Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes: It's a trade that didn't really work out for either team. Gomes chose August-September 2014 to channel his inner Nick Punto at the plate, Lester presided over a tailspin that ended with his anything-but-electric wild card start, and rumor has it that the Red Sox may be interested in dealing Cespedes this off-season.
The A's have been linked to a Cuban OFer, but it's Yasmany Tomas who, by all accounts, has a bit in common with Cespedes but lacks the defensive prowess or speed Yoenis brings to the table. Rather than see Oakland spend pretty big money on a gamble that profiles as "Cespedes-lite," I would rather see the A's put that same kind of money into reacquiring and extending the guy they dealt away.
Now I don't know if Cespedes still feels as he did on July 31st, when he reportedly cried at news of being traded after having said -- and you can take him at his word or not -- that he would like to spend his entire career with the A's. I would only advocate acquiring Cespedes if the A's could sign him to an extension, but if Cespedes' experience with Boston has been half of what the rumor mill has churned out, he may have found the grass browner on the other side of the fence and be all the more wistful for the magical days of yore.
In any event, let's imagine that Cespedes would like to return, and sign an extension, given the opportunity and a fair market offer. A's fans know only too well the many flaws in La Potencia's game and why some may shy away from allocating significant payroll to a man capable of taking' fly ball routes and chasing " sliders".
First off, I do believe too much is made of Cespedes' pedestrian OBP. (His career slash line currently stands at .263/.316/.464.) OBP has become excruciatingly fashionable, when in fact the difference between a .316 OBP and a .349 OBP is just about exactly one more time on base in a week.
Yes OBP is important, but many of Cespedes' critics would consider him to be awfully good if he put up a line of .263/.349/.464 with very good LF defense and excellent speed, and that would be Cespedes' career to date with one more walk every week. You would always want the highest OBP possible, but if a guy can get his fair share of hits, slug over .450, drive in 100 runs (as Cespedes did in 2014), run like the wind and play excellent defense, and come up biggest on the biggest stages, perhaps that "extra walk a week" isn't the be-all-and-end-all.
But my argument is not limited to spinning a .316 OBP and calling it "worth millions!!!" What many have focused on is the fact that despite the hype, Cespedes is not in fact a star player. And they're right. To date, overall Cespedes has been a good player but not a great one.
Here's the thing. It's not just that the A's cannot afford to bring in star players. For the most part, they cannot even afford to bring in star talent. And make no mistake about it, Cespedes has star talent. He may, or may not, ever put it all together. I suspect he will have at least a season, if not more than one, where he puts his talent together enough to parlay his tremendous skill into that coveted .350+ OBP. Or wins a gold glove. Or smacks 45 HRs. Or all of the above.
If you don't have any warts or risk attached to you, the Oakland A's can't afford to sign you. Committing to Cespedes into his 30s, and paying him accordingly, would be a risk. But as risks go, it would be a risk with a player who has star talent and who, even if he doesn't ever put it all together, is still a very good player. I'm sorry if it sounds "old school" but there is something to be said for a guy who can impact a game, who can, in a hot month, carry a team.
And then there's the topic of "juju". If you don't believe in it now, you never will. The Cespedes-A's stats are, pretty much, inexplicable. Put him in the lineup and the A's play .650 ball. Sit him and the A's play under .400 ball. Trade him and watch a series of events unfold that you could not conjure up in your wildest alcoholic nightmares. It's so extreme and bizarre that I do not profess to understand it. I don't even make claims of correlation, because it reeks not of correlation but of magic that defies logic or reason.
What I can understand is that a reunited, invigorated, "there's unfinished business" Cespedes could be a pretty electric force around which to build -- or is it reclaim -- an identity as the team to beat, the team to fear. Cespedes may not be a great player, but the Cespedes-A's were a great team. And he is perhaps the "star talent" most affordable and accessible to Oakland.
I don't imagine the asking price for Cespedes is all that high. Heck, anything the Red Sox get for him puts them ahead in the end. They gave up 2 months of Jon Lester's starts for a last place team, and they gave up 2 of the worst months in Jonny Gomes' career. Cespedes, if he is indeed being shopped, will not be dealt for nothing but he probably will not command a king's ransom either.
OK. Cespedes may never have wanted to be a lifelong Oakland Athletic. Or those feelings may have evaporated with the July 31st trade. Or his asking price for a multi-year deal may simply be out of the A's reach. But if the A's are going to gamble on a multi-year commitment to a talented but flawed Cuban OFer, I don't want to dream about Yasmany Tomas, who will cost a lot and who might be as good as Cespedes has already been.
Let me dream about Cespedes tapping into his Potencia. Let me dream about Cespedes giving the A's a foundation, for the next few years, of anything from at least star talent to perhaps star power. And good juju. Always good juju.