Fantasy Baseball: Fallout of the Lester and Cespedes trade

The Oakland Athletics showed that they were going all-in to win the World Series in 2014 when they acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel a few weeks ago. However, they weren’t done. Today, the A’s agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox to receive Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in exchange for the back-to-back Home Run Derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes.

With two big name players involved in this trade, there will most certainly be a big affect on fantasy baseball. Here’s how I see this blockbuster deal changing the fantasy value of Lester and Cespedes:

Boston Red Sox

Jon Lester is having the best statistical season of his career in 2014

Jon Lester

For starters, Jon Lester’s fantasy value shoots up even more. He’s already putting together arguably his best season – his ERA and WHIP are career bests, sitting at 2.52 and 1.12 respectively. Lester has pitched like a top ten fantasy starter; he’s currently ranked 13th among starting pitchers on ESPN’s Player Rater.

To show just how good Lester has been this season, we need to turn to some more advanced statistics. During 2012 and 2013 his K/9 dipped to 7.28 and 7.47. Through 21 starts in 2014 he’s rediscovered his strikeout pitch, raising that number to 9.38. Even more impressive is his K-BB%. Over the past three seasons, that number hovered between 11.2% and 13.4%. This year, it’s at an outstanding 20.2%.

[Re-evaluating Peavy and Soria]

A move to Oakland makes him even more attractive in fantasy baseball for a couple reasons. First of all, the Coliseum is extremely pitcher friendly; it’s bigger in every outfield dimension than Lester’s former home stadium, Fenway Park. Lester’s home run to fly ball ratio is already low at 6.5%, but it could get even better pitching in Oakland.

Secondly, Lester should have better pitching matchups in the AL West than he did during his tenure in the AL East. It’s much preferable to pitch against the Mariners, Astros, and Rangers than it is to see the Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays on a regular basis.

Lester’s debut in Oakland should be in the next day or two. He was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday, July 30 in case of a trade so he should be ready to go at any time.

Throughout his career, Lester has pitched well down the stretch, posting a career 21-9 record with a 3.38 ERA in regular season games played in September and October. Don’t expect that to change this year. He has the potential to end the season with 15+ wins and a sub 2.50 ERA.

oakland as

Yoenis Cespedes (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Yoenis Cespedes

Next, we’ll discuss the impact this trade will have on Yoenis Cespedes. To me, it was clear cut that this deal would increase Lester’s fantasy baseball stock, but for Cespedes, it’s hard to say.

As I said earlier, Fenway is a much more hitter friendly park than the Oakland Coliseum. That could only mean better numbers for Cespedes, right? Not necessarily. While this should help his power numbers, he is being moved from the best scoring offense in baseball to the 25th ranked team in runs scored. That doesn’t bode well for his production.

Saying that the Red Sox lineup has been disappointing would be an understatement. With the likes of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli, the defending World Series champions have only mustered up 412 runs this season; the Oakland A’s have scored 535.

[Impact of the Chase Headley trade]

Inserting Cespedes into the middle of a struggling offense may give it some life, but don’t expect a huge turn around; Boston’s ball club sits 13 games out of the AL East lead and 10.5 games behind the American League’s second wild card team.

Despite being moved to a weak offensive team, Cespedes should still contribute well in most fantasy formats. His home run and RBI numbers are on pace for career highs – he currently has 17 home runs and 67 RBIs – and they are what give him his fantasy value. In leagues where OBP is used, his value is diminished; his OBP is a rather poor .303.

It will be interesting to see how Cespedes will perform in Boston. Right now, it’s a tough call, but if I had to project him the rest of the year, I think playing with such a short fence in left field will improve his fantasy stock. Assuming he doesn’t get hurt, Cespedes should end the season hitting .265 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.

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