The Oakland A’s were the most active team in the trade market in 2014, essentially marking an end to the ‘money ball’ philosophy for general manager Billy Beane but will the shift in approach pay off in a World Series title?
The acquisition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4 was the first blockbuster deal of the season but so far it has proved to be only partly beneficial for the A’s. Samardzija, who was the cornerstone of the deal has gone 2-1 in five starts for the A’s and has not shown the dominance the front office was clearly hoping for. Hammel, on the other hand, who was the wild card of the deal, has been a disaster. He is 0-4 in as many starts for the A’s, with a hefty 12.00 ERA in his three starts since the All Star break.
Hammel’s struggles alone were enough for Beane to determine that the starting rotation needed another upgrade and that is just what he did acquiring Jon Lester from Boston less than 12 hours before the deadline. The veteran left-hander is the ideal fit for the A’s rotation. What Samardzija lacks in postseason experience, Lester makes up for with his 6-4 record, 2.11 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 76.2 IP in the playoffs. Not to mention his two World Series rings.
However, in losing Yoenis Cespedes, the deal can be viewed as an addition by subtraction, albeit a necessary one. By adding depth to the pitching staff the A’s have lost a key threat in the middle of the line-up that will be difficult to replace. Without Cespedes, pitchers can now attack Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and even Stephen Vogt with far less fear of Cespedes lingering to clean up the damage. With that being said if you are going to lose an element of your offense in exchange for anything, it’s good pitching.
Johnny Gomes, who was included in the deal for Lester can help to fill the offensive void left by Cespedes, especially against left-handed pitchers. Gomes’ is hitting .302 with 4 home runs in 116 AB’s against lefties in 2014.
Not to be overlooked in the loss of Cespedes, is the defense. While Gomes has a comparable fielding percentage to Cespedes, it is doubtful base runners will have the same fear of being thrown out by Gomes as they were of Cespedes. His 12 outfield assists in 2014 leads all of baseball. The loss of Cespedes’ arm in left could cost the A’s in the postseason, where one run is often the difference between a win and a loss. There is no question base runners will be looking to snag that all important extra base on the A’s outfield going forward.
The addition of Lester certainly attracted the most headlines but the acquisition of Sam Fuld from Minnesota, in exchange for the expendable, Tommy Milone could prove to be the most significant deadline move for the A’s. With the injuries to Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry, Fuld provides the A’s outfield with an element of depth that will allow them to sustain Crisp’s absence in particular. Much like Crisp, Fuld can give the A’s the much needed spark plug at the top of the line-up, while providing good defense in center.
Overall, it is hard to find any flaws in the Oakland A’s deadline moves. The front office made all the difficult decisions to give their team the best chance to win this year. First, Beane traded away part of the clubs future in order to upgrade the starting rotation. When that didn’t work out to its utmost potential Beane didn’t hesitate, next sending an established star in Yoenis Cespedes for a bonafide ace in Jon Lester. Beane has made all the difficult but necessary moves, while compromising the philosophy that made him arguably the most famous GM in baseball history. He has given his team the best chance to bring a World Series title back to Oakland and now it’s time for team to fulfill their end of the bargain.