The A’s made a surprise move yesterday by signing Yoenis Cespedes, a highly sought-after outfielder for the Cuban national team until he defected last summer. We turn to sports journalist Rick Tittle for a little analysis:

Rick Tittle

Yoennis Céspedes batting for Cuban national team in 2010 (boomer-44/Flickr)
Cespedes is a guy who the baseball world has seen in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. He defected and got his citizenship with the Dominican Republic, which unlocked him with our State Department.

He flew to Miami and people thought that he was probably going to be signing with the very ambitious Miami Marlins, but apparently he didn’t want to play in an area with such a large Cuban population; he thought it might be a media circus. Plus, the Marlins were offering him $36 million for six years, while the A’s were offering $36 million for just four years.

A lot of people around baseball are shocked that he picked Oakland, because the direction of the team has not been to win right now. But the A’s have put a lot of money into their overseas scouting recently, signing a young shortstop out of Venezuela named Renato Nunez, and, a few years ago, a young pitcher from the Dominican, Michael Ynoa. Ynoa has the same agent as Cespedes, so that may have had something to do with the signing.

Cespedes is a five-tool player coming to Oakland in probably the darkest off-season for the A’s since the 1970’s. This is now a bright light.

Tittle says team ownership may have been too successful in talking down the Oakland Coliseum as a way to get permission from Major League Baseball to relocate the team to San Jose. Last year’s attendance in Oakland was the worst in the major leagues.

Rick Tittle

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if they say that no one comes here because the stadium is terrible. That doesn’t really bring in a lot of the fringe or fair-weather fans.

But if you add a guy like Cespedes, who the fans can get excited about, that at least will give your team some value.

Some people see this, along with the extensions of general manager Billy Beane and team president Michael Crowley to the year 2019, as signs that the stadium in San Jose will finally be approved. But what this means right now is that the A’s have a good player coming in, something that they have not been able to say for a while. All we’ve had are prospects and journeymen coming in.

Of course, having Billy Beane sign you to a long-term contract does not mean you’re going to be hanging around. Look at A’s pitcher Trevor Cahill. Just as he was about to start earning money under his deal, jumping from $500,000 to $3.5 million, he was dealt to Arizona. So some A’s fans may think Yoenis Cespedes will be gone by the trading deadline, but let’s hope that the Cuban superstar will be the real deal and hang around for more than the proverbial cup of coffee.

Author

Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports issues.  Previously, she produced and co-created KQED's "Pacific Time" and was the deputy foreign editor for "Marketplace". Thorsen began her public radio career while a student at the University of Minnesota, as a ticket taker for "A Prairie Home Companion".

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