-agent outfielders, from Jacoby Ellsbury's seven-year, $153 million agreement in New York, to rumored figures between $75-100 million for players like Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo, Beane could market Cespedes as an All-Star caliber player on a more than reasonable deal.
Over the next two seasons, doubling as Cespedes' 28 and 29-year-old campaigns, he's owed $21 million. That number isn't per season, folks. It's combined. The contract that looked to be a major risk when Oakland signed Cespedes is now part of his immense value.
Cespedes isn't one of the 10 best outfielders in the sport, especially after a difficult, injury-riddled 2013, but he's the owner of 49 home runs over the last two seasons and a very, very reasonable contract in the landscape of today's game. No team, regardless of market, would find it overly difficult to fit his salary into their budget for 2014 and 2015.
Despite having two vastly different seasons, a good 2012 and below-average 2013, Cespedes ranks among the upper echelon of outfielders since arriving in the big leagues. With a dearth of power in baseball, Cespedes' home run and extra-base hit numbers stand out.
|Yoenis Cespedes: 2012-2013 Production|
|Stat||Cespedes||MLB OF Rank|
As you might imagine, the eyebrows of experts are raised when a contending team, with an impact player under club control, suddenly starts listening and contemplating offers. In any other instance, the concern would have merit. For Billy Beane and Yoenis Cespedes, it doesn't mean much.
At this point, it's hard to imagine the Athletics reversing course on a plan designed to win big in 2014. Finding a team that is willing to give up the goods—let alone the package of young, controllable talent that it would take to move Cespedes—is unlikely at this juncture.
Bookmark this trade rumor for a later date. If the A's get off to a rocky start or fail to contend through July, anything, including a blockbuster involving Cespedes, could be on the table for Billy Beane in Oakland.
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