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.
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).
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.
A’s owner Lew Wolff told Bloomberg Television today that General Manager and Vice-President Billy Beane and team President Michael Crowley have both agreed to extensions that will keep them with the team through the 2019 season.
Beane, who has been general manager of the A’s since 1997, is the longest-tenured GM in the American League. And Crowley signed on with the team just one year later. The 76-year-old Wolff told Bloomberg, “If they are here another 30 years, that’s fine with me.” Then he joked, “Somebody said the reason I am doing it is I want one or the other to be able to wheel me into the new stadium.”
And what’s most important in this story for A’s fans is what’s not said about what it means for that new stadium. As everyone knows, the A’s are eager to build a new stadium for themselves in San Jose and have been awaiting a decision from Commissioner Bud Selig granting them permission to do just that.
Wolff and the A’s brass have basically described a decision that would block their proposed move to San Jose as a death sentence for the team. Unconfirmed rumors have been circulating that the fix may be in and that Selig will grant the A’s permission to move before long. And today’s news only seems to make that speculation more credible.
Why would the team’s two top executives choose to commit themselves for the next eight seasons to a team that may have no future? They wouldn’t. The announcement that Beane and Crowley have committed to the A’s through 2019 means that they clearly see a bright future for the A’s – in San Jose – through the end of the decade and they want to be around to see it!
A's owner Lew Wolff: Look, no Mt. Davis! (AP Photo/San Jose Mercury News, LiPo Ching)
Adrian Cardenas: You're going to be needing a jacket in Chicago
The Chicago Cubs claimed infielder Adrian Cardenas off waivers from the A’s today. The team had designated Cardenas for assignment 10 days ago after signing free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes.
Cardenas was originally acquired from the Phillies, along with pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer, in the Joe Blanton trade. The 24-year-old hit well in Triple-A last season, posting a .314/.374/.418 slash line at Sacramento. Cardenas never got a major league at bat with the A’s though, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectustweeted today that, “He’s a really bad infielder.”
Cardenas started out as a second baseman and shortstop, but the A’s eventually shifted him to third base, and then to left field last season. And the team obviously had a hard time finding a position they felt was right for him.
The loss of Cardenas opens up the second base position at Triple-A Sacramento this year for Wes Timmons, who will be teaming up with the loser of the A’s utility infielder battle – Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales – at shortstop, with Stephen Parker at third, and most likely Kila Ka’aihue at first, to form the 2012 Rivercats infield.
Adam Rosales (photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Eric Sogard (photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
As every A’s fan who doesn’t spend the winter hibernating already knows, the A’s acquired a major haul of young prospects in this off-season’s deals that sent away popular players Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. In return, the A’s restocked their organization with six young pitchers and four young hitters, not a one over the age of 25.
But who are these talented youngsters that the A’s are pinning their future hopes and dreams on, and where will they end up in the coming year? Well, wonder no more! Without any further ado, let’s meet this year’s freshly-minted Athletics…
Crafty lefty Tom Milone (photo by Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI)
The oldest and most experienced of the A’s young pitching acquisitions, Milone had a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Syracuse and a 3.81 ERA in 5 major league starts for the Nationals in 2011. A master of control, the California native walked a paltry 16 batters in his 148 1/3 Triple-A innings last year. At this point, he’s probably the most ready to step into the A’s major league rotation. The talented Mr. Milone is certainly not going to blow anyone away with his stuff, but he’s a smart lefty who knows how to pitch. And how many guys have had a very long career with that kind of profile? Paging Mr. Jamie Moyer, please pick up the crafty lefty courtesy phone!
Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s
Strikeout machine Brad Peacock (photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Of all the young hurlers the A’s acquired who pitched above Single-A last year, Peacock had the lowest ERA and the best strikeout rate of them all, turning in a stellar 2.39 ERA and striking out 177 in 146 2/3 innings between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg last year. He earned a late-season call-up with the Nationals and gave up only 1 run in 12 innings of major league action. The lowest draft pick of the bunch, the Florida native seems to be another smart pitcher who’s figured out how to put it all together. And it’d be surprising if he didn’t get a chance to be pitching in the majors before the season’s through.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats
Future star Jarrod Parker (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Probably the most talented of all the A’s young pitching acquisitions, Parker was a first-round draft pick in 2007 who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 and ended up missing all of the 2010 season. He returned to Double-A Mobile in 2011 and turned in a 3.79 ERA in 26 starts, striking out 112 in 130 2/3 innings. After earning a late-season call-up with the Diamondbacks, he gave up no runs in his only major league start. Parker should eventually end up as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for the A’s, but he could probably benefit from a little more seasoning. And if the A’s are going to treat any of their new young pitching prospects with kid gloves, it’ll probably be Parker.
Along with Parker, Cole is considered one of the best raw pitching talents in the A’s off-season prospect haul. At 6’4”, the young right-hander appears to be all arms and legs. But his right arm seems to have the ability to mesmerize mortal men, striking out batters at a rate of 10.9 per 9 innings over his short minor league career. Like most 20-year-old pitching prospects, he needs to work on developing his secondary pitches. But the lanky right-hander has tremendous potential and, at his young age, plenty of time to achieve it.
The youngest of all the A’s new pitching prospects, the team was reportedly willing to include Ryan Sweeney in the Andrew Bailey deal in order to get their mitts on this talented youngster, who checks in at just 19 (let’s hope his Dominican birth certificate checks out!). Alcantara’s shown impeccable control for his age, walking just 20 batters in 125 2/3 minor league innings. Like Cole, he needs to work on his secondary pitches. But he’s another hurler with tremendous upside and plenty of time to get where he needs to go.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Burlington Bees
Man in the middle Ryan Cook (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The only reliever the A’s grabbed in their off-season prospect haul, Cook turned in a nifty 2.21 ERA while striking out 62 batters in 61 innings between Triple-A Reno and Double-A Mobile last season. The Fresno-area native struggled a bit in his brief audition in the Diamondbacks bullpen last year, giving up 6 runs in his 12 appearances. But Cook did manage to strike out 7 major league batters over 7 2/3 innings. He throws hard and could ultimately prove to be an effective set up man behind future A’s closer Fautino De Los Santos.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s
Hustler Josh Reddick (photo by Kelly O'Connor/SittingStill.net)
The key piece of the Bailey deal with Boston, Reddick compiled a .280 batting average while playing in 87 games for the Red Sox last year, primarily as a right fielder. Reddick has shown good power in the minors, clubbing 14 homers in just 191 at bats at Triple-A Pawtucket last season. And he did manage to hit 18 doubles in a part-time role with the Sox last year, so he could be counted on to chalk up a few more two-baggers in the slightly more spacious Coliseum. He does tend to strike out a lot more than he walks though. The Georgia native has been characterized as a gritty, go-go, Eric Byrnes type of player, as well as a colorful character – and he does seem to be slightly fond of crazy hair! Reddick will be given the first shot at spending the 2012 season as the A’s primary right fielder, so he should get a chance to win over the A’s faithful and show the A’s brass just what he’s capable of.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s
Over-achiever Collin Cowgill (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A speedy right-handed hitting outfielder who throws with his left hand? Could it be the second coming of Rickey? Probably not. But Cowgill could end up finding a spot in the A’s outfield this season, even if it’s just as the A’s fifth outfielder. The team has had their eye on Cowgill for quite a while, attempting to draft him and trying to trade for him once before. He hits for average, steals bases and has shown surprising pop for his 5’9” / 185 lb. stature. Cowgill hit .354, stole 30 bases and hit 13 home runs for Triple-A Reno last season. And the good news is his numbers have improved each of the last few years as he has moved up the ladder from South Bend to Visalia to Mobile to Reno, his OPS rising from .705 to .819 to .825 to .984 last year at Triple-A. He got 100 at bats in the Diamondbacks outfield last season, turning in a .239 batting average in his time with Arizona. Cowgill should get a chance to come to the plate more often for the A’s in 2012, most likely serving as the fifth outfielder and getting some starts in right field behind Josh Reddick.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s
Walk machine Derek Norris (photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Norris certainly fits the A’s mold in that he’s a power hitter who has a propensity for drawing walks. He has a career minor league OBP of .403, which no doubt got the A’s attention. But while he clubbed 20 home runs at Double-A Harrisburg last season, he managed to hit only .210. The previous year in the Single-A Carolina League, he hit just .235. In each of the last two seasons though, Norris managed to chalk up more walks than hits, so he’s found his way on base one way or another. Expect him to try to improve on his batting average at Double-A Midland this year. If Norris can just keep his power numbers up and manage to get on base enough, he could serve to bridge the gap between current A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki and the A’s even younger catching prospect, Max Stassi.
