Last week’s quick-hit trade deadline moves were surprising in a lot of ways. A week after the fact, I’d like to outline some of the differences between our expectations and the actual moves.
The Wild Card and parity
We’ve been hearing a lot about the expanded Wild Card in the last few years. It’s part of Bud Selig’s vision for the league where everyone’s in the chase, supposedly creating more excitement and better attendance.
Another bigger aspect of his plan that’s supposed to fall in right alongside that is parity. As a true salary cap (or perhaps, true-er cap) is in place with giant luxury tax implications, teams are encouraged to be in the same range of spending as others. Revenue sharing creates even more of a redistributive feel.
As far as these things contribute to an equaling of the playing field like that of the NFL, Selig has done the job. The Yankees’ empire appears to be crumbling, a topic Joe tackled in this morning’s post, and teams like the Marlins and Royals are no longer the worst in their divisions. (The Royals are five games above .500, while the Marlins are six games out in the Wild Card race.)
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.
The day of the 2014 trade deadline was one of the busiest in recent memory, as GMs scurried to improve their teams in any way possible. The reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox were a part of multiple big deals, but as sellers, not buyers. Several days prior to the deadline, Boston traded away starter Jake Peavy for Edwin Escobar, a starting pitcher ranked by MLB.com as one of the top 100 prospects prior to the season. But this was only the start.
Boston also traded one of their better relievers, Andrew Miller, for another pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, who was ranked as high as 68th on MLB.com’s top prospects list. More importantly, the Red Sox went on to trade several pieces who were crucial in their 2013 World Series run. Even so, these trades actually were beneficial for Boston in the long term. Starting in 2015, the Red Sox should be in contention, in part because they knew it was the right time to move on.
The genius of trading Jon Lester
The first major move on July 31 was the trade of starting pitcher Jon Lester, left fielder Jonny Gomes and a 2015 compensatory pick for Oakland Athletics right fielder Yoenis Cespedes. The loss of Jonny Gomes is not going to hurt Boston much. After a 2013 season where he produced a multitude of clutch hits, Gomes has slumped through most of the year. At his point, he is no more than an aging fourth outfielder or platoon player.
This year’s trade deadline was surprisingly busy, all things considered. There’s a lot to cover, but let’s start with the basics:
All the big moves were about starting pitching. And it’s not surprising, given the recent impact of pitching on the outcomes of games. But the biggest three moves of the day were centered around starters with the potential to impact getting into — or getting through — the playoffs.
Boston makes big trades
The A’s and Red Sox started things off by swapping Lester and Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes. Read more about that here.
Then the Sox dealt another starter, John Lackey, to the Cardinals. This deal was a morning blockbuster that got lost in the madness of the big deals that preceded and followed it. Lackey bolsters the front end of the Cardinals’ rotation with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.
While Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly have been disappointing, a late return by Michael Wacha in September could give St. Louis the push into the playoffs if they’re able to stay in the thick of things. (Kelly was part of the package sent to Boston.) The Brewers have hung onto the Central lead so far and the Pirates have been particularly pesky for the Cards, so the move seemed a needed one.
Editor’s Note: Dan Johnson contributed to this post.
In what is the first blockbuster trade on the trade deadline day, the Oakland Athletics traded Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance draft pick to the Boston Red Sox for staff ace Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes and an unannounced amount of cash.
Immediate impact for the A’s
Lester joins a rotation of the recently acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, as well as Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Jesse Chavez is currently listed as the sixth starter, so someone will likely move to the bullpen soon. It could be Hammel, if his numbers don’t improve.
Lester, 30, has had a solid year despite Boston’s turmoil, pitching to a 10-7 record and 2.52 ERA. The lefty’s career ERA is considerably higher at 3.64, and Oakland looks to capitalize in particular on his success in a contract year.