The Washington Nationals will be competing with the Florida Marlins in the NL East this year as a potential surprise contender in the division. The latter, however, won’t be getting help from one of the hottest free agents on the market. Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has signed a 4-year, $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics, according to a source.
Cespedes, 26, defected from his native Cuba last summer to the Dominican Republic in hopes of playing in the majors. The Marlins seemed like a locked destination for Cespedes, who was given a tour of the new ballpark in downtown Miami. He’s said all along that Miami would be an ideal fit because of the support he’d get from the Cuban population, but A’s general manager Billy Beane pulled another rabbit out of his hat. Cespedes is considered to be a potential five-tool player and is the most hyped player from Cuba since fireballer Aroldis Chapman a couple of years ago.
Miami had the chance to improve on an already impressive offseason where they acquired a few All-Star pitchers like Carlos Zambrano, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. The signing of Jose Reyes could give the Marlins the best left side of the infield in baseball with Hanley Ramirez shifting to third base. There is even speculation that the team un-retired the #5 in attempt to lure Albert Pujols (who signed with the Angels) to the team. At any rate, the Marlins improved greatly, but if health permitted, they could have been a very scary team to face 18 times during the regular season.
The Nationals showed interest in the outfielder, but never really contended for Cespedes’ services. This was the first major attempt for Washington to sign a Latin player since the disaster in 2009 that led to the resignation of general manager Jim Bowden. Rick Ankiel still appears to be the frontrunner to start in center-field for Washington. Had Cespedes shocked the world and signed with the Nats, it would be likely that Cespedes would start in right, with Jayson Werth moving to center.