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Impact Bats and The Need For Them Now

The A's can find young pitching. You may have noticed this over the last dozen years. First, there was Hudson, Zito, and Mulder. They were complemented by Ted Lilly and Cory Lidle for a couple of seasons. Rich Harden showed all the talent in the world, but couldn't stay on the field. Joe Blanton came up through the minors and Dan Haren was acquired from the Cardinals. We watched Greg Smith and Dana Eveland get a chance to prove they were quality major league starters (they weren't). Then the next wave hit, featuring Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez, but also included Josh Outman, Vin Mazzaro, and Tyson Ross. Even Brandon McCarthy, who seems like he's been around forever, is only 28.

Since Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and Eric Chavez arrived though, the A's have not landed a single impact bat. Their best hitters over the last decade include Josh Willingham (one season), Jack Cust (two seasons), Daric Barton (one season), Frank Thomas (one season), and Jermaine Dye (one season). The closest thing to a home grown position player "star" is Nick Swisher.

It's not for lack of trying. The A's have drafted a bunch of position players in the first few rounds. They're in free agency discussions every offseason, even when it seemingly makes little sense. Last year, they tried to sign Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre, as some pundits/bloggers/fans were screaming against the moves. Those two guys combined for .298/.374/.554 with 63 homers, 199 RBI, and 10.4 rWAR.

As Nico noted Monday,

But what about the fact that come 2014, the A's won't be moving into their new stadium -- assuming they do move into one -- for another two years? I've never seen the goal as having to be "Start contention the year you move in." Much better to arrive a contender. First of all, attendance patterns are well known: Attendance lags a year behind the success or failure of a team. The A's want to move into a new stadium known as "that winning team that's coming!" and Cespedes gives them a better chance to do it.

Which is exactly right. I would almost view the deal for Yoenis Cespedes as a three-year, $36 million contract. Don't get me wrong, I think Cespedes will provide value in 2012. But the A's aren't paying him for those wins. In 2013, there should be enough young players at the big league level to get excited. By 2014, they should be fairly competitive; with a resolution regarding the possibility of a new ballpark, it could be a very exciting time for A's fans. Having Cespedes around also allows the A's to possibly attract free agents in the next couple years with anticipation of the new ballpark.

If you consider Cespedes a "prospect*," the A's have seven or eight of the best 100 in baseball, most of whom should be up by the end of 2013. That's a lot of talent to potentially bring to a major league team. But again, most of them are pitchers (Gray, Peacock, Parker, Cole). Even the impact position player prospects have question marks (Choice, Green, Norris). The A's needed a centerpiece for their rebuilding effort, and I think they found it in Yoenis Cespedes.

*Personally, I don't think Cuban/Japanese imports should be considered prospects or should be eligible for Rookie of the Year Awards. The guy is 26. Of course there's uncertainty as to transferring his skills to MLB, but there's little to project. He can hit, he can run, he can field, and he's shown it for years. Remember this when Yu Darvish wins Rookie of the Year in October, having spent the last half decade dominating the second baseball league on the planet. Rant ended.

Plus, we all get the added benefit of watching Coco's noodle arm in right field this season.