The Oakland A's have traded for one of the most talented pitchers in baseball in Jon Lester.
The league confirmed the transaction between the American League clubs (via MLB Roster Moves):
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan was first to report Lester had been traded from the Boston Red Sox. Alex Speier of WEEI.com quickly provided the details on the deal:
Trying to confirm, but hearing Lester and Gomes might be moving for Cespedes— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 31, 2014
Confirmed.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 31, 2014
Passan later provided the specifics of the swap, in addition to his thoughts:
Final full trade: Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and $ to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes and the second pick in the competitive balance Comp B round.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
Oakland's playoff rotation: Lester, Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija. If they weren't the favorite to win the World Series before, they are now.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
WCVB provides a photo of Lester hugging Red Sox owner Jon Henry:
Lester is in the midst of yet another fine season. The 30-year-old left-hander was selected to his third All-Star Game and has already reached double-digit wins. His sub-3.00 ERA is the lowest mark of his nine-year career.
The A's currently lead the Angels by 2.5 games in the American League West. It's clear they're looking to contain the Angels' high-powered lineup by trading one of the top power hitters in the game for one of the top overall pitchers.
Lester has bounced back beautifully since his 9-14 2012 campaign to show why he is one of the top players in the game. Since breaking out in 2008, he has been Boston's ace and a model of consistency.
Jonny Gomes is currently hitting .234 on the season with six homers and 32 RBI. It's difficult to expect him to fill the shoes of Yoenis Cespedes for the A's, but he has proven in the past to be a serviceable outfielder and hitter.
In return for those two, the Red Sox obtain an emerging superstar in Cespedes, who is hitting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBI this season. The recent Home Run Derby champion will be a major draw for Boston fans, who should expect to see his home run column increase dramatically at Fenway Park. It'll be fun for all to watch him take on the Green Monster with his extraordinary power.
Passan weighed in on the Red Sox's decision to trade for Cespedes, as well as his long-term future:
In trading for Yoenis Cespedes, a free agent after 2015, rather than prospects, Boston showed it still plans to contend, not punt, next yr.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
To reiterate: Yoenis Cespedes will be a free agent after next season. His contract allows him to opt into FA and skip arbitration process.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2014
Unfortunately, the Red Sox have been poor as a team in 2014 and have fallen to last place in the American League East. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that a deal was likely to happen:
There's a growing expectation from rival execs that Jon Lester is going to be traded before Jdeadline; LAD viewed as likely landing spot.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
The defending World Series champions decided to get some value for a player set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Boston's loss simply becomes the A's gain as they are able to add an elite left-handed starter who has been red hot lately. Additionally, Lester has won two World Series titles and has loads of postseason experience.
For a squad hoping to finish the year strong and contend in the playoffs, this appears to be the perfect addition.
ESPN Stats and Info tweeted about just how good Lester has been in October:
Lowest ERA in World Series history (starting pitcher, min. 20 IP) Jon Lester, 0.43 Harry Brecheen, 0.67 Claude Osteen, 0.86 Babe Ruth, 0.87— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 31, 2014
The only downside is the pitcher's aversion to signing an extension with his new team. In fact, he explained before the deal was completed that he would be willing to re-sign with the Red Sox after the season regardless of what happened at the trade deadline, via Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe:
Why not? This is what I know. This is what I love. Like I’ve said plenty of times, this is where I want to be. And if they trade me, I completely understand. No hard feelings.
I know what they have to do for their organization, and if that involves me, then so be it. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep running out there every five days and pitching. Hopefully in November we get something done.
Considering the Red Sox were able to get a decent return in this trade while also having a chance to bring Lester back for next season, this was a great move.
On the other side of the deal, Oakland gets a proven elite arm who immediately boosts the rotation. Even if Lester is ultimately a short-term rental, he can be the difference between the A's being a fringe playoff contender or a World Series contender.
This seems like a move that works out well for all parties involved.
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