By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Feb 13 — The soon-to-be new home of Cuban baseball player Yoennis Cespedes, 26, changed by 3,000 miles from the morning to afternoon news on Monday as he signed a US $36 million dollar contract with the Oakland Athletics.
First it was thought that the long-ball hitting outfielder from Granma would sign with the Florida Marlins and play to the Cuban-exile fans. The Miami team reportedly offered Cespedes 40-million dollar contract when he visited the US last week from his place of residence in the Dominican Republic.
However, “At the end of the day with all these big free agents, it comes down to the total package,” Cespedes’ agent, Adam Katz, told ESPN.
The Athletics finished third in the American League Western division during the 2011 MLB season with a 74-88 record behind Texas and the Los Angeles Angels and are trying to regain their status of playoff contender.
Playing for the Eastern Division team of Granma, Cespedes set a Cuban Baseball League record in 2010-2011 for homers in the 90-game regular season, smashing 33, the same as Cienfuegos First Baseman Jose D. Abreu (who won the crown because of less at-bats). Yoennis also hit .331 and drove in 99 runs, more than one per game.
Cespedes abandoned the Cuban national team this past summer and like all players who leave for greener pastures abroad he is branded a traitor and never again mentioned in the Cuban media.
Nonetheless, Cuban baseball fans use alternative information sources to keep up on the fortunes of their country’s players in the USA and generally wish them well.
Infielder Alexei Ramirez (32.5 million with the Chicago White Sox) and left handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman (30.25 million with the Cincinnati Reds) were the two Cubans with the largest active contracts before the signing of Cespedes.
The mindboggling figure received by any of the three is many times the annual salaries paid to the entire Cuban baseball League of over 400 players.