A’s could strike gold with Yoenis Cespedes

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The A’s finally pulled off their big international signing.

Oakland wanted Aroldis Chapman two years ago, but came up short when the Reds bid $30 million for six years. Last winter, they were willing to commit $36 million to bring Hisashi Iwakuma over from Japan, but since $19.1 million of that was in the form of a posting fee, it wasn’t enough to land the right-hander.

Now that $36 million has been spent, given to Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes as part of a four-year deal. It was a surprising contract, in that it provides the 26-year-old Cespedes with the right to become a free agent after four years. Still, it’s a worthy gamble for a team with very little to lose.

This was really the only way the A’s were going to hit a home run. Elite free agents were out of their price range, and while the A’s haven’t been any good in years, they also haven’t been so bad as to land a top-five draft pick (maybe that will finally change next year). So, they took a chance.

I think best-case scenario has Cespedes performing like a $15 million-per-year player for the next four years. Oakland is a tough place to hit, but Cespedes could prove to be a .290, 25-homer guy anyway. The worst-case scenario is that he has big problems adjusting to life in the U.S. and proves completely worthless. That’s a possibility. Strictly from a talent standpoint, I don’t expect Cespedes to wash out. Maybe he turns out to be nothing more than a .260 hitter with 15-20 homer power, but it would come with plus defense in left or right field, making him something close to an average regular.

The big negative here is that even is that the A’s have limited their upside by allowing Cespedes to become a free agent after four years. Cespedes will likely open 2012 in the minors and he’ll probably need some time to get accustomed after he does arrive, so I wouldn’t expect him to be much of an asset until 2013. He’ll then be able to walk away after 2015.

The A’s, though, needed to do something like this. As much payroll as they had shed, they actually might have gotten themselves in trouble with the MLBPA if they didn’t (remember that the union had a hand in forcing the Marlins to increase their payroll two years ago). Ideally, they’ll open a new stadium in San Jose in 2015 with Cespedes as their showcase player. And if it doesn’t work out, well, it’s $9 million that Billy Beane won’t be able to spend on Marlon Byrd and Matt Capps next winter.

Must-Click Link: Mets owners are cheap, unaccountable and unconcerned

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Marc Carig of Newsday took Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon to the woodshed over the weekend. He, quite justifiably, lambasted them for their inexplicable frugality, their seeming indifference to wanting to put a winning team on the field and, above all else, their unwillingness to level with the fans or the press about the team’s plans or priorities.

Mets ownership is unaccountable, Carig argues, asking everything of fans and giving nothing in the way of a plan or even hope in return:

Mets fans ought to know where their money is going, because it’s clear that much of it isn’t ending up on the field . . . They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.

And they’re not just failing to be forthcoming with the fans. Even the front office is in the dark about the direction of the team at any given time:

According to sources, the front office has only a fuzzy idea of what they actually have to spend in any given offseason. They’re often flying blind, forced to navigate the winter under the weight of an invisible salary cap. This is not the behavior of a franchise that wants to win.

Carig is not a hot take artist and is not usually one to rip a team or its ownership like this. As such, it should not be read as a columnist just looking to bash the Wilpons on a slow news day. To the contrary, this reads like something well-considered and a long time in the works. It has the added benefit of being 100% true and justified. The Mets have been run like a third rate operation for years. Even when the product on the field is good, fans have no confidence that ownership will do what it takes to maintain that success.

All that seems to matter to the Wilpons is the bottom line and everything flows from there. They may as well be making sewing machines or selling furniture.