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Yoenis Cespedes’ deal with A’s has Billy Beane written all over it

Billy Beane, general manager of MLB’s Oakland A’s arrives at the gala presentation for the film ‘Moneyball’ at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival September 9, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (CANADA – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASEBALL BUSINESS)

Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s shocked the MLB world on Monday when they agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract with free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Cuba. The move was rather surprising considering the A’s weren’t mentioned among the group of teams that were interested in signing Cespedes over the last few weeks.

The deal was also surprising when you consider that the A’s are supposed to be a cap-strapped organization. While there’s no doubt that a relative unknown like Cespedes is worth the risk for an Oakland club that is desperate for offense, the A’s have multiple holes to fill before they’re competitive again. Thus, it raised some eyebrows that Oakland was willing to give Cespedes more money than what the Reds handed Aroldis Chapman ($30.25 million over six years) back in January 2010. Chapman, of course, was the last Cuban player that was pursued by MLB teams.

Then again, this Cespedes deal has Beane written all over it.

Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Tuesday that Cespedes’ contract with the A’s does not include a no-trade clause. So in other words, if he becomes a star player down the road and Oakland doesn’t think it can re-sign him long-term, Beane can dangle the outfielder in front of as many teams as he wants. If Cespedes becomes an All-Star, Beane can complete one of his trademark deals where he unloads one player for multiple prospects, all while saving the Oakland organization money in the process.

There’s a chance that the A’s are starting to loosen the Kung fu grip they have on their checkbooks and want to build a competitive team centered around Cespedes and their young pitching. But knowing how Oakland and Beane have operated over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cespedes’ name came up in trade talks sooner rather than later.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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A’s reliever Brian Fuentes rips manager, but two reconcile

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Geren talks to the media during MLB spring training camp in Phoenix February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Brian Fuentes ripped A’s manager Bob Geren after the club’s loss to the Angels on Monday stating, “There’s just no communication.”

“Two games, on the road, bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so,” said Fuentes. “I don’t think anybody really knows which direction he’s headed.”

Since the comments, Fuentes and Geren have apparently cleared the air and while the interim closer didn’t retract his comments, he did suggest he should have expressed his displeasure in a different manner.

Andrew Bailey, the A’s real closer, should be coming off the disabled list within a week so Fuentes can go back to his regular reliever duties. And that’s probably a good thing because clearly Fuentes can’t handle the responsibility of being the club’s closer.

There’s no doubt that Geren has made a couple of questionable moves this past week, including the decision to pinch hit for Trevor Cahill in the top of the seventh last Friday when the A’s were playing the Giants. The game was tied 1-1 at that point and Cahill had allowed just one run on one hit. It was a little early for Geren to go to his bullpen and if there has been a lack of communication between him and his pitchers, then maybe Fuentes’ comments were just.

That said, Fuentes is 1-7 this year with a 5.06 ERA and has just 15 strikeouts compared to 10 walks. He’s not doing his job and if he needs his manager to tell him to get ready to come into a game, then the A’s have a bigger problem on their hands than Fuentes’ numbers. Fuentes has experience as a closer: he should know that he needs to be ready at all times, regardless of the score and regardless of the situation. There’s just no excuse for a closer (interim or not) to be saying things like, “bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so.”

Hopefully the A’s can get past their issues and start winning some games. Like the 2010 Giants, if they get enough offense on a nightly basis then they could do some real damage with their pitching staff. It’s outstanding save for Fuentes’ issues in the later innings, of course.

Five teams that could come up short in 2011

Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning of a MLB spring training game at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida, March 21, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

It’s the start of a new year and you know what that means: Expectations are running high for every club not named the Pirates and Royals. (Or Astros, Cubs, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Nationals or Indians for that matter.)

But what postseason contenders are most likely to fall short of expectations in 2011? I’ve highlighted five below.

Philadelphia Phillies
When a team is hyped for an entire offseason, it almost becomes cliché to say that they’ll fall short of expectations. But in the case of the Phillies, there’s some major concern here. It’s impossible to replace Chase Utley’s production in the lineup and this is an aging roster. Yes, the Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels/Blanton combination will keep most opposing batters up at night and yes, the Phillies will probably win the NL East. But the Braves aren’t too far behind talent-wise and Philadelphia has become a club that starts off slow only to pick it up in the second half. If Atlanta comes out of the gates hot and the Phillies suffer some early-season hiccups without Utley, the Braves might be able to build a decent lead that they can ride throughout the season. Barring injury to Halladay or Lee, I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Phillies don’t make the playoffs this year. But without Utley, the playing field has definitely been leveled in the National League.

