If there were ever a time for the usually frugal Oakland Athletics to give their best push for a championship, that time would be now. And that seems to be exactly what the club is doing.
The utilization of Jon Lester
The biggest news is, of course, the huge deal with the Red Sox. Boston ace Jon Lester was sent from the one coast to another along with Jonny Gomes for the two-time Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes.
Lester has had career numbers, and while the A’s may not have him longer than this year, both Lester and his new team stand to benefit from the continuation of that success. Both look to attain a World Series title (which would be Lester’s second consecutive), and for Lester, his output also has bearing on what he makes in free agency next year and beyond.
No doubt Oakland will make him a qualifying offer for the compensatory pick, not expecting to meet his asking price. Thus the trade actually for the southpaw includes a sort of future clause — Gomes and half a season of Lester, plus another pick to bolster the club in years to come.
Playing for the present
For what the Cubs got in this year’s first blockbuster trade and what it means for them, check out yesterday’s piece. The deal was a play to the future for the Cubs, but what about the A’s? Was it a wise decision?
There are always risks in trades. Heck, there are risks in signings, draft picks, promoting players at certain times. Risk is all part of the game. But don’t let yourself think for a minute that this deal was a bad move for the A’s just because it’s a win-now play that could have consequences.
The Oakland Athletics lead the AL West by 3.5 games with the best record in baseball, 55-33. The move is a play from strength. While there may be an effect on the future due to some impact on the farm system, acquiring two pitchers in a trade signals to A’s fans that the front office thinks this is their year.
Why trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel will work out in the long term for the Cubs
After winning consecutive NL Central titles in 2007-2008, and finishing second in 2009, the Chicago Cubs have suffered through four straight losing seasons. Going further back, the last time this team won the World Series was 1908, almost a full 106 years ago. It makes sense that the Cubs would go to extraordinary lengths to build a team that will contend for longer than just one or two years.
News of a blockbuster trade between the Cubs and the Oakland A’s just serves as evidence of what the organization is trying to do. The fact that they traded their two statistically best starting pitchers for three potential future stars shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Despite stellar seasons by Jeff Samardzija (2.74 ERA) and Jason Hammel (2.98 ERA), the Cubs are virtually out of the playoff race. At 38-47, they are in last place in the NL Central, twelve and a half games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, and eight and a half games out of the second NL wild card spot. Coming into the season, the Cubs did not expect to be legitimate contenders, but rather hoped to build for the near future. To better understand how this trade accomplishes that goal, it helps to break it down by what the Cubs gave up, and what they gained.