The Oakland Athletics have pulled their usual second half of the season trick of getting just the right player, from a team out of contention, for their stretch drive to the playoffs. What is unusual this year the team out of contention is the Boston Red Sox. In the blockbuster trade just completed the Red Sox have traded LHP Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes to the A’s in exchange for OF Yoenis Cespedes. By acquiring Lester, the A’s now join the Detroit Tigers as arguably having the two best starting rotations in the American League. Lester will join Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, who were acquired earlier in the month from the Cubs, and along with incumbents Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez will give the A’s six excellent starters. The acquisition of Lester is likely to force either Hammel or Chavez out of the rotation.
The 30 year-old Lester is having the best season of his nine-year career. Currently, Lester has a 2.52 ERA and averages 9.4 SO and 2.0 BB per 9 innings. The left-hander is a three-time All-Star with plenty of post-season experience. Lester is a two-time World Series champion with a post-season record of 6-4. His post-season ERA is 2.11 and he has recorded 72 SO in 76 post-season innings. However, he will be a free agent following this season.
The A’s will also receive the 33-year-old outfielder Jonny Gomes. Gomes sports a .302 BA, a .400 OBP, and a .491 SLG against left-handed pitching. He will likely play left field against lefty starters. Gomes is no stranger to the A’s having spent the 2012 season with the A’s helping them reach the post-season by hitting 18 home runs with 47 RBI in 99 games.
Since Billy Beane became the GM of the A’s, his game plan has always been to keep the A’s in contention in the first half of the season and then get the missing pieces from teams out of contention in the second half. This game plan was necessary due to the A’s very low budget. Beane earns another grade of A for this trade.
What does this trade accomplish for the Boston Red Sox? Boston obtains a 28 year-old outfielder who is signed thru the 2015 season. Besides possessing one of the best outfield arms, Cespedes will give the Red Sox the power-hitting outfielder they sorely need. As of August 1, the Red Sox’s .344 slugging average ranks last among all MLB outfields. For the years 2012 and 2013 Cespedes averaged 25 home runs and 81 RBIs. This season, Cespedes has a slugging average of .464 with 17 home runs, 26 doubles and 67 RBI through 101 games. Cespedes is earning $10.5 million this year and will earn the same amount in 2015 before becoming a free agent in 2016. I also give the Red Sox an A for this trade.
Why do I give both teams an A for this trade? The answer is that both teams successfully satisfied their different goals for this year.
The A’s were looking to fill holes for one year so they can reach the post-season for this year. If you read the book “Moneyball” you realize each year Billy Beane’s goal is to just make the post-season. He believes once you make the post-season the rest is a crap shoot. Clearly, Lester is just rented for the rest of this year. There is no way Beane can afford to give Lester a long-term contract. As for Gomes, he can easily be replaced by another mid-level player next year.
The Red Sox probably look at Cepedes as a long-term acquisition of a 5-tool player. They will have no trouble signing him to a long-term contract in 2016. In fact, it is not out of the question that they will resign Lester next year. They surely can afford him. Since they are probably out of post-season contention this year, the loss of Lester for the rest of this year does not hurt them.
Please send me your comments on the above trade or any of the other trades.
To be continued: