Yoenis Cespedes carried a truckload of question marks into the 2012 season. He had never played professional baseball outside of Cuba. He was considered extremely raw offensively and defensively. And the A’s committed four years and $36 million to him, which looked like an overpay at the time.
But things seem to be working out pretty well.
Cespedes homered and tripled in the A’s 6-1 defeat of the Orioles on Saturday night in Baltimore and is now batting .302/.361/.541 with 14 dingers and 53 RBI through the first 68 games of his major league career. He also made an impressive running catch in center field, covering a ridiculous amount of ground in a short amount of time to rob a would-be double from the O’s Omar Quintanilla.
Cespedes, 26, is already one of the most exciting players in baseball and could get even better as he grows more comfortable. Oakland is 10 games above .500 and currently leading the pack in the AL Wild Card hunt.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.