SBD/February 14, 2012/Franchises

MLB's Offseason Of Surprises Continues As A's Ink Cuban OF Cespedes To $36M Deal

A's hoping Cespedes can be central component of rebuilding process
The A's "unexpectedly snatched prized Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes away from the Marlins and other big spenders Monday, signing the 26-year-old to a four-year, $36 million deal," according to Susan Slusser of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The team could also "make more big news later this week" with speculation they'll sign free agent Manny Ramirez. In the "course of a few days, the A's could go from a snooze of a spring camp to a circus atmosphere." If Cespedes thrives in MLB, the A's "hope is that a stadium will be opening just as his deal is expiring and that the team will be coming together as a contender, enticing him to sign an extension" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/14). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes for the A's, the Cespedes deal "is a staggering commitment." Before him, the "richest total contract on the Athletics’ roster belonged to catcher Kurt Suzuki, who is halfway through a four-year, $16.25 million deal." By average annual salary, the team’s "highest-paid player had been center fielder Coco Crisp, at $7 million a year for two years" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/14). ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl wrote, "To the surprise of many, the A’s actually had the money to spend, but nobody expected them to jump in, especially when they’re bobbing around that bright line between being cheap and being on the union’s list of baddies when it comes to clubs potentially not spending their revenue-sharing cash on payroll" (ESPN.com, 2/13). In Oakland, Joe Stiglich noted Cespedes' "addition adds to a perplexing winter for the A's." They traded Ps Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey, "trimming salary and stockpiling prospects as part of a rebuilding effort" (INSIDEBAYAREA.com, 2/13).

SHOCK HEARD ROUND THE WORLD
: USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz writes the move "came as a shock partly because the A's were not even in the periphery of clubs supposedly wooing the multi-tooled Cespedes, but also because they had clearly indicated their intention to restructure the team so it could contend again when it moved to a hoped-for new stadium in San Jose" (USA TODAY, 2/14). In Oakland, Monte Poole writes $36M is a "startling figure, downright stupefying, for the A's, a downtrodden franchise that seems to take perverse delight in constantly hiding beneath its motto: 'Sure, we can afford to compete -- but why bother when we're being forced to survive in a dump?'" But maybe this is A's VP & GM Billy Beane "exhibiting his vision." Insofar as the A's "seem confident about acquiring their San Jose panacea, perhaps this is less about expense than investment" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 2/14). MLB.com's Jane Lee notes the move "also perhaps restores faith in doubtful fans." Cespedes' signing "would seem to complement the A's plans of contending in that new home, although there's no guarantee he'll still be with the A's when that time comes" (MLB.com, 2/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan noted the move "shocked the industry because these are the A's." But the deal "makes so much sense we should've seen it coming." Cespedes "could be special," and special "costs a whole lot more than $36 million." With Cespedes, the A’s payroll is "likely to creep from lowest in baseball to second-lowest." The A's signed Cespedes because "they had to," and in this marketplace, "with their situation, giving $36 million to a kid who hasn't taken a single major-league at-bat is about the only way the A's can carve that path to contention" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13).

ULTERIOR MOTIVES? ESPN's Karl Ravech asked, “Is it possible that the A’s -- who have done this -- they literally find something and then they also use it as a chip to get prospects? They could trade Cespedes for 14-year-olds in two years.” ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said that is “always a possibility with the A’s." Kurkjian: "Just look at what they did in this off-season, trading their young pitchers” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 2/13).
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