Oakland And Yoenis Cespedes: Insane, Beautiful

The A's stunned the baseball world by committing four years and $36 million to Cuban mystery man Yoenis Cespedes.

Strip the name from the team. Forget that they can draw MLS-worthy crowds when they play the Mariners in the middle of the week. Forget about the three big trades this offseason. Something to remember about the A's is this: They still have a really interesting rotation. If the young pitchers all belonged to the Yankees, Tigers, or Brewers -- and if those teams had the sputtering offense to go along with the rotation -- you'd absolutely expect those teams to make a move like this. If a pitching-heavy team figures Yoenis Cespedes can hit, a move like this makes sense.

But you can't just strip the name from the team. The A's made this move. The Oakland A's. The team traded away Trevor Cahill because a) they wanted the sweet, sweet prospect haul, and b) they didn't want to get stuck with a long-term deal for a pitcher who lost effectiveness last season. Because, you know, those young pitchers are risky and all. They're only substantially less risky than international free agents who play against competition of unknown quality.

It's a fantastically risky move for a limited-budget team like the A's to sign Cespedes, bordering on gloriously unhinged. This is the kind of move that a GM talks an owner into when he thinks he's just going to get fired at the end of the season anyway. But Beane just signed an extension. He has an ownership stake. He isn't going anywhere. Not sure who he listens to in the scouting department, but whoever it is, they sure like Cespedes an awful lot. They think he can hit, and that he can do it right away. On a four-year deal for a chunk of money, there isn't time to futz with him in the minors.

The rotation for the A's:

Brandon McCarthy
Bartolo Colon
Brad Peacock
Tom Milone
Jarrod Parker

McCarthy and Colon are health risks, but they're quality pitchers. Peacock and Parker are top prospects who'll have the kind of safety net that only 48 acres of foul territory can provide. And Milone's superlative command might be the perfect experiment for the A's in the Oakland Coliseum. It's an interesting bunch, and that's leaving off Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, both of whom are expected back at some point this season.

Another hitter or eight, then, would do the A's just fine. The pitching staff isn't enough to get a below-average offense to the playoffs, but it could do something interesting with a handful of average hitters and a couple of above-average hitters. The easy part is figuring that out. The tough part is actually getting the hitters. The A's think Yoenis Cespedes will be a middle-of-the-order hitter. Not everyone does. And they'll need more offense than Cespedes, even if he pans out. They'll need another hitter, at least. From Susan Slusser:

The A’s also had interest in another Cuban outfielder, Jorge Soler, but this signing ends that pursuit. The team is still likely to sign Manny Ramirez, however. "Manny is still on the board," one source told me.

Aaaaaaaahhhhh! Manny too! The A's could actually have two legitimate middle-of-the-order hitters in their July lineup.

Of course, it's possible -- even likely? -- that Manny could hit .230/.310/.330 over a hundred injury-riddled at-bats, and that Cespedes is shuttled back and forth from Sacramento as he struggles with the huge adjustment to the majors. The A's just gave Aramis Ramirez money to someone who could hit like Jay Bruce, or someone who could hit like Bruce Sutter. But it also could work out right away. They were going to be bad offensively anyway. If the revenue-sharing millions are burning a hole in the Athletics' pockets, I guess there's some sense in taking some extreme chances in the team's quest for offense.

This isn't a bizarre move. This isn't a move that's hard to understand. It's just insane and risky. This is proposing to a blind date on the scoreboard. Maybe you'll spend the rest of your lives together and be really happy! Maybe she'll steal your watch and jump out your bedroom window while you tinkle! Different shades of the same color, I guess.

It won't be dull, though. It won't be dull. I always pictured the mystery team as wearing a green suit with purple question marks. Turns out they were gold. The question marks were gold. And if the over on the projection happens, if Cespedes really is the greatest Cuban hitter since Jose Canseco, the A's will be that much closer to doing something with the collection of young pitchers they have.

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