02/13/12 4:25 PM EST
Cespedes says Athletics were the right fit
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
On Monday, the 26-year-old outfielder agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract with Oakland, citing the reputation of A's general manager Billy Beane and the direction of the franchise among the reasons he chose the A's.
It didn't hurt that one of Cespedes' favorite players growing up in Cuba was former Oakland shortstop Miguel Tejada.
"I am super happy because it's been a dream of mine for a long time," Cespedes told MLB.com 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."
Cespedes, who can play all three outfield positions, is best suited for center field and could slot into the middle of the A's lineup. He joins group of outfielders that includes Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Collin Cowgill and Jonny Gomes.
The club's future also proved appealing to Cespedes. During the offseason, the A's traded All-Stars Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill and received a total of 10 prospects in return. The A's are also hoping to move into a new stadium in the future.
"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."
Cespedes has a track record of success. He was Cuba's starting center fielder during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, batting .458 in six games. He hit .333 with 33 home runs, 99 RBIs and 11 stolen bases over 90 games in Cuba during the 2010-11 season and later hit .143 with one home run and 10 strikeouts in 35 at-bats for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League.
"Believe me, I'm going to give the best I have and I'm going to leave it all on the field," he said. "I'll do my best and show I deserve this opportunity. I know I can do it. I'm ready."
It's already been a long road for the international prospect.
Cespedes was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Jan. 25 but was not allowed to sign with a team until legally cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Monday. He defected from Cuba last winter and gained temporary residence in the Dominican Republic last month. He eventually acquired a travel visa and visited the Marlins, who many believed to be the front-runners for his services, last week in Miami.
"Miami was a great visit," Cespedes said. "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."
The Cubs, Tigers, Orioles and White Sox also expressed strong interest in signing the outfielder. Cespedes, who did not visit any other teams, has never been to Oakland.
"It was a great process, training and working out for teams," Cespedes said. "It was 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."