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.
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.
This post concludes my series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
Monday, Jose Abreu. Tuesday: Yasiel Puig. Wednesday: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Thursday: Aroldis Chapman.
This last post on the subject features two more 2011 defectors, Yoenis Céspedes and Jorge Soler.
Yoenis Céspedes was a household name while playing in Cuba, leading the league in all sorts of offensive categories. Jorge Soler was a promising 20-year old who had performed well in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Both defected in 2011, but Cespedes was the first to be approved as an MLB free agent.
Céspedes was already proven from his numbers in Cuba, and was also in his prime. Céspedes’ famous YouTube video isn’t one of the gems of modern PR, but it worked. Well, maybe that had more to do with his raw talent. In any case, the deal he signed with the Oakland Athletics in February 2012 was a fairly lucrative one, at 4 years and $36 million.
There were a few questions about Céspedes — mostly about his defense — but his talent was widely recognized. Two years after falling short of signing Aroldis Chapman, the A’s had landed a big-name Cuban talent. The analysis (more from MLB Trade Rumors for specifics) have borne out exactly as evaluated: