The A's delivered a surprise Monday by agreeing to terms with highly touted Cuban free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
The general consensus is Cespedes, 26, would have been one of the top free agents on the major league market had he been eligible to start the winter. Cespedes first needed to establish residency in the Dominican Republic after defecting from Cuba.
His agent, Adam Katz, confirmed that Cespedes will get a four-year, $36 million contract. He still needs to obtain a worker's visa and pass a physical, and Katz wouldn't speculate on how long that would take. A's position players report to camp Feb. 24.
The A's interest in Cespedes was a well-kept secret, and as recently as Sunday, the Miami Marlins were considered the favorite to sign him.
"Miami was a great visit," Cespedes told mlb.com. "I had a good time. I ate with the team president and other people in front office. They were nice and it was a great experience, but the A's were for me.
"It was difficult decision to leave Cuba, but I'm really excited with how things worked out," Cespedes added. "I saw a bunch of teams and they saw me, too, but Oakland was the best for me."
Cespedes' addition adds to a perplexing offseason for the A's, who are not commenting on the signing and likely won't until the paperwork becomes official.
They started by trading much of the young core of their pitching staff — starters Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey — signaling that they're rebuilding and setting their sights on a new ballpark they hope to build in San Jose in the coming years.
But in recent weeks, they've drawn attention for their supposed interest in controversial slugger Manny Ramirez, who is on the cusp of his 40th birthday and would have to serve a 50-game suspension before he can play.
Now the A's have landed the right-handed hitting Cespedes, described by one source in a November story by yahoo.com story as "a legitimate center fielder with power. ... I understand why (his agents) think they can get $30 million. They might get more."
In the same story, a source compared Cespedes to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, considered by some as the majors' best prospect. Cespedes is believed to have more power, but Trout more speed.
It's unknown whether Cespedes — if his deal gets finalized -- will immediately be inserted into the A's starting lineup, and what that might mean for the current projected outfield of Seth Smith, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick (left to right).
Cespedes was considered the top international position player available this winter. His addition would bring to mind the A's 2008 signing of Dominican right-hander Michael Ynoa, also represented by Katz. Ynoa, then 16, received a $4.25 million bonus, the largest bonus ever for an international amateur not from Cuba.
Ynoa's career to this point has been sidetracked by elbow trouble. He underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in August 2010, but the A's still have high hopes for him.