San Francisco Giants
This is an easy one. It’s been 10-straight years since the last time any team was able to repeat as World Series champions. And while the G-Men aren’t considered the favorites to win this year’s Fall Classic (that would be the Phillies or Red Sox), many pundits believe that, at the very least, they’ll win the NL West again. A World Series hangover is the Giants’ biggest concern, because this club is better now than it was a year ago. They’ll get a full year out of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, the energetic Andres Torres will serve as the leadoff hitter from Day 1 (instead of the highly unproductive Aaron Rowand), Pablo Sandoval looks like he’s ready for a big bounce back campaign, top prospect Brandon Belt might start the year with the big league club after dominating this spring, and Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot and Pat Burrell strengthen the bench. But it’s a different game for the Giants now. They’re going to be the hunted instead of the hunters, at least in the NL West. Can this fun-loving team recapture the same magic it had in September and October last year? Or will all of those extra innings that Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez endured in the postseason last year eventually catch up with this team?

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Mikey’s MLB power rankings

With football season upon us, that’s when baseball gets real interesting. To me, there is no better time of year than that first weekend in October when you have four MLB playoff series and a full slate of NFL games. As for the pennant races, they’re starting to shift and some teams are beginning to pull away while others lose hold on their position…

1. New York Yankees (75-47)—A one-game lead but the Mariners are in town this weekend, so it’s as good a time as any to start padding the margin over the Rays and Sox again.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (74-48)—Still hanging on, as the Yankees continue to look in their collective rear-view mirror.

3. San Diego Padres (73-48)—The Giants had their five-game winning streak, and the Padres answered with one of their own, widening their late August lead to 6 games over the G-men until losing last night. Is there any question about manager of the year here?

4. Atlanta Braves (72-50)—Bobby Cox hopes his team will feast on Cubs’ pitching at Wrigley while the Phils face the Nats at home.

5. Texas Rangers (68-53)—The Rangers lost four in a row this past week but still have a seven-game lead over the A’s and Angels. I’d say they have nothing to worry about.

6. Minnesota Twins (71-51)—As we suspected, the Twins keep adding to their lead, now 4.5 games over the White Sox.

7. Cincinnati Red (71-51)—Just when the Cardinals made a statement, the Reds have now won 7 in a row while St. Louis has lost 5 straight, giving Dusty Baker’s boys a 4.5 game lead and increasing the chances Brandon Phillips will start smack-talking again, if he hasn’t already.

8. Boston Red Sox (69-54)—Time is running out on the Sox, and also on Roger Clemens’ days as a free man.

9. Philadelphia Phillies (69-52)—They’ve stayed hot, but so have the Braves. Do you think the Phils wish they still had Cliff Lee?

10. San Francisco Giants (69-54)—Only trailing Philly in the wild card chase by one game, two in the loss column. But a recent slide took them out of that spot and their hopes of a division crown are fading away.

Riots coming in Oakland? Angels warned.

Riot police move anti G8, G20 protestors ahead of them along Queen Street in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, June 27, 2010. Increased police presence control most key intersections in Downtown Toronto.  UPI/Heinz Ruckemann Photo via Newscom

According to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com, the Angels were warned by MLB last week about the possibility of riots in Oakland this weekend if a verdict comes down in the case of an officer who is on trial for shooting an unarmed man on a train platform.

The case, which involves a white officer and a black victim, has sparked racial tensions in the East Bay, so the trial was moved to Los Angeles. Jury deliberations resumed Thursday.

MLB security phoned Angels traveling secretary Tom Taylor to explain the situation and offer the team extra security. The Angels, who are scheduled to arrive in the Bay Area late Thursday night for a weekend series in Oakland, are staying in a San Francisco hotel and will bus to Oakland Coliseum.

Johannes Mehserle, a former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, is charged with murder for allegedly shooting Oscar Grant III at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station Jan. 1, 2009.

Grant, 22, was shot while Mehserle and another officer were trying to handcuff Grant.

And the Angels thought that trying to catch the Rangers in the AL West was stressful.

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