Having already made arguably the biggest splash of the trade season by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily, Billy Beane pulled off an even bigger blockbuster at the trade deadline by sending All Star left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for the top pitching target on the market in Jon Lester and former A’s fan favorite outfielder Jonny Gomes.
The trade is one that drew both extreme praise and even extremer criticism.
Following exits in Game 5 of the ALDS in back-to-back seasons to the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander, this trade gives the A’s a pitching rotation that at the very least can go toe-to-toe with any pitcher in a decisive game, but more importantly, should prevent them from reaching an elimination game in a short series.
The Athletics will now go with a rotation of Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jason Hammel for the remainder of the regular season. It appears that Jesse Chavez, who was having an excellent season as a starter, will now slide back into a long relief role.
Oakland lost a little bit of pitching depth in their second move of the day, trading Tommy Milone to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Sam Fuld, but they still have Drew Pomeranz and of course Chavez to fall back on if Hammel continues to struggle or in the event of an injury.
Replacing Cespedes’ bat in the lineup is a bit trickier, but Gomes wasn’t exactly a slouch playing in Oakland either in his only season with the green and gold in 2012. Add Gomes’ presence in the locker room and leadership ability and the intangibles may just make up for the loss in production.
At the moment it appears that the A’s would go with a platoon in left-field of Gomes and Stephen Vogt, with Sam Fuld manning center field at least until Coco Crisp or Craig Gentry are healed and back in the lineup.
Perhaps before this trade can truly be judged though, the trade deadline and waiver deadlines will need to pass to see what follow-up moves, if any, Oakland makes to add an outfield bat, or a second baseman to compliment the lineup.
Cespedes was set to become a free agent following the 2015 season and his contract called for him to be non-tendered, meaning the A’s could not issue him a qualifying offer and receive draft pick compensation if he departed. The likeliest scenario was that he would have been traded this offseason regardless. While some prospects would have been a nice return for the future, hanging a World Series banner is always a better trade off.
With Lester in the rotation, that probability just increased. The 31-year old already boasts two rings to his credit and he has been stellar in three World Series starts (3-0 with a 0.43 ERA).
If there was any doubt before, there’s none now, it’s World Series or bust for Billy Beane and the A’s. Oakland fans will get to thank Cespedes when the Red Sox come to town next season, and hopefully the A’s present him with a ring in a nice pre-game ceremony.
A conference call is scheduled for 6:30PM. Check back for updates and quotes. Will refresh with any further deals made today.