Cubans in MLB: Cespedes Traded to Tigers, Kendry Morales signs with Royals

By Eric Reynoso  (Café Fuerte)

Yoenis Cespedes will now play with his third team, the Detroit Tigers.
Yoenis Cespedes will now play with his third team, the Detroit Tigers.

HAVANA TIMES – Two Cuban stars of Major League Baseball outfielder Yoenis Céspedes and first baseman/DH Kendry Morales, already have new teams for the upcoming season.

Cespedes, one of the most coveted outfielders for his power and solid defensive, was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Detroit Tigers, who surrendered in exchange right-hander Rick Porcello, confirmed Thursday during the MLB Winter Meeting in San Diego.

The battle to obtain Cespedes, 29, took hard work from Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and lasted until midnight Wednesday.

Cespedes played for Granma in the Cuban league and since his escape from the island in 2011, the Tigers were after his services. At the end of last season he was traded from Oakland to Boston for lefty ace Jon Lester. But the trade proved not a good move for the California franchise; after the departure of the Cuban its performance took a big decline, giving up the leadership of the Western Division of the American League and, eventually, remaining outside the playoffs.

Good news for Yoenis

To Cespedes, who is signed to a $36 million contract that runs until 2015, the move is pleasant news, after his stay in Boston where relations there were not the best. There had been mutual complaints, both from the player and the coaching staff and it seemed that Yoenis had had enough.

The Red Sox acquisition of fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo for $72 million, the signing former L.A. Dodger Hanley Ramirez with the idea to use him in the outfield, and the recovery of Shane Victorino filled the outfield options for Boston and favored the exit of Cespedes. At the same time, the Tigers clearly needed a substitute with sufficient defensive skills to cover the gap left by the departure of free agent Torii Hunter.

Cespedes will join a squad where Cubans play an important part. The team includes on its roster José “Candelita” Iglesias, Alex Avila, Nick Castellanos and JD Martinez, all with positions in the regular lineup.

Alignment of sluggers

Perhaps, the Tigers will become the 2015 MLB team with more Cuban or Cuban-born players in their starting lineup, with five, competing with Chicago White Sox.

Yes, it will be a challenge for him in a lineup of accomplished hitters, including Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and JD Martinez, who probably will move to right-field leaving left to Cespedes.

Cespedes comes to the Tigers with sufficient credentials at the plate. In 2014 he had his first season with 100 RBIs, after two years with only 80, and his offensive production totaled 36 doubles, six triples and 22 home runs, and a .260 batting average. On the field he caused a sensation with his powerful and accurate throws to gun down runners at home.

It was also the year he was selected to the American League All-Star team and won his second consecutive Home Run Derby.

The Fate of Kendry Morales

Kendry Morales in a Seattle Mariners uniform. Foto:
Kendry Morales in a Seattle Mariners uniform. Foto:

Kendry Morales learned his lesson last season, which he watched begin without a team. He just signed a two-year $17 million contract with the inspired Kansas City Royals, runners-up to San Francisco in the 2014 World Series.

Morales, 31, entered in the second half of the 2014 season with Minnesota and was later traded to the Seattle Mariners. He was an important offensive long-ball addition to the Mariners who fought to the last day of the season for a playoff slot.

However it was definitely not a good year for Morales. He finished with a .218 (367-80) batting average with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 42 RBIs. His lifetime average is .271, with 150 doubles, 110 home runs and 387 RBIs.

For the Royals, who against all odds, played in the 2014 World Series, the signing gives them a good DH option to replace Billy Butler, on his way to Oakland for $ 30 million.

Kendry played for Industriales during his years in the Cuban Baseball League.