2014 MLB Trade Deadline logo2014 MLB Trade Deadline

MLB Trades 2014: Grades and Analysis for Latest Deadline Deals

FILE - In this July 23, 2014 file photo, Oakland Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes hits a three-run home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif. A person with knowledge of the trade says the Athletics have won the Jon Lester sweepstakes, acquiring the left-hander along with outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes before Thursday's, July 31, 2014,  trade deadline. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither club announced the deal. (AP Photo/File)
Uncredited/Associated Press
Nate LoopFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

One things is abundantly clear at the 2014 MLB trade deadline: Billy Beane is willing to do whatever it takes.

The Oakland Athletics general manager is all in on a 2014 World Series crown. He's been around the league long enough to know that you can ride a deep pitching staff all the way to a title and is loading up on starting talent, even at the expense of losing a fan favorite.

According to Jane Lee of MLB.com, the A's traded Yoenis Cespedes and a Competitive Balance pick to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and cash.

The Boston Red Sox were also involved in as separate blockbuster, trading starting pitcher John Lackey, minor-league lefty Corey Littrell and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly, per Ian Browne of MLB.com.

Here is a list of grades for the latest deals coming in just under the wire, followed by analysis of the more prominent moves.

MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Team Grades
Teams/TradeReceiveGrade
Boston Red SoxOF Yoenis Cespedes, 2015 Competitive Balance Round B pickA+
Oakland AthleticsLHP Jon Lester, OF Jonny Gomes, cash considerations (under $1 million)A-
Boston Red SoxOF Allen Craig, RHP Joe KellyA-
St. Louis CardinalsSP John Lackey, cash considerations, LHP Corey LittrellB+
Minnesota TwinsLHP Tommy MiloneB-
Oakland AthleticsOF Sam FuldB+
Boston Red SoxPlayer to be named laterB
Chicago CubsFelix DoubrontC+
St. Louis CardinalsJustin MastersonB-
Cleveland IndiansOF James RamseyB+
MLB.com, grades by Nate Loop

 

Analysis

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Here is what Oakland has acquired in starting pitching this month. 

Oakland Athletics Pitching Acquisitions
PitcherFormer TeamStartsERAIPSOWHIPHR/9
Jeff Samardzija*Chicago Cubs172.83108.01031.2040.6
Jason Hammel*Chicago Cubs172.98108.21041.0210.8
Jon LesterBoston Red Sox212.52143.01491.1190.6
Baseball-Reference.com, *stats prior to trade

Jason Hammel hasn't fared well in Northern California, which might have pressured Beane to go for Lester.

The big trade has to sting a bit for Athletics fans, giving up a delightful all-around player in Cespedes, who routinely amazes with his Howitzer of an arm and heavy bat.

It's a great bit of business for the Red Sox in picking up a right-handed power bat—Cespedes has launched 17 homers this year—to back up David Ortiz in the lineup, especially one that is under contract through the end of 2015.

Cespedes' could also turn quite a few of those off-the-Green Monster doubles into outs—or at least hold some players to singles—with his strong arm in left field.

ESPN's Buster Olney did wonder what the trade meant for one budding Red Sox star:

Boston gets the better rating, due to the fact that Lester could very easily return to the team if the A's utilize him purely as a rental. Lester has expressed a desire to play in Boston, despite the contract impasse.

"Yeah, why not?'' Lester said earlier in July, via Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. "I mean, this is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said many times, this is where I want to be. If they trade me, I completely understand."

Oakland did pretty well to mitigate the damage by picking up Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld in separate trades; both players have played for the Athletics in the past. However, the piecemeal approach and their combined age (65) means Beane will have to unearth promising outfield talent over the next couple of seasons.

Tommy Milone should be quite happy with his move, as he will have plenty of opportunity to work his way into a prominent role in the Minnesota Twins organization after being relegated to Triple-A status in Oakland, a minor casualty of the pitching trades made by Beane.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick liked the pickup for the Twins:

The Red Sox deserve further kudos for nabbing plenty of talent in giving up Lackey, a 35-year-old righty currently sporting a 3.60 ERA.

Allen Craig is a fine hitter mired in essentially a season-long slump; he's batting .237 but hit over .300 in the three seasons prior to this one.

Joe Kelly is just 26 years old and, although he is having a down year, could very easily revitalize his play in Boston and return to the form that propelled him to a 10-5 record with a 2.65 ERA in 2013.

That's not to say this is a trade the Cardinals shouldn't have made. They have their own championship aspirations after finishing as runners-up last season, and the recently-acquired Justin Masterson is no sure success story.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Lackey can help eat innings and save a tiring Cardinals bullpen; he's thrown seven or more innings in 10 starts this season. 

It's interesting to see the Athletics and Red Sox in something of a role reversal at this deadline. The low-budget Athletics are making moves with a short-term impact and an eye for winning now.

Many small-market teams don't have the luxury of a crafty general manager like Beane. The astronomical plus-162 run differential also puts considerable pressure on this team to live up to its historically great numbers.

Meanwhile the Red Sox, less than one season removed from winning 97 games and the World Series, are the ones busy selling off players and looking toward a crop of young talent and minor leaguers to reboot. 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the historic nature of the fire sale:

Beantown can and will bounce back—likely sooner rather than later—with the big budget, winning tradition and talented farm system.

Beane will be hard-pressed to assemble a roster like the one he has this season, especially with Josh Donaldson's looming expiring contract. It's World Series or bust in Oakland.

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