On Monday afternoon, star Cuban ballplayer Yoennis Cespedes signed a four-year contract with the Oakland Athletics worth $36 million. Heading in to the weekend, it was reported that the Cubs and Marlins were the favorites to sign the 26-year-old, with the Miami offering between $30-$40 million in their meeting with Cespedes last week.
Cespedes, who broke Cuban Baseball’s single-season homerun record last season, defected from his home country by speedboat last summer. He established residency in the Dominican Republic in January and filed for MLB free agency. Though numerous clubs had scouted Cespedes while he played for the Cuban National Team and on the international stage, the showcase video he posted earlier this offseason helped ignite monster hype.
Scouts have touted Cespedes as the most talented player to ever come out of Cuba. Built like an NFL running back, Cespedes possesses premium running speed, uncanny athleticism, a strong arm and 30-homerun power. He hit .333/.424/.667 last season and his thirty-three homeruns tied Jose Abreu for most in Serie Nacional history. Though he’s short and squat, he’s an MLB-caliber centerfielder and he has the tools to be an above-average player in all facets of the game.
The A’s successful signing of Cespedes is a testament to the young centerfielder’s immense talent and value as well as the A’s commitment to their fans. The A’s, who’ve recently traded away many of their established starts in exchange or draft picks, clearly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab one of the most athletically gifted ballplayers to grace the free agent market in recent history. The team generally doesn’t commit large sums of their budget to free agent acquisitions, but Cespedes’ talent is apparently that bright. Here, the A’s are showing their fans they planned to remain competitive while rebuilding.
Unlike his MLB free agent counterparts, Cespedes won’t force the signing club to sacrifice a draft pick– boosting his value in relation to his counterparts.
The A’s front office is notoriously stingy with their free agent spending, largely due to the ballclub’s annually weak revenue figures, so the $36 million handed to Cespedes seems quite surprising at first glance. However, Cespedes’ five-tool ability seems to actually be undervalued a bit, as comparable American stars like Carl Crawford and Jason Werth have commanded much larger salary figures during recent offseasons. While Cespedes has yet to play in the MLB, making any All-Star predictions seem overzealous, his talent is undeniable and he could prove to be a steal for the A’s.
Cespedes’ four-year, $36 million deal will become official once he passes a physical. He’s poised to become the highest paid Athletics player, with his contract weighing in well ahead of Kurt Suzuki’s four-year $16.5 million, and Coco Crisps’s two-year $14 million. Though Cespedes had fielded similar offers from at least one other team (the Marlins), his agent Adam Katz stated that the young star felt the A’s wanted him most.