Likely To Start 2012 With: Midland Rockhounds
Young slugger Miles Head (photo by John Sullivan/Daily News)
Head is a talented, but still very young, hitter whom the A’s decided to target in the Bailey trade with Boston. Last year while playing in Single-A, he opened eyes by hitting .299 with 37 doubles and 22 HRs to go along with an .887 OPS. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he’s spent most of his time in the Red Sox system playing first base, but the A’s are planning to return him to third. Some are skeptical about the 6-foot / 215-pounder’s ability to stick at third, but it can’t hurt to give it the ol’ college try! Just 20, Head’s still a few years away from making an impact at the major league level, but if he continues to hit, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to move up through the A’s system pretty quickly regardless of his ultimate position.
* The A’s are open to giving Manny Ramirez a test drive in the designated hitter spot once he serves his 50-day suspension.
* Three of the following five pitchers will join Travis Banwart and Carlos Hernandez in the Sacramento Rivercats’ starting rotation in April – Graham Godfrey, Tyson Ross, Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker.
* Two of the following three players are likely to join Michael Taylor in the heart of the Rivercats’ lineup in April – Chris Carter, Brandon Allen, Kila Ka’aihue.
* If the A’s do get the go-ahead to move to San Jose, they probably wouldn’t be able to have a new stadium ready to go there before 2016.
What an A's game might look like in 2016. Wait, where's Mt. Davis?
Adrian Cardenas: Where's old clubhouse barber Rajai Davis when ya need him?
In order to make room for newly-signed free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes on the roster, the A’s have designated prospect Adrian Cardenas for assignment. The A’s now have ten days to either trade or release Cardenas– unless he clears waivers, in which case the A’s can then send him to the minors.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser tweeted that the A’s are hoping that Cardenas clears waivers so that they can hold on to him by assigning him to Sacramento, just as they recently did with Landon Powell.
Cardenas was considered a top infield prospect when he was acquired by the A’s, along with pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matt Spencer, from Philadelphia in exchange for Joe Blanton. The Miami native has a career minor league slash line of .303/.368/.413 and hit .314/.374/.418 in his first full season at AAA last year. But the A’s have had a hard time finding a position they feel is right for Cardenas.
In his first three seasons in the minors,Cardenas served exclusively as a middle infielder, playing all his games at second base and shortstop. In 2009, the A’s started getting him in a few games at third base. Then in the 2010 season, the A’s played him exclusively at second and third and eliminated shortstop from his repertoire altogether. Last season though, the A’s chose to have Cardenas start the majority of his games in left field, with most of the rest of his starts coming at third. Clearly, the A’s have been a bit uncertain about what exactly to do with Mr. Cardenas, whose defensive abilities Baseball America has referred to as “fringy.”
Cardenas is a solid contact hitter who hits for a good average but doesn’t draw an above-average number of walks and hasn’t hit more than five home runs in any of his last four seasons. Combined with his lack of defensive prowess, it’s obvious that the A’s brass have come to view him as a bit of a one-dimensional player. On the other hand, his ability to consistently put the bat on the ball and play a number of different positions (even if he doesn’t impress at any of them), could make him a suitable utility player in the future. And considering that he only turned 24 just a few months ago, one can assume he’s still got a few years of potential improvement ahead of him.
If he remains with the organization, then Cardenas should be the leading second base candidate for the Rivercats in 2012. If he ends up being traded or claimed on waivers though, then Wes Timmons probably steps into that role, with Eric Sogard or Adam Rosales (whichever one doesn’t make the major league roster) likely ending up at shortstop for Sacramento. Some had been hoping that Cardenas would be in the mix for the A’s utility infielder role this season, but now it looks like Cardenas fans will be lucky if he’s still in the organization come opening day of 2012!
