Yoenis Cespedes signs with the Oakland Athletics

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We weren’t expecting this:  Tim Brown of Yahoo! reports that Yoenis Cespedes is on the verge of signing with the Oakland Athletics.  Susan Slusser added that the deal will be for four years, $36 million.

That’s a bit lower than anyone thought he’d get.  Is it possible that his short, lackluster stint in winter ball hurt him? Maybe it’s more possible that everyone calmed down a bit and realized that a 26 year-old — hopefully — Cuban player is not necessarily a sure thing no matter how flashy his workout videos and short-season statistics were. Especially if he’s a corner outfielder long-term and not a center fielder. Which looks very likely to be the case.

Still, it’s not like $36 million is cheap for the A’s, who have traded just about everyone who makes more money than Peter Brand.  But when you have no stud hitters in your system and no ability to sign one on the free agent market, you have to take a chance like this.  Because while he’s no sure thing, if Cespedes performs at the top end of his expectations, he will be a bargain.

In other news: how freaking interesting has the winter been for the AL West?

UPDATE:  Turns out that Cespedes will be eligible for free agency after the four year deal.  My initial impression was that the contract would run for four years and then he’d still be under team control and subject to arbitration for two additional years.  With that not being the case, this is a way better deal for Cespedes than I first assumed.

It also may explain why he went to the A’s and not some more of the usual suspects.  Rosenthal reports that Cespedes’ agent was trying to get either a ten-year deal out of teams — which no one was willing to do — or to get a four-year deal with free agency at the end.  Other teams, such as the Marlins, wanted him under control for five or six years.  The A’s, in short, were willing to do what no one else would.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.