Despite rumours over the weekend that the Miami Marlins had offered Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes a $40 million contract, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Oakland Athletics have signed the international free agent. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the terms of the deal are for four years and $36 million. Team control will not extend beyond the terms of the deal, meaning that Cespedes will become a free agent again ahead of the 2016 season.

Many believe that the 26 year old will require seasoning in Triple A before he’s able to be anything resembling a force at the Major League level. This is despite the raw talent, impressive athleticism and, if nothing else, sense of showmanship, he displayed in his very popular promotional video.

It’s not just the video either. Several scouts and executives were impressed with what they saw from Cespedes in his workouts and brief time in the Dominican League. The praise also extended into the realm of prospect pundits. Immediately following news of the signing Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus claimed that Cespedes would have ranked 20th on his list of the top 101 MLB prospects.

However, given his age, the terms of the contract and the rarity with which the Athletics splash big money on a player, the risk in signing Cespedes is a curious one for Oakland. As we all remember, the balance of power in the AL West was thrown further out of whack this off season with the Los Angeles Angels signing both highly regarded free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The two-time AL Champion Texas Rangers also improved their squad with the acquisition of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish to go along with the further strengthening of the team’s bullpen.┬áMaking matters more confusing is that the A’s traded away two starters and their closer, all with multiple years of team control, for prospects that are unlikely to reach their peak during Cespedes’ scheduled tenure in Oakland.

As someone who has never played professional baseball in North America, it’s difficult to project what type of value the Athletics can expect from Cespedes, but given the terms of his contract, he can perform as a league average player over the next four years and the free agent contract will have been worthwhile for the team. That may sound like modest expectations for such a well known prospect, but the signing surpasses the record for Cuban born players which was previously held by the Cincinnati Reds and Aroldis Chapman who agreed to a $30.25 million contract over six years in the summer of 2010.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cespedes and his team of representatives were seeking either a ten year deal or a four year deal that would lead into free agency. Rumours suggest that no team was interested in dealing with the 26 year old under those terms, preferring a six year contract. That is, until the A’s made their offer.

Personally, I can’t get past his age and the level at which Cespedes has played at during key developmental years. If he is to succeed in becoming an elite performer at the Major League level, something that Oakland undoubtedly hopes, it will be unlike any other player that came before him. And generally speaking, when it comes to baseball or any other facet of life, if something has never happened before, it’s unlikey, though not impossible, that it will happen at all.

Whether signing Cespedes works out or not, Atheltics GM Billy Beane is due a large amount of praise for taking care of the team’s biggest hole this off season.

The Athletics’ outfield now boasts up to seven Major League ready or close to ready players:┬áCespedes, Collin Cowgil, Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Michael Taylor.

Comments (14)

  1. Backloaded contract, could be traded in two years for top prospects (if he is successful).

  2. I’m confused about the fact that he can become a FA after four years. Isn’t it just an unavoidable rule that teams get 6 years of control over players they sign? I’m not aware of this kind of thing happening before… is there a precedent for it?

    • I believe there was a clause put in the new CBA involving international free agents over a certain age, but I’m not sure

    • I’m not completely clear on it either. There is something in the new CBA that makes a distinction between International FAs signed before a certain age and after a certain age. The way it’s being written about in the press suggests that this is something that the A’s agreed to though. I’ll clarify once I understand.

  3. I think Beane deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done this offseason. Not only has he more than adequately filled the outfield holes in their depth chart, he also brought the farm system up from being one of the worst in the league to a top 10 system. When Cespedes is ready to make the jump to the Majors, he’ll suddenly have a plethora of outfielders to trade for more assets, either Major-League ready or otherwise.

    I agree that Cespedes is a HUGE risk, and one I’m not sure I would take, but Beane was smart enough to recognize the team he had had to chance and his rather astounding revamping of the team is impressive. It’ll be interesting to see if it works in the next few years.

    Also, does this and the Beane extension signify that the A’s believe a new stadium deal is imminent? Maybe Beane think they can contend in the next few years because he’ll be able to go after some marquee free agents over the next few years.

  4. *had to change………..

  5. Damn, I was really looking forward to watching Ryan Sweeney field all three outfield positions at the Coliseum.

  6. Literally nothing impressive about 1/4 leg presses, and bouncing hack squats. He still looks like an insane athlete. That’s the first time I’ve watched more than 5 minutes of that video.

  7. Interesting move by Cespedis. Path to the bigs might be easier for him in Oakland and since he can become a FA when he’s still young (age 30), he figures he’ll cash it in then. Compared to what he was making in Cuba, any deal is a good one for him.

    Or maybe Cespedis got freaked out when he saw that monstrosity over the CF wall in Miami’s new stadium and said no thanks to the Marlins.

  8. Billy Beane may have done well to trade his young pitchers in an off-season when pitching was so highly valued (though we’ll see whether the prospects turn into better value than Gio and Cahill), and he may have restocked a depleted farm system, but how does a work out video translate into 36 million over 4 years? I know, I know, he has excellent stats in Cuba…but really? 36 million over 4 years for a 26 year old who has never performed at a level competitive with double A?

    It certainly looks like a horrible gamble for a team that doesn’t really have the money to gamble with, but then, Beane knows more than I do.

    • I’m sure they’ve watched him a ton in the Dominican…and possibly in Cuba. They know what they’re getting into. Having said that, it’s still an enormous risk.

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