The news that Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes has cast his lot with the Oakland Athletics arrived with some degree of surprise. Like many other observers, I figured Cespedes (spell check wants to call him "Centipedes") would sign with Miami, where he would ostensibly find a comfort level among other Cuban transplants. Money talks, however, and Oakland's four-year, $36 million offer apparently kept the Marlins on the sidelines.
Many scouts believe that Cespedes will need at least a little while in Triple-A ball to get his stroke back after a long layoff, but the A's likely want him to be in center field on opening day. His spring training performance will have a lot to do with that, but the real question is how close to major league caliber the level of play is in Cuba.
Oh, I've seen Cespedes' audition video. Very impressive. But really, what does it mean? It's batting practice. A lot of guys can put on a show against a BP pitcher. There's no challenge when someone just flips it up there with no movement on it. Most players will tell you that BP is for getting loose and not much else.
Guaranteeing $36 million to an unproven 26-year-old who's been playing in a 4-A league is more of a gamble than I'd be willing to take. Believe me, if Nationals talent evaluators saw this guy as a potential long-term answer in center field, they'd have been in on him until the end. They actually thought he'd be better off at first base, and likely not yet ready for an everyday big league role.
I wish the A's well in their pursuit of a new stadium in San Jose. Previous Oakland owners handed Santa Clara County to the Giants for free, and San Francisco is stonewalling Oakland owner Lew Wolff in his quest for a new ballpark.
Cespedes may sell a few additional tickets in the bay area - he'd better - but the A's are still an also-ran in the American League West. Their decision to sign him may turn out to be pure genius, but Nats fans shouldn't lose any sleep over it.