Remember this? That was November. Last November. For a time last November, this was Oakland's outfield depth chart:
Heavy on the Ryan Sweeney. Maybe the A's thought he could do it. Maybe that was a cry for help.
It's February now. Ryan Sweeney is gone. Guess he couldn't do it. Over the offseason, the A's brought in a Corolla's-worth of outfielders. And on Monday, they brought in another, jumping out of the closet to sign Yoenis Cespedes for four years and $36 million.
What the A's have now is an outfield surplus. This was addressed by Steve Slowinski at FanGraphs:
[...] but by signing Cespedes, the A’s seem to be showing little faith in Cowgill, Taylor, and Reddick — two of whom they acquired this off-season in trades.
It may be that the A’s didn’t anticipate Cespedes being available for such a good deal, so they adjusted their off-season strategy on the fly and decided he was worth the investment. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s always good to add talent if it comes at a reasonable price and fits in the budget. But the A’s are now stocked to overflowing with outfield talent, and I’m not sure how they can make it all fit without trading some away over the next year or so.
This isn't an argument against Cespedes. If the A's think Cespedes is worth it, the A's think Cespedes is worth it. They'll deal with the outfield surplus when it becomes a more pressing concern. I can't imagine Billy Beane is afraid of confronting a situation in which he might have to swing one or two trades.
Of course, the big issue is: is Cespedes going to be worth it? Slowinski states that "the A’s only need him to be an average major-league player (2.0 WAR/year) for this to be a market-value deal." That's based on the whole of the free agent contracts handed out. But one figures that the A's hope for more free agent contract efficiency than the average team, so they shouldn't be held to the same standard. If the average free agent costs $4.5 million per win above replacement, well, for the A's, maybe that should be $3.5 million, or $2.5 million, or maybe even less than that. Basically, I do not think the A's would be pleased if Cespedes turned out to be a league-average player. They're hoping for more than that, and based on the contract, I'd assume that they're expecting more than that.