Jonny Gomes: Could his 707 swag be giving Dallas Braden's 209 swag a run for its money?
As we speculated in the last edition of this blog, the A’s have reportedly come to terms with Petaluma-born outfielder Jonny Gomes on a one-year deal worth approximately $1.1 million. Since the deal comes hot on the heels of the Seth Smith trade and both players have strong lefty/righty platoon splits, popular speculation has it that the right-handed hitting Gomes will primarily serve as a left field platoon partner for the left-handed hitting Smith, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gomes picking up some at bats in the designated hitter slot as well.
The signing of Gomes follows rumors that the A’s have been actively shopping first baseman Brandon Allen. So it could be safe to assume that a Brandon Allen trade could soon be the next shoe to drop and that Gomes will essentially end up taking over Allen’s roster spot. That would likely leave Chris Carter as the A’s leading designated hitter candidate – that is, unless the other recent rumor is true!
Enrique Rosas of ESPN Deportes has been reporting that the A’s are very interested in signing Manny Ramirez as a designated hitter. That would spell trouble for Chris Carter, and likely land him back at Sacramento. The only hitch with Manny is that he would likely have to serve a 50-game suspension for drug violations before he could play for the A’s.
In addition to the Smith and Gomes deals, trading Allen and signing Manny could really serve to shake up the A’s outfield/first base/designated hitter picture. Right now, if Allen is indeed dealt, it looks like the A’s would plan on starting the season with Daric Barton at first, Carter as the primary designated hitter and back up first baseman, and five outfielders on the roster – Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill.
That would put Kila Ka’aihue at first base in Sacramento, and five outfielders in the four outfield and designated hitter spots – Grant Green, Michael Taylor, Brandon Moss, Jason Pridie and Jeff Fiorentino. And if the A’s did end up adding Manny, then that might land Chris Carter back in the first base/designated hitter mix at Sacramento as well. Till the next time, stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Oakland A’s roster roulette…
With a career OPS of .833, Smith immediately becomes the best hitter on an A’s team severely lacking in punch. His 2011 OBP of .348 and SLG of .483 outpaced all A’s regulars in both categories last season. And the 29-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder can be expected to play left-field and hit in the 3-4 slot in the 2012 A’s lineup.
Smith’s career home/away splits have been noted by many, but in 2011, he had an .848 OPS at Coors Field compared to an .814 OPS on the road. The main difference in Smith’s performance at home and on the road over his career has primarily been in his home run hitting proficiency, hitting 1 home run every 20 at bats at Coors Field compared to 1 home run every 34 at bats everywhere else – and it’d certainly be no surprise to see Smith’s overall home run production decline playing half his games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum compared to the hitter-friendly Coors Field. He’s also been a better first half player over his career, hitting 26 points higher in the first half.
By far the most significant split though comes in Smith’s performance against right-handed and left-handed pitching. He has a career OPS a whopping 293 points higher against right-handers than against left-handers. Here again, the biggest difference can be found in his power potential, hitting 1 home run every 23 at bats against right-handed pitchers compared to 1 home run every 53 at bats against left-handed pitchers.
Jonny Gomes: Roundin' third...could he be headed for home? (Photo by Evan Habeeb/US Presswire)
Whatever else the A’s brass may say publicly on the subject, it’d be safe to assume that Smith might be watching a lot of left-handed starters from the safety of the A’s dugout in 2012. And multiple sources have already been reporting that the A’s are still in the market for a right-handed hitting free agent outfielder – someone like Cody Ross or Petaluma’s own Jonny Gomes – presumably to serve as a possible platoon partner for Smith as well as a fourth outfielder and a potential designated hitter. As far as the rest of the outfield picture goes, Coco Crisp is expected to man center with new acquisition Josh Reddick roaming the field in right.
The greater impact of this deal though may be on the A’s pitching plans. After it was announced that the A’s had reached a deal with Colon, the assumption was that the A’s were planning to take their time with their talented young pitching prospects. But with the news of this deal, it now looks like the A’s are ready to swing the major league doors open wide to their eager horde of young pitchers.
