The A's Are All In: Should They Have Shipped Cespedes for Lester and Gomes?
This was old school.
Back in the days when big league players were traded for other big league players, when baseball general managers wheeled and dealed and worried less about risks and public relations, A's GM Billy Beane and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington pulled off what could be the biggest blockbuster on trade deadline day.
Yes, you read that right. Oakland, which already acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel earlier this year, made another huge splash, acquiring Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox. However, it's what they gave up that is surprising, sending slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston.
The A's are clearly getting a difference-maker for a rotation that already has the second-best ERA in the American League, at 3.19. They feature a starting rotation fronted by Lester, with Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Hammel rounding things out. Despite having the best record in baseball (66-41), they're still just 2.5 games up on the Los Angeles Angels. Oakland desperately wants to avoid that one-game wild-card playoff, and now has a rotation that should make them a clear front-runner to win the West and represent the American League in the World Series.
Of course, as the 2011 Phillies and the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s proved, having the best rotation in the game doesn't guarantee success in the playoffs. But, having a guy like Lester certainly helps their chances.
Lowest ERA in World Series history (starting pitcher, min. 20 IP) Jon Lester, 0.43 Harry Brecheen, 0.67 Claude Osteen, 0.86 Babe Ruth, 0.87— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 31, 2014
For Boston, they'll dearly miss Lester, but expected to lose him to free agency after the season was over anyway. Instead of trading for a couple prospects, they landed Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes, who has hit more home runs this year (17) than the entire Boston outfield (14). It's also fair to note that Cespedes has played most of his career in a pitcher's park and could benefit from smacking balls off the Green Monster on a regular basis.
But while Cespedes has speed to burn and plays terrific defense, he's an incomplete player. His on-base percentage is below league average, he makes a lot of outs, and could demand a long-term contract that, at age 29, might be an albatross. That's why Oakland felt he was worth moving.
It's clear, however, that the Red Sox believe they will be contenders next season, and are gearing up their team for that eventuality.
The trade does leave Oakland a bit short in the outfield, even with the inclusion of Jonny Gomes in the deal. Gomes has had an unproductive season this year, and it's not crazy to think Beane might still be willing to deal for one of the outfielders on the market.
This is a classic, old-time baseball trade that makes sense for both sides, and carries with it a lot of risk as well. But there is no doubt about it: Billy Beane is going all-in for his first world championship.