Yoenis Cespedes was asleep. He awoke to news that he was going to Boston.
Cespedes, the Red Sox’ most prominent acquisition in their four-deal frenzy Thursday, had gone 0 for 4 in the Oakland Athletics’ 8-1 loss Wednesday to the Astros in Houston.
The next morning, news broke that he was traded to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.
“It caught me by surprise,” Cespedes said of the deal. “I was sleeping, actually, when the news came through. There’s a saying that ‘Only God knows why things happen.’ ”
Cespedes, a 28-year-old from Cuba, arrived in Boston on Friday, a few hours before the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Yankees at Fenway. He was active but not in the starting lineup, and wore No. 52.
“It’s a day to get his feet on the ground,” manager John Farrell said after Cespedes literally got his feet on the ground after his flight to Boston.
“I’m very happy to be here, to be able to share part of my career with the Red Sox, with such a legendary team,” he said through a translator. “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.”
A two-time Home Run Derby champion who made his major league debut in March 2012, Cespedes could upgrade the Sox’ anemic offense. His .256 average should improve at Fenway, a more hitter-friendly park than O.co Coliseum. He has 17 home runs this season. All Red Sox outfielders combined had 14 entering Friday.
“I know I have some power,” said the 5-foot-10-inch, 210-pound Cespedes, who has 67 RBIs, 28 walks, and .767 OPS.
“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 contact.
“In some aspects I’ve been getting better and better incrementally. Just like everything else, there are things you can improve on, and things you can keep getting better at every day.”
And he’ll have the help of another power-hitting, Spanish-speaking slugger: David Ortiz.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to have David Ortiz as a teammate,” he said. “Most of all, I think I’ll gain a lot of valuable experience from being a teammate of his. I think as teammates we’ll be able to do a lot of great things here.”
And his defense, of course, is nothing ordinary. In a memorable sequence in June, against the Angels, Cespedes bobbled a one-hop line drive to deep left field by Mike Trout. Howie Kendrick, on first base when Trout hit the ball, rounded second, then third. Cespedes glanced toward home, recovered the ball near the wall deep in left, and gunned a throw to the plate that never touched the ground. Kendrick was out.
In Boston, he’ll play in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr., whose arm strength has been well-documented. In fact, Cespedes and Bradley are tied for the league lead in outfield assists with 12.
Cespedes said he’ll play wherever manager John Farrell needs him. Farrell said that depends on the availability of Shane Victorino, who was sent to the DL on Friday.
“When he’s not available, it’s going to be Yoenis in right and Allen [Craig] in left,” the manager said.
“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, so if it is right [field], I’m going to give my all wherever I’m put.”
The Athletics (66-41) entered Friday with the best record in baseball. The Red Sox (49-60) are in last place in the AL East. Cespedes said he expects that to change, and he is not bitter about moving from a contender to a sub-.500 club.
“Oakland, in the past three years, have turned themselves into a winning team, the same way Boston was,” he said. “We’ve become accustomed to playing winning baseball. I think we can achieve the same thing with this team. It’s no secret to anybody that this is a great team. That’s evident in the amount of World Series we’ve won here in Boston.”
He was using the pronoun “we.”Rob Harms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.