For Billy Beane, 30 is apparently the magic number.
Jason Giambi left the A’s for the Yankees after his 30th birthday as a highly prized free agent.
Miguel Tejada was not offered a potentially “insulting” deal when his arbitration years were up, allowing him to switch coasts to Baltimore. When he took the field in an Orioles uniform for the first time, he was a month shy of 30.
Assuming that Yoenis Cespedes stays with the A’s for all four years of his newly inked $36 million deal, he will be 30 years old when he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.
With Lew Wolff’s admission that a 2016 Cisco Field opening is more likely than 2015 given the delays and necessary steps remaining, that puts Cespedes quite possibly gone from the A’s when the time comes. Or does it?
It’s really all a matter of value. If Cespedes really is the “Willie Mays of Cuba” then two things are possible. Either he’ll be too expensive to keep and he’ll be signed by a big market team to a huge deal (Pujols, Fielder), or he’ll be a strategic signing by Beane to have a marquee talent on hand for a new ballpark opening. Keep in mind that the San Jose ballpark is practically guaranteed to be more hitter-friendly than the Coliseum.
I figure that if the A’s can sign Cespedes and keep payroll below $100 million in 2016, they’ll do it if he’s performing. By that point Michael Choice should be in his arb years, as will Grant Green and most of the new young pitching talent the team has waiting in the wings. For a guide to how this might play out, look at how the Twins’ and Marlins’ payroll decisions are progressing. Both teams have committed well above $90 million before the low service time guys are signed. As cheap as many fans think the Wolff/Fisher ownership has been, ask yourself this: Are they cheaper than Jeff Loria or the late Carl Pohlad? Or Mike Ilitch during the Tiger Stadium years?
Right now 2015-16 seems so far away that’s it feels silly to project in this manner, especially the way Beane can trade guys at the drop of a hat. But we know that’s what the front office has to do, whether Cisco Field opens in 2015, 2016, or not at all. As long as we’ve stolen a slugger with real potential out from under many far richer teams, I’m taking the little victories whatever way I can get them.