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Cespedes reflects on deal sending him to Red Sox

Slugging outfielder shares fond memories of time playing in Oakland

BOSTON -- Yoenis Cespedes has made a fast friend in David Ortiz. The slugging pair was cozied up to the batting cage on a recent evening at Fenway Park, where Cespedes would celebrate his first home run at his new address just hours later -- a screaming shot over the Green Monster.

That Cespedes already looks at ease in his new colors isn't so much a surprise. He has always thrived on the biggest of stages. Cespedes is a two-time Home Run Derby champ and a .350 hitter in 10 postseason games. Some would say he was meant to play inside such revered confines.

Maybe so, and maybe Cespedes was destined for this at some point, anyway, even if he hadn't been dealt by the A's at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"I thought there was a good chance I'd be traded, but I thought it would happen sometime next year, maybe June or July," Cespedes said through interpreter Adrian Lorenzo. "But I definitely didn't expect it at this point."

Nobody did. That's what increased the magnitude of this trade, a rare swap of Major League stars: Cespedes for lefty ace Jon Lester.

Cespedes woke early the morning of July 31, ready to take advantage of a team off-day with a trip to a water park with his family. It was around 7 a.m. PT when he received a text message from a New York reporter informing him he had been traded to Boston.

Surely it was just a rumor, Cespedes thought, and a silly one at that. Twitter suggested otherwise.

"But I didn't know," Cespedes said, "so I reached out to my agent, and that's when I confirmed I had been traded. I heard from the A's later that day. [Assistant general manager] David Forst talked me through what happened and thanked me for everything."

Yet again, Billy Beane zigged when baseball zagged. That's what happened. The A's general manager, already swimming in pitching depth following the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel just weeks prior, wanted more. But not just anyone. Beane wanted Lester, and to get him, he had to part with an equally valuable asset.

But Cespedes? Oakland was 65-35 with him in the starting lineup this year at the time of the trade and 228-131 with him in the lineup in his two-plus seasons in the Majors.

Cespedes received phone calls from Sean Doolittle, Scott Kazmir, Fernando Abad and Alberto Callaspo on the day of the trade, and Ryan Cook made it over to his house just before midnight for one final chat as teammates. But those were the only goodbyes he was afforded because of the timing of the deal.

"My initial reaction was that I almost wanted to cry," Cespedes said. "I didn't end up crying, but as the day progressed and I started to think about it a little more, I thought of the saying, 'God knows why things happened,' and this is probably for the best."

Cespedes' mother, Estela Milanes Salazar, who defected from Cuba with him, did cry. She has since taken solace in the fact her son will be closer to their home in South Florida, and she's been with Cespedes in Boston since his arrival. She also keeps up with the A's -- "My mom follows them pretty closely and lets me know what's going on," said Cespedes -- while learning to love the Red Sox.

In February, Cespedes let it be known that he hoped to sign an extension with the A's. Though talks of tacking on additional years to his four-year, $36 million deal never went far, it was always his hope to remain in Oakland. Realistically speaking, the A's were likely to deal him this offseason.

"Oakland being the team that gave me my first opportunity in the Major Leagues," Cespedes said, "I obviously liked the idea of being able to start with a team and finish my career with that team, but that's not the way it worked out, so here we are.

"We had been making the playoffs since 2012 and had been getting incrementally better since then. With the new additions of Samardzija and Hammel, our chances improved even more, so it would've been nice to see if we could get out of the first round of the playoffs. I'm not going to come out and say, 'We were going to win the World Series with me,' but I can say that every player on that team has done everything they can to get there this year."

The A's haven't coped without Cespedes as well as he has without them. They're 7-10 since the trade, including 4-9 in games not started by Lester, and have scored three runs or fewer 14 times in the past 18 games. This offensive funk began even before Cespedes was shipped to Boston, but he at least offered them one more power bat.

Now, Cespedes' bat has essentially been replaced by a platoon of Stephen Vogt and Jonny Gomes.

"I don't want to call it a hole in the lineup, because one guy doesn't make up a team, or a lineup for that matter," said Cespedes, "but I will say that there's going to be a missing link as far as a power hitter goes, but that's not to say that they can't meet their goal of winning the World Series without me there."

That's very much what Cespedes wants for his former teammates. This he made clear when requesting to send this message to them: "It was a true and sincere honor to have started my career with the Oakland A's, and I wish the players, the coaching staff, the front office, nothing but the best of luck moving forward and in the postseason, and I hope you win it all. I want you to know it was a great pleasure to play there, and I just want to say thank you to everybody over there."

Cespedes will miss "everything" about Oakland, he says, "from the guys in the clubhouse to the coaching staff to the fans, who always treated me extraordinary, to the friends I made there," and counts the final day of the 2012 season, when the Cinderella A's claimed the American League West title, as his favorite memory in green and gold.

"I don't hold any hard feelings or resentment toward them," Cespedes said. "Apart from the game being fun, it's also a business, and I understand that side of it, so I don't harbor any negative feelings toward them. On the contrary, I wish them nothing but the best. I hope that they keep fighting, and I hope they win the World Series."

Jane Lee is a reporter for

Oakland Athletics, Yoenis Cespedes