Yoenis Cespedes Is Athletic, An Athletic

Fitting the way that works out. It's like if the Giants signed a giant, or if the Mets signed someone they met.

I remember a time this offseason when the Athletics' outfield depth chart was Ryan Sweeney. It was Ryan Sweeney, just. There were a couple other guys - I think they were Michael Taylor and Jai Miller - but they were listed as backups, behind Ryan Sweeney. Ryan Sweeney, at that point, was the designated starter in left, center and right. One might've assumed the A's were really fond of Ryan Sweeney.

The A's traded Ryan Sweeney. Their outfield depth chart is now some unholy combination of Seth Smith, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Jonny Gomes, Collin Cowgill, and Yoenis Cespedes. I tucked the surprise in there at the end. Cespedes, the big-time potential Cuban superstar and potential Cuban Roger Bernadina, has agreed to a four-year deal with Oakland worth $36 million.

It's a complete and utter surprise. You might notice that you are completely and utterly surprised. The A's were in on another Cuban named Jorge Soler, but they didn't seem to be anywhere on Cespedes. No one seemed to be anywhere on Cespedes the way that the Miami Marlins were in on Cespedes. Cespedes signing with the Marlins felt inevitable. I mean, why wouldn't he? A Cuban in Miami? A team that said, flat-out, it would be "aggressive to the point of stupidity" trying to sign him? Cespedes was going to be a Marlin. If he wasn't going to be a Marlin, it would be because some other big player came in and flashed a ton of money.

He signed with the A's. It's easy to make jokes about how, as a foreigner, Cespedes might not understand just how miserable Oakland's situation really is. There might even be some truth to that. And there's a self-serving aspect here - Cespedes inked a four-year deal with Oakland instead of a five- or six-year deal with Miami because this way he can hit free agency sooner. Free agency sooner means major money sooner, since Cespedes doesn't expect Cespedes to flop.

What matters most, though, is that Yoenis Cespedes is an A. It's crazy but it's true, or it will be true as soon as he passes his physical. Next year, every team in baseball will be working with an assigned pool of funds in international free agency. This was the last year for teams to go nuts. Oakland made the big splash. (Update: nevermind about this. Professionals like Cespedes will be exempt.) Oakland was a big player for Aroldis Chapman, too, but they didn't sign him. They did sign Yoenis Cespedes.

For whatever it's worth, Oakland isn't a total stranger to high-priced players. They did have Matt Holliday. They did have Ben Sheets. Eric Chavez was expensive. It's interesting that Cespedes is going to have the highest salary on the team. It's a hell of a risk for an organization you assume takes only calculated risks, but who's to say this isn't a calculated risk?

Most of you are probably reading this because you want to know what this means for the Mariners. It's really hard to say what this means for the Mariners, since it's really hard to say what Cespedes is going to be. It's easy to imagine him as a powerful bat that never develops the discipline necessary to be consistently productive. It's easy to imagine him as a complete center fielder, or a near-complete center fielder. The question isn't his tools - it's how skilled he is at using them.

I guess the message, and the message that probably didn't need to be delivered, is that we can't just write the A's off. A lot of real and fake ink has been spilled this offseason about how the A's are blowing things up. Look at the A's. Actually look at them. They're not bad. They're not good, but they're not bad, and they're not old. They just signed a significant player for significant money. The Mariners are not in a three-team division, and they're going to have some trouble with the A's. Not just in 2012. In the long run. Even if Cespedes doesn't turn out.

If he makes the roster out of camp, the first Major League pitcher Cespedes will see is Felix Hernandez. He'll face him in Japan.

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