A’s Sign Cespedes, Manny to Follow: Bad News for Taylor, Carter & Cowgill

Yoenis Cespedes: As Chico Escuela might say, "Baseball been berry berry good to him!"

The A’s shocked the baseball world on Monday when news broke that the team had signed Cuban free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The team reportedly inked the 26-year-old to a 4-year, $36 million contract that will keep him with the A’s through the 2015 season. The right-handed slugger set a single-season home run record in Cuba last year, clubbing 33 homers in 354 at bats to go along with an impressive .333/.424/.667 slash line.

The prized prospect is considered a 5-tool player, but how his talents will translate once he’s transplanted into the major leagues is anyone’s guess. But we should find out soon enough as Cespedes, who played center field in Cuba, is expected to open the season in either center or right field for the A’s. The slugger could be counted on to be the cleanup hitter that general manager Billy Beane recently said he was looking for, with recently acquired outfielder Seth Smith slotting in the #3 spot right behind outfielder Coco Crisp and second baseman Jemile Weeks, who’s expected to bat leadoff.

Cespedes’ power is clear (hitting 1 home run every 10.7 at bats in Cuba last year), and he also possesses some speed, but his plate discipline and ability to hit for average are likely to be the biggest question marks. Experts seem to be expecting something like a .250-.260 batting average from him with somewhere between 20-30 home runs per season. With those sorts of numbers, he could have a career that profiles something like Vernon Wells or, for old school A’s fans, perhaps George Hendrick.

After the Cespedes signing, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the A’s are still interested in signing Manny Ramirez. And the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that the A’s are likely to sign Manny and give him a shot once his 50-day suspension is over in mid-May.

Manny says: "Let Yoenis be Yoenis!"

Beyond the obvious reasons, the Cespedes signing, along with the continued talk about Manny, is also interesting for what it says about how the A’s view other players on their roster. While the team seems willing to put plenty of faith in their young pitching prospects’ ability to step up and perform in the majors this season, they clearly seem reluctant to want to put much faith in most of their young hitting prospects at this point.

Rather than giving a clear shot to young hitting prospects like Michael Taylor, Chris Carter, Brandon Allen or Collin Cowgill, the A’s have instead brought in Cespedes, Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes, re-signed Coco Crisp, and seem poised to bring in Manny Ramirez as well, virtually locking out the young hitters from any real opportunities on the major league roster.

At this point, barring a trade, the A’s will open the season with five outfielders on the major league roster – Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick, Smith and Gomes (with Smith and Gomes likely getting most of their at bats in the designated hitter spot – at least until Manny Ramirez’s potential arrival).

Assuming Suzuki, Sizemore, Pennington and Weeks will be joined on the roster by a backup catcher (Powell, Recker or Donaldson) and a utility infielder (Rosales or Sogard), that leaves two open spots on the offensive roster. And considering various comments by A’s management in recent weeks and at FanFest, it seems that Daric Barton and Brandon Allen would be favored for those last two spots.

Michael Taylor: Out in the cold, on the banks of the Sacramento river? (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

That leaves a glut of ten potential outfielders and first basemen available for the Triple-A Rivercats roster, including Chris Carter, Kila Ka’aihue, Michael Taylor, Collin Cowgill, Grant Green, Brandon Moss, Jason Pridie, Jeff Fiorentino, Cedric Hunter and Jermaine Mitchell. Since the A’s have rarely carried more than six outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter types on the Sacramento roster at any given time, something will have to give.

Mitchell isn’t likely to be fully healthy at the start of the season, and Hunter is still young enough that he could be sent back down to Double-A. That leaves two left still to be trimmed. Spring injuries could take care of one or both of those spots, as could potential trades. But of the ten names listed above, you’d expect the A’s to give priority for Triple-A outfield at bats to Cowgill, Taylor and Green, and priority for first base and designated hitter at bats to Carter and Ka’aihue.

So it seems like minor league free agent signees Brandon Moss, Jason Pridie and Jeff Fiorentino, all of whom signed on with the A’s when the only experienced major league outfielder on the roster was Ryan Sweeney, might end up regretting their decision since they could very well wind up out in the cold. And it’s safe to assume that Cuba’s loss is bound to leave Taylor, Carter and Cowgill on the outside looking in as well.



11 comments for “A’s Sign Cespedes, Manny to Follow: Bad News for Taylor, Carter & Cowgill

  1. Vivek
    February 14, 2012 at 10:50 am

    You write some pretty solid articles, whoever you are you should post your name and take credit for it! Thanks for getting a new A’s blog going.

  2. February 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks, it’s much appreciated! I’ll be sure to add some more info about myself up here before long. In the meantime, you can see me occasionally commenting or posting stuff on A’s Nation as wcmori. Keep checking in – should have lots more good stuff as spring training gets underway and regular updates on everything going on below the major league level during the season.

  3. Jayhawker
    February 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Must concur that your article is very informative and well written. Do you make comments on oakland clubhouse as well. I seldom go to A’s Nation anymore unless things get really really boring elsewhere.

    • February 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks much! Haven’t spent much time over at Oakland Clubhouse, but maybe I will. Thanks again.

  4. Noah Schubert
    February 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Don’t forget that Ka’aihue is out of options.


    • February 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      Absolutely right. I recently realized that both Kila Ka’aihue and Brandon Allen are out of options. Since they’re both basically the same hitter, I think it’s likely one of them will be gone by the end of spring. Since Allen probably has a little more trade value, I’d suspect he’ll probably end up being dealt and Ka’aihue will end up taking the major league roster spot I’d anticipated for Allen.

  5. lostsok
    February 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Billy Beane seems to be making moves just to make moves. Hoping someone blows up and makes Moneyball 2 workable?

  6. February 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I hope the A’s pass on Manny and allow Carter or someone else to get a chance to show what they can do. I would hope the A’s trade Barton away (if they can get anything for him) before they trade Allen. Barton has no power and has had his chance. We haven’t seen enough of Carter yet at DH and Taylor has barely been exposed to major league pitching.

    Manny can go somewhere else and be “Manny being Manny”. He doesn’t need to be in the A’s dugout and be a negitive to the young players. The team may gell after 50 games and then here comes Manny. I can’t believe he can help this team. Let the young guys play and see what happens.

  7. February 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

    When I first saw that the A’s signed Cespedes I thought about Michael Taylor and how he really has no chance this year. I think you are very right and this article is great because It’s showing the fans what these signing do to the chances of prospects. Also, what happened to “Moneyball” the guys in the system are brought up on having a good eye and getting on base. Cespedes has not proven that he can do anything at the big league level. This deal makes no sense to me even though I’m a Nationals fan.

    • February 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Yeah, I think Taylor looks like the real odd man out at this point!

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