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The Dull Offseason

I was envious of the Cubs when they signed Kosuke Fukudome. I thought he'd be as productive in the majors as Hideki Matsui, but with the ability to play center. It's not like Kosuke was a bust -- he has a career .361 OBP -- but he certainly wasn't worth the 4/$48M that the Cubs gave him. The Giants were interested, but they dodged that bullet to sign Aaron Rowand. Whew.

I was envious of the Mets when they signed Kaz Matsui. The Giants were screwing around with Neifi Perez and Deivi Cruz, and there was this amazing, speedy, electrifying shortstop just begging for a team like the Giants to take a chance on him.

And now I'm envious of the A's for signing Yoenis Cespedes. Oh, I'm not envious of the A's for that whole "everything else" part, but I'm envious that they signed a Great Unknown. They got a player who is a total mystery, a freak of a free agent. And now A's fans can spend the next couple of months dreaming the what-if dreams.

Would it have been a good idea for the Giants to sign Cespedes? Absolutely no idea. I'm going to guess that it wouldn't have been. Between concerns about his patience, contact, and ability to stick in center field, he sure sounds like Cody Ross with a better publicist. I'm not qualified to evaluate tools and such, and there are talent evaluators who would slap me with a rosin bag for making that comparison, but I can see Cespedes hitting .261/.323/.456 while playing an okay center. That seems like a good place to set the over/under. That'd also be Cody Ross' career line. For $35 million, I want a little more cost certainty.

But what I'm envious is that it's the kind of move that can make the imagination run wild. Cespedes could be a Josh Hamilton-like freak, or Vlad Guerrero with more speed. He could be a $25 million player masquerading as an $8 million bargain. He could be the middle-of-the-order hitter that the Giants desperately needed, but with the youth that Carlos Beltran didn't have.

Or he could be Aaron Rowand -- a guy who refuses to bow to the Copernican nonsense suggesting sliders are actual, real things, and, wait, hold on, I'm a just gonna sit on a fastball here.

It's just been a while since the Giants signed a Great Unknown. I remember being excited for Zito's 2007 season, and being afeared that he'd be miserable towards the end of his deal. Half right! I suppose that was the last time there was a Great Unknown acquired in free agency for the Giants. That was the last time there was a way to spend the rest of the winter months thinking what if.

There's a huge difference between what's good for a team and what's interesting and compelling during the turgid parts of the offseason. Cespedes probably wouldn't have been a good fit for the Giants, especially if they are going to stick with the rainy-day fund for the near future. But this has been a dull offseason -- not bad, necessarily, just dull. Melky Cabrera might hit like the good Melky Cabrera. Maybe Brandon Crawford can do okay in that late-blooming, Omar Vizquel kind of way. But there wasn't an exciting, daring move to stir the winter soul.

If I can't make it clear enough, this was also an exciting, daring move:

So was the Aaron Rowand signing. Well, in the minds of some folks. Daring and exciting aren't synonyms for good, thoughtful, and practical. But for the next couple of months, A's fans can dream a little bit. I envy that. If Melky were here, I'd probably glare at him for a bit, making him wonder just what in the hell my problem is. I'm still a borderline melkoptimist, but if he's the excitement of the offseason, the offseason wasn't exciting. And, say, it looks like the offseason wasn't exciting.

The A's had an exciting offseason, though. For better or for worse, there was always something going on. I'm a little envious about that.