In a move that’s vaguely reminiscent of the famed Nomar Garciaparra megadeal in 2004, one in which helped propel the Boston Red Sox till their first World Championship in a millennia, it was the Oakland A’s this time dealing away a key member of their lineup – starting left fielder Yoenis Cespedes – for arguably the most attractive chip on the market: southpaw Jon Lester.
The other pieces involved: Jonny Gomes heading back to Oakland for his second stint and Boston receives a competitive balance draft pick and cash.
Removing the shock-and-awe factor that results in a deal of this magnitude, it’s actually quite easy to explain from both sides: The Red Sox, who are currently 10.5 games back from the second Wild Card spot, showed initial reservations about signing the 30-year-old left-hander and swapped him out for a full season-plus of Cespedes, strengthening what’s been arguably the worst outfield in baseball. As for Oakland, well, for everything Cespedes provided at the plate this season – he’s batting .256/.303/.464 with 17 runs and a 113 wRC+ – he was sixth best offensive contributor this season.
And the inclusion of Gomes, who’s a career .279/.379/.495 hitter against southpaws, enables the A’s to form a potential dynamic platoon with Stephen Vogt (.351/.381/.530 vs. RHs) without missing much of a beat.
The deal’s an incredibly savvy gamble by Billy Beane and Co., which comes to no surprise. They’ve added another upper echelon starting pitcher without potentially taking a noticeable production hit from the lineup. Oakland’s rotation of Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jason Hammel (or Jesse Chavez) ranks among the most formidable in all of baseball.
Directly following the Lester-for-Cespedes deal, Oakland moved swiftly to acquire elite defensive outfielder Sam Fuld, who’s posted a 13.7 UZR/150 in his career, for soft-tossing left-hander Tom Milone.
The A’s certainly game up more future value in dealing Milone, who’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason. The left-hander has quietly strung together three consecutive respectable seasons and he moves from one favorable ballpark to another.
As for the Twins, Milone, well, he’s a Twins’ pitcher in every sense of the phrase – a strike-throwing, walk-limiting, soft-tossing hurler.