Trade for Jon Lester shows Oakland A's are all in this season
By Peter Schmuck
Jul 31, 2014 | 10:47 AM
If reports are true that the Oakland Athletics have made their second blockbuster deal of the summer and sent Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, then there's really only one way to look at the situation:
A's president Billy Beane has decided that it's now or never.
He's already traded for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, so this deal will complete an overhaul of his starting rotation during a season in which the A's already had one of the most effective pitching staffs in the game.
The Lester deal certainly improves Oakland's chances of outlasting the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West and gives them a very playoff-ready rotation, but the long-term fallout from Beane's major makeover could be devastating if the A's come up short of the World Series.
That's far from inconceivable in baseball's four-tier playoff system.
Cespedes, who recently won his second straight All-Star Home Run Derby, is a big time masher whose four-year, $36 million contract runs through next season. He's eligible for free agency in 2015.
He's batting .256 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs and appears headed to the best run-production numbers of his career, but his .318 career on-base percentage never fit Beane's optimum on-base profile.
Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and is one of baseball's top postseason pitchers. He has a 6-4 record and 2.11 ERA in 13 postseason appearances (11 as a starter).
Lester, of course, can opt for free agency after this season and indicated before the reported deal that he is open to re-signing with the Red Sox after helping his new team make a deep postseason run. Maybe he'll fall in love with the Bay Area and decide to re-sign with the A's, but it looks like this is a very expensive two-month rental.
It certainly would be galling to A's fans if the club does not go deep into the playoffs and they have to watch a retooled Red Sox club featuring both Lester and Cespedes return to the top of the American League standings next season and beyond.
Though the Orioles were rumored to be in the mix for Lester, baseball operations chief Dan Duquette cast doubt on that speculation Wednesday. He still could make a deal before today's 4 p.m. deadline for making trades without passing players through waivers.