The A’s stole the spotlight Monday with news that they’ve agreed to terms with Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on a four-year $36 million contract. With that, the A’s have grabbed the top hitter on the international free agent market. Cespedes, 26, still must pass a physical (figure that won’t happen for at least a week) and he needs to obtain a worker’s visa to play baseball in the United States. But assuming the contract gets finalized, his arrival will bring a jolt of excitement to the A’s, regardless of whether Manny Ramirez joins him or not …
The reason A’s fans should be thrilled: Cespedes is a physical specimen with terrific tools. At 6 feet, 215 pounds, he’s built like a running back and is said to have terrific power and speed to go with a strong arm, which could play well in center or right field. If you haven’t seen this promotional video yet, check it out. It’s an odd, and at times, hilarious production, but it also offers a glimpse of Cespedes’ raw ability. Baseball America’s Jim Callis says Cespedes would have ranked somewhere in the No. 7-15 range of the list of the major leagues’ top prospects, so the A’s have landed a premium guy. Perhaps they finally have a young, impact middle-of-the-order bat.
The reason for A’s fans to be skeptical: There’s still no way of telling how Cespedes’ talent translates to the major league level. He not only will be making a huge jump in competition level, he’ll be adapting to a new country and new culture as well. I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk he’s in the opening night lineup. Perhaps he gets a bit of minor league time to adjust. That will depend on how he looks in spring training. And as one scout told me this afternoon, if Cespedes is ready to contribute right away, will he have the lineup protection to thrive? “They did a good job outbidding other clubs and getting a hell of prospect,” the scout said. “But there’s so many questions in the middle of that lineup.”
Bottom line, this is an example that the A’s are breaking away from the “Moneyball” mentality. They’re now going after the blue-chip, can’t-miss physical talents who blow you away with their bench press and sprint times. And the A’s are throwing big money at these players to land them.