Oakland A’s: Analyzing the Jon Lester trade

Wow. Once again, the Oakland A’s made MLB trade headlines in a huge way. Many thought that the Athletics-Chicago Cubs trade was the blockbuster trade of the season. But General Manager Billy Beane has done it again and completed an even bigger move. With less than 12 hours before the trade deadline, the Oakland A’s traded All-Star and two time Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive 2015 draft pick for the Boston Red Sox’s ace starting pitcher Jon Lester and platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes.

What did the Oakland A’s gain?

Jon Lester

Jon Lester

Standing tall at 6’4”, Lester is a force on the mound. He is a focused pitcher who has mastered his skilled. With eight years of experience under his belt, Lester  can throw to all the corners of the plate. With a great fastball and cutter, he rounds out his pitching repertoire with a killer curveball. Lester is having one of the best seasons of his life with a 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts over 143 innings pitched.

Besides being a great regular season pitcher, the A’s really gained Lester’s postseason experience. He has two World Series rings, and a winning record in when pitching in the World Series. In the two championships in which he has pitched, he has a 3-0 record with a 0.43 ERA. Overall, his postseason ERA is 2.11 with a 1.04 WHIP.

Lester’s postseason success will definitely be a benefit for the Oakland A’s. The other pitchers who would likely pitch in the postseason for the Athletics  – Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir – do not have the same kind of experience or success. Samardzija has only pitched one inning in the post season back in 2008, Gray’s only experience came last year in his rookie season against the Detroit Tigers, and Kazmir has a combined 5.02 ERA over the 36.1 innings he pitched in the postseason.

This may be the most expensive, and high profile rental player Beane has ever traded for since Lester becomes a free agent after this season and it is very unlikely the Oakland A’s will be able to resign him for 2015. It is clear that Beane is all in for a World Series run and Lester could be the key to get them there. The addition of Lester has made the Oakland A’s starting rotation the strongest in the MLB.

The Athletics also acquired Gomes in the trade. A former Athletic himself, Gomes brings leadership and a sparkingly personality to the A’s bench. And, even though he has struggled this season, Gomes has proven he can be a clutch hitter who gets on base when it matters most. He will obviously not replace Cespedes’ strong bat in the lineup, but he will make sure that Oakland does not lose a right handed batter in the lineup.

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What did the Oakland A’s lose?

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

The Oakland A’s definitely lost a power hitter when they traded Cespedes – especially when it comes to postseason production. Gomes only has a .143 batting average in his postseason career while Cespedes has a .350 AVG. Additionally, Gomes is not having the best season this year and is only batting .234 with 6 home runs. Lastly, it is a little concerning that the Athletics have a losing record when Cespedes does not start and a winning record when he does. With Cespedes now across the country, can the A’s still win without him?

However, when Gomes was with the Athletics back in 2012, he had one of his best seasons. He batted .262 with a .868 OPS and 47 RBI in only 99 games played. Let’s hope that he can reproduce these numbers now that he is back at the O.co Coliseum. If he cannot, the A’s lost a huge offensive asset.

Additionally, the Oakland A’s did not gain any significant defense in left field. Gomes’ arm is not as strong as Cespedes’, but Cespedes does tend to bobble the ball from time to time. However, Cespedes does lead the MLB – along with his new teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. – for assists by an outfielder, which shows how much his powerful and precise throwing arm matters.

Overall, Gome and Cespedes are similar defensively. Gomes has a .982 career fielding percentage in left field while Cespedes has a .978. But, with Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry both out with injuries, it would have been nice to acquire a more prominent defensive force in the outfield.

The Final Verdict

It is hard to make a call on which team came out with the better deal. Both teams got star players who bring something special to the table. While Lester will definitely bring the Oakland A’s short term success, Cespedes could bring the Red Sox success for seasons to come – assuming they sign him to a multi-year contract. The Oakland A’s now have a rock solid starting rotation however their defensive in the outfield is a little questionable. The tipping point will be if Gomes is able to perform under the pressure a first place team faces leading up to the postseason. If he can produce in Oakland, the A’s definitely won in this deal.

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