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And the winner of the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes is… the Oakland A’s?
That’s right. According to mlb.com, the Oakland Athletics agreed to terms with the highly sought after 26-year-old Cuban outfielder on Monday. The deal is reported to be worth $36 million over a four-year span, but will not be officially announced until a physical has been passed.
“I am super happy because it’s been a dream of mine for a long time,” said Cespedes from the Dominican Republic. “To leave my country and play in the big leagues is what the goal was. My family is really happy, too. They are living their dreams through me.”
The 6-foot, 215-pound Cespedes had been at the top of the list for a number of Major League clubs once he was officially named a free agent on January 25 after recently making his way from Cuba to the Dominican Republic. Amongst this grouping of teams were the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, the Oakland A’s, and the odds-on favorite by many, the new-look Miami Marlins.
Given that Miami is both filled with Hispanic heritage and is pretty much just a hop, skip, and a jump from Cespedes’ native Cuba, the popular sentiment was that he would likely sign with the Marlins, who reportedly offered him a six-year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $36 and $40 million, only a few days prior.
The Marlins have not shied away from spending the big bucks to bring in the best available talent this winter, as they have committed a total of $190 million in signing superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, veteran left-handed starter Mark Buehrle, and one of the more underrated closers in the game, Heath Bell. Miami also gave Ozzie Guillen a four-year, $10 million contract to be the team’s first manager in their brand new ballpark.
Even though he would not admit it, $9 million a year from the A’s might have been what caused the Marlins to lose out in the end. “It was a great process, training and working out for teams. It was a difficult decision to leave Cuba, but I’m really excited with how things worked out. I saw a bunch of teams, and they saw me, too, but Oakland was the best for me.”
Cespedes is a power-hitting center fielder that will easily be able to slide right into the middle of an Oakland lineup that – to say the least – struggled in that department last year, ranking 12 in the American League with a mere total of 114 home runs.
In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Cespedes made a name for himself on an international stage, hitting .458 in six games. His 2010-2011 season, which was his eighth and final season playing for Granma in the Cuban League, certainly confirmed that he was the real deal, as he hit .333 with 99 RBI and a record 33 home runs in just 90 games.
“My first goal is to make the team and stay healthy all season, and little by little, I’ll make more goals,” Cespedes said. “I’ve been preparing every day for this, and I 100 percent believe that I am ready for the Major Leagues. I have a lot of international experience and experience at a high level. I’m very confident in my abilities.”
He continued, “Believe me, I’m going to give the best I have, and I’m going to leave it all on the field. I’ll do my best and show I deserve this opportunity. I know I can do it. I’m ready.”
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