Cespedes brings question marks, huge potential

February 13, 2012, 6:09 pm
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Every now and then, the As leap out of the corner of the swap meet that is the offseason and show that they actually have not completely abandoned the art of attention-getting.

In this case, signing Yoenis Cespedes, the power-hitting Cuban free agent, to a four-year, 36 million contract this morning.

As should surprise nobody, the As were not mentioned as a real candidate by many folks because the As never get mentioned as acquisitors, unless its for reliquaries like Manny Ramirez.

Cespedes has been one of the liveliest names in the off-season -- I mean, once you get past the nine-figure guys the As would never consider chasing. So when they came in, seemingly at the last minute if the rumor mill is any judge, and nailed down the signing, it reminded people that the As have a heartbeat, even if it is muffled by real estate flyers, and that they have a face, even if it is usually Billy Beane standing with his pants pockets inside out.

Cespedes, 26, comes with the baggage that every Cuban athlete comes with -- the uncertainty of the competition on the island, and the temptations of a far more material world. But for a team like the As, which turns out talent to other teams at far too rapid a rate while struggling to maintain local interest in what remains, a signing like Cespedes intrigues.

And with Oakland, intrigue that doesnt have the words stadium, San Jose and territorial rights is a refreshing change.

There is no telling with Cespedes what the As are buying, but he has shown signs of having both power and a good arm he has been compared with Raul Mondesi, who had a better-than-decent career in 13 years.

But Cespedes isnt likely to be an Elephant for even half that long, unless he is everything he has been advertised to be, and unless the As change their method of team-building to include arcane notions like retaining talent.

But as an alternative to Manny Ramirez, who would be merely the latest in a long line of past-it players Beane took a flyer on hoping to recreate Frank Thomas, he stands out as a beacon.

Well, a halogen flashlight, anyway. The As need that much light for people to see them after all the time theyve spent trying to keep the blinds drawn. Yoenis Cespedes is a start -- and if there is more behind it, maybe theyll become a vibrant team again. Its been too long, and too bland, in the East Bay.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.