BOSTON — Red Sox newcomer Yoenis Cespedes is ready for liftoff.
Cespedes, acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, gives the Red Sox a level of explosiveness that the club lacked before Thursday’s flurry of trade deadline moves. The 28-year-old outfielder is looking to display his immense tools with an eye toward helping Boston overcome its 2014 woes.
“Oakland the past three years has turned itself into a winning team, the same way Boston was,” Cespedes said Friday, through a translator, of being traded from a contender to a last-place club. “We’ve become accustomed to playing winning baseball. I think that we can achieve the same thing with this team. It’s no secret to anybody that this is a great team, with the amount of World Series won here in Boston.”
Cespedes boasts Herculean power, evidenced by his back-to-back Home Run Derby titles. While he’s currently on pace to finish with 20-plus home runs for the third straight season since arriving in the majors, it’s reasonable to think the Cuban slugger could see an uptick in production after going from the pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum in Oakland to a hitter-friendly environment at Fenway Park.
“I know I have some power,” Cespedes said when asked about playing at Fenway. “I can’t predict the amount of home runs I’m going to hit because when I’m up there, I’m not looking to hit a home run. I’m just looking to make hard contract.
“I’m very happy to be here, to be able to share a part of my career with the Red Sox, with such a legendary team,” Cespedes added. “When I was in Cuba, I didn’t have this opportunity. In Cuba, obviously, I wasn’t able to watch too many Red Sox games — or any major league games for that matter — but the legend of Fenway Park precedes itself and I’m very excited to be here.”
The Red Sox acquired Cespedes largely because of his offensive prowess. The Sox rank near the bottom of the American League in several offensive categories, and Boston’s front office knew it needed to take a proactive approach in improving the unit, whether through trades or via free agency this offseason. Cespedes, who is hitting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs, represented an opportunity too good to pass up.
“To be able to bring in a middle-of-the-order, All-Star-caliber bat from a contending team is not typical,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday. “I think as this deal came about it became unique in its own right. Our ability now to lengthen out the lineup with he and Allen Craig gives us that depth that I think has been lacking throughout the course of this season.”
Cespedes will serve as another right-handed complement to David Ortiz, the team’s most feared hitter. It’s a dynamic that could pay dividends for the Red Sox, especially if Cespedes picks up a few things along the way.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to have David Ortiz as a teammate,” Cespedes said. “Most of all, I think I’ll gain a lot of valuable experience from being a teammate of his. As teammates, I think we’ll be able to do a lot of great things here.”
A potent bat isn’t Cespedes’ only weapon. His arsenal also includes a cannon arm. Cespedes’ 12 assists have him tied with new teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. for the most among major league outfielders, and his 31 assists since the beginning of 2012 are the third-most behind Kansas City’s Alex Gordon (40) and Arizona’s Gerrardo Parra (33).
Cespedes only has played left field and center field in his major league career, but the Red Sox will turn to him as their everyday right fielder with Shane Victorino landing on the disabled list. It’s a challenge Cespedes is welcoming with open — and chiseled, the guy’s a beast — arms.
“In Cuba, I played right field a little bit,” Cespedes said. “I pride myself on being able to play the best defense possible at any position, regardless of where it is on the field. If it is right (field), I’m going to give it my all wherever I’m put.”
Cespedes officially has touched down in Boston. It’s now time to move onward and upward.