Cespedes interested in extension of his own
After A's lock up Crisp for two more years, outfielder says he'd like to stay past '15
OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes rarely speaks of his future, and if he does, the Cuban outfielder sometimes mentions his probable desire to explore free agency when his four-year contract with Oakland expires after the 2015 season.
So it was something of a surprise, then, when he made it known on Friday his desire to add a couple of years to his current contract, just hours after teammate Coco Crisp's two-year extension with a vesting option for 2017 was announced by the two-time defending American League West champion A's.
At one point, Cespedes even went so far as saying, "I would like to play to the end of my career in Oakland.
"What I would like is to finish my four years here in Oakland and maybe get an extension, because this is the team that gave me the opportunity to play here, and I will not forget that," he said through a translator. "I don't know if I'm going to be the next to get an extension, but I do know this, that the fact they signed Coco is great because he's the real key to this team."
Cespedes, speaking to media in advance of Saturday's FanFest, said he has worked harder than ever this offseason in an effort to maximize his role on the club. He remains the team's biggest power threat, but has also shortened his swing to make more consistent contact after dropping off in nearly all major offensive categories last year.
After hitting .292 with an .861 OPS to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, Cespedes struggled to finish at .240 in 2013, and his OPS dropped all the way to .737.
He still managed to hit 26 homers, three more than he totaled in 2012, and asked if shortening his stroke might affect his power numbers, Cespedes smiled and said, "I don't think so. Maybe if I hit a home run 430 feet, maybe now I only hit it 410 feet. But now I know I can make more contact, and the home runs may be shorter, but I'll hit them more frequently."
"Last year," he said, "I had a season that wasn't as good as the first one, and I knew I could do a lot better. I'm preparing a lot more this year, working a lot harder. The plan was mostly the same, but I exercised some more and did more strength work, exercises in the field."
Cespedes, 28, is up to 225 pounds, a sizable increase from his listed weight of 210. And he said he's also recognized the importance of strengthening his mental game, something that's been helped along by peers and family members.
"I think I should've been more strong-minded," he explained. "As an athlete, you have to be strong-minded, and maybe that's one of the reasons I didn't do so well last year.
"The difference, the first year, they didn't know me so well, and I could take advantage of that. The second year, they knew me a lot better, and I was not capable of making the adjustments I had to make. They made the adjustments, but I was not able to make them to improve from the first year. I concentrated the last month of the season on making contact with the baseball, and I was successful in that regard."
Cespedes hit .314 with six homers in September following months of woes at the plate, continuing this torrid pace in the playoffs to the tune of a .381/.409/.667 line.
His ability to maintain a similar approach will be crucial to Oakland's lineup, which will be battle-tested to a greater degree this year in a division that underwent significant changes top to bottom. Notably, Texas added Prince Fielder, while Seattle reeled in Robinson Cano. The Angels brought in reinforcements, too, to fortify a disappointing 2013 roster, and the Astros, while still expected to go through more growing pains, have notably improved.
"I don't know if we'll be the favorites," Cespedes said. "But I do know this: the Athletics are going to the playoffs again. I don't know how, but we are going to be in the playoffs."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.