There’s a great scene during the ending credits of Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, where head coach Tony D’Amato (played by an extra gravely Al Pacino) takes the stand for what is going to be his retirement press conference following the climax of his coaching career after his teams loss in the playoffs. As D’Amato stutters and stammers through his thank you’s and regrets before speaking about the value of change and the willingness to give it another shot. To the shock and dismay of the crowd he ends up dropping a bombshell. Announcing that he will continue his coaching career with a new expansion team and take his quarterback with him. As he walks off into a new chapter, we see a closeup of his now ex general manager who simply mouths the words “son of a bitch”.
With the A’s signing Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes, I can’t help but feel those around baseball must be sharing the very same sentiment as they watch Billy Beane go right as he’s expected to turn left. If he can ever be expected to do anything that one would deem normal. Throughout Beane’s tenure in Oakland he has not been afraid to push the envelope and never has that been more apparent in the addition of Cespedes. As Cespedes and his agents spent the winter gauging the interest of some of the deeper pocket teams such as The Tigers, Yankees, Phillies, Cubs and most predictably the newly christened Miami Marlins who have not been shy about breaking out the checkbook this offseason in anticipation of the opening of their new stadium. As the weeks passed it became evident that the Marlins would be in the position to reach an agreement with the single season Cuban home run record holder. With money in their pockets, a brand new stadium, a couple big name additions, and a large Cuban population everything was set for Jeffrey Loria and the front office to wine and dine Cespedes and cross the T’s and dot the I’s on a big league contract. Like a snake hiding in the garden, Billy Beane went to work and quickly wrapped a four year, 36 million dollar contract with the 26 year old outfield essentially bring him to Oakland for the prime of his career.
As the A’s have spent the last few years striking out on adding fellow defectors Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) and Aroldis Champman (Reds), they didn’t let their past inability to add a free agent either domestic or international dissuade them from reaching a deal with Cespedes. Helping the agreement however, may have been the A’s prior working relationship with Cespedes agent Adam Katz who four years prior had brokered a record deal with the A’s for Dominican pitcher Michael Ynoa. As Ynoa, has struggled with injuries, and is currently working his way back up the farm chain at the still tender age of 16 the deal has yet to reap benefits but there is still plenty of time. It is believed that Cespedes is ready to make a Major League impact right now. With 33 home runs in a mere 99 games in the Cuban League last year, Cespedes power is real. Although his statistics were poor in a small sample size in Winter Ball (.145 avg, 1 HR, 10 K’s over 35 at bats), he showed a quick bat and powerful stroke against strong competition in the 2009 WBC. When the offseason ascended, he was advertised as a five tool player in his prime who could command a multi year deal in excess of 50 Million dollars. The A’s are getting him for a fraction of the price. Whether it had anything to do with the bizarre “showcase” video is yet to be seen. However, one thing is for certain. Billy Beane and the A’s have nabbed a potential steal in Cespedes, and now it’s his turn to make the most of his opportunity on the field.