There is always plenty of buildup and anticipation for the MLB trade deadline, with the actual event not always living up to the billing.
On Thursday the deals consummated did not disappoint.
Some of the biggest trades that took place were to acquire veteran arms, as franchises look to make a postseason charges. Whether it was Jon Lester, John Lackey or David Price getting moved, several huge names have chances to make a difference in the postseason.
As for the players moved to acquire those arms, myriad offensive pieces were reshuffled. While the Boston Red Sox traded away two of their top hurlers, they bring in bats with plenty of potential in Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.
Here's a look at grades for some of the most active teams on the day of the trade deadline.
Oakland Athletics: A+
Remember when the Oakland Athletics traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, making it seem like they were done? Clearly, they were not.
General manager Billy Beane was up for making yet another deal on Thursday, when the A's won the Lester sweepstakes. Along with that deal, they also acquire a pitcher who has plenty of postseason success, per ESPN Stats & Info:
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
Here's the thing: The A's are already the best team in the MLB, but they want a ring. While adding Samardzija earlier in the summer helps, Lester knows exactly what it takes to succeed in October.
The price for Lester was steep, but the Athletics found a way to recover. After the loss of Cespedes in the deal with Boston, they acquire Jonny Gomes and worked a deal with the Minnesota Twins to get Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone.
While the two players might not provide the same power as the Cuban, they are useful pieces. Aside from what they can do on the field, Susan Slusser of MLB.com notes another way the two players help:
It appears one reason #Athletics reacquired both Gomes and Fuld was so well-liked in clubhouse, helps mitigate shock over loss of Cespedes.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 31, 2014
Which team is the AL favorite after the trade deadline?
This season, Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts through 21 starts. During his career, Lester has never finished with an ERA below 3.00, but always pitches his best late in the season.
Not only is Lester a perfect fit, but this was likely the best destination for him. While Samardzija can help get the A's to the postseason, Lester was the one pitcher on the market who can seal the deal in October.
Following the trade deadline, the Athletics look like the favorites for the World Series. Sure, there is a lot of time left between now and then, but this roster is loaded with talent even without Cespedes.
Boston Red Sox: B
Talking about the World Series has to sting for Red Sox fans, especially considering that nine months ago they were celebrating their third in the last decade. Now, Boston is nowhere near the playoff hunt.
The day started for the Sox with a blockbuster deal sending Lester off but getting a huge bat in Cespedes in return. One less arm, but one massive slugger is what the Red Sox are left with after the trade with Oakland.
But they weren't done there, as the Red Sox once again got on the phone, to make an exchange with the St. Louis Cardinals. In exchange for John Lackey and Corey Littrell, Boston gets Allen Craig and Joe Kelly from the Cardinals.
Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post provides his analysis of the trades for Boston:
Consider, too, what they did later Thursday, sending right-hander John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman-outfielder Allen Craig and versatile, 26-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly. That gives the Red Sox two more players under team control through at least 2017. They are, amazingly, a better team than they were 24 hours earlier. And what if they pursued Lester in free agency?
While the two trades leave Boston with plenty of bats, the firepower on the mound is now lacking. After moving both Lackey and Lester, the starters are slim, with Clay Buchholz now at the head of the rotation.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports alluded to that point exactly following the Cardinals deal:
#redsox made a great a trade getting craig and kelly for lackey. still need more pitching, tho.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 31, 2014
Thursday was a huge day for Boston that could be even more massive if they can re-sign Lester at the end of the year. Unfortunately, they are left without key starters moving forward and will desperately have to find ways to address those needs.
Detroit Tigers: A
One deal. That's all it took for the Detroit Tigers to make one of the biggest splashes of the day just ahead of the trade deadline.
Though they were relatively silent throughout much of Thursday, the Tigers pulled off the biggest deal of the day by bringing in David Price. The three-team deal with both the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays proved to be a huge one for Detroit.
Buster Olney of ESPN passes along a look at the new rotation for the Tigers:
A Tigers' rotation of Max Scherzer, Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and David Price. Wow. And now Detroit can try to sign Price as Scherzer walks.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2014
Talk about stacked. Not only do the Tigers now have three phenomenal starters, but they are the last three AL Cy Young Award winners.
As Olney points out, Detroit now has an option for the future if Max Scherzer does decide to leave in free agency. If they can find a way to keep one of the two elite starters along with Justin Verlander, the Tigers maintain a strong one-two punch.
While his 11-8 record and 3.11 ERA this season look stellar already, SportsCenter gives a visual of just how impressive Price has been lately:
New Tigers starter David Price has been lights out the last 2 months. pic.twitter.com/5eTZMAFAaG— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 31, 2014
It's debatable who comes away with the better haul on the final day between the A's and Tigers, but both look like American League contenders. Both teams now look destined for a clash in the ALCS with their current rosters.
As the grades currently show, Oakland is still slightly better right now. But in baseball, nothing is ever certain, even with the loaded rosters of both clubs.
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