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.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.