Ross, the most experienced of the bunch, has struggled mightily while trying to return from his latest injury, posting an ERA of 7.61 at Triple-A Sacramento and an ERA of 5.94 in the Arizona Fall League. With that in mind, the best bet might be to give Godfrey, Milone and Peacock the first shots at cracking the rotation. That would give Ross a little more time to piece things back together and Parker, the youngest and probably most talented of the batch, a little more time to develop at Sacramento. The Rivercats’ could then open the season with a starting rotation featuring Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker, Travis Banwart, Carlos Hernandez and Edgar Gonzalez.
Whatever happens, it looks to be a very interesting spring in the desert this year. Bob Melvin won’t even know the players without a scorecard!
Bartolo Colon: Just squint your eyes and the pinstripes will go away (Photo by Robert Sabo/NY Daily News)
Well, the A’s have finally stolen one away from the Yankees! The team has reportedly come to terms with veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon on a one-year deal worth $2 million, pending a physical. The 38-year-old Colon got off to a great start for the Yanks in 2011, turning in a 3.20 ERA in the first half. He finished the year with a 4.00 ERA and demonstrated great control throughout the season, walking only 40 batters in 164 1/3 innings. Colon also has a career ERA of 2.14 in the spacious Coliseum.
The portly Dominican Republican will surely provide a veteran presence on an inexperienced A’s staff that, for the most part, has barely started shaving. The old graybeard of the A’s starters, Brandon McCarthy at 28, is a full ten years younger than Colon.
The former AL Cy Young winner also comes relatively cheap, at a reported salary below the major league average. And with the A’s not likely to be in contention for anything in 2012 other than the league’s lowest attendance trophy, once the July trading deadline rolls around, the experienced veteran is likely to be flipped to a desperate contender for another hot young prospect to toss onto the A’s rebuild bonfire.
Even more importantly though, Colon’s addition will allow the A’s to let their recently acquired prized pitching prospects to take a little time to develop at Triple-A and will further delay their arbitration/free agency clocks. These young pitchers will surely be the core of any future A’s contending teams, and there’s absolutely no reason to rush them before the team is ready to contend just to fill up roster spots.
That said, I’d like to see the A’s start the season without any of their new young pitching acquisitions in the major league rotation. I’d prefer to see Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone all getting their Triple-A innings in at Sacramento for the first half of the season, until either they force their way onto the big league roster or trades or injuries open up slots for them in the summer.
I think most observers expect to see McCarthy, Moscoso,Colon and Outman given the first shot to start the season in the A’s rotation. But who would you like to see open the season as the A’s fifth starter if, as we expect, Braden isn’t ready to go? You can check out all the contenders’ minor league stats at the links below…
Landon Powell - go ahead, send me back to Sacramento, I dare ya! (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Catcher Landon Powell cleared waivers and has reportedly gotten over any hurt feelings and decided to accept his assignment to Triple-A Sacramento, with an invitation to spring training. That means that, besides starting catcher Kurt Suzuki, the A’s will have three catchers with some degree of major league experience in camp this spring, all fighting it out for the chance to be Suzuki’s seldom-used back-up.
The 29-year-old Powell has served as the A’s primary back-up catcher for the past three years, averaging just 121 at-bats per season, with a career slash line of .207/.284/.328. 28-year-old backstop Anthony Recker’s line was .176/.333/.235 in just 17 at-bats with the A’s last year. And 26-year-old catcher Josh Donaldson got 32 at-bats with the A’s in 2010, with a .156/.206/.281 line. Recker had an OPS of .889 at Sacramento in 2011, while Donaldson’s Sacramento OPS was .783.
One would think that, with his experience, Powell would have the edge to open the season on the major league roster. That would put Recker and Donaldson back at Sacramento once again, with new acquisition Derek Norris and Ryan Ortiz likely to be the catching duo at Double-A Midland.
What do you think? Should Powell be favored to reclaim the back-up catching job? Should Recker or Donaldson finally be given a real shot at backing up Suzuki? Or does it really even matter who rides the pine behind Suzuki? You can check out all the contestants’ major and minor league stats at the links below…