FROM AN ANALYSTS STANDPOINT – Speaking with my head
This is not the first time Billy Beane has dealt a fan favorite, but it is the first time, in a long time, that it will do more good than bad.
Simply put, he must trade in order to keep the A’s competitive and by trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he has simply stuck to his modus operandi. This Latin term for “model of operation” is something that has defined this Oakland Athletics franchise since Beane stepped in as General Manager in October of 1997.
This time around though, it is clear that 2014 is now championship or bust for the A’s, a mentality that honestly is relieving to see from a franchise that has been notorious for just recycling talent for younger talent.
In 2004 he traded Tim Hudson to the Braves for a whole lot of nothing, and Mark Mulder was shipped away two days later. He also dealt Nick Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, who was in turn traded for prospects, who were then traded in exchange for some other prospects. In “Beaneball”, trades are the name of the game and if some had been played right, at one point may have brought to fruition a green and gold outfield that consisted of Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez, and Nelson Cruz. I think you get the point.
On this year trade deadline however, Billy took a huge gamble in trading Cespedes and I’m here to tell you that he made the best decision for this season’s overarching goal. In my last piece writing as big fan of Yoenis, it was definitely an emotional punch in the gut from the front office.
Now I’ll explain why it felt bigger than it should have.
In 2014, the A’s hold the best record in baseball (66-42) and have also scored the most runs in baseball (535), but if you sit down and watch a full 9-inning game played by Oakland, you’ll quickly realize that there is little flair involved in the way they operate on the ballfield. Amongst this band of loveable “nobodies,” they do have guys like Josh Donaldson (23 HR/77RBI) and Brandon Moss (23 HR/72 RBI) who have put up great numbers so far this year, but that kind of offensive production seems to still go quietly unnoticed.
That’s because their team identity is quality pitching and getting on base. Now as a baseball player who understands how slowly the game can go sometimes, I get why some people don’t always enjoy watching a team like the A’s that grind out a lot of wins through patience and perseverance.
Enter a guy like Cespedes, who carries himself unlike anyone the league has seen before. Yes, he’s a freakish man that can hit a home run a mile, or make a crazy defensive catch, or even make an out-of-this-world throw.
But ask yourself this. How many times does he do those things? The answer: Just enough times to make you say wow, but not enough for a fan to always expect it to happen.
Here are some of Cespedes’ numbers that I’m sure everyone is excited about: 17 home runs, 67 RBI, 12 (defensive) assists, 2 Home Run Derby championships.
Here are the only numbers that the Athletics actually care about: $10.5 million per year, .303 OBP (12th on the team), 1.88 range factor (9th of 13 qualifiers), 0 World Series rings.
When you take a look at these numbers, it is easy to see why Oakland did not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal that landed them a bonafide ace in Lester who is a two-time champion with a World Series record of 3-0 and a 0.43 ERA. Especially considering, according to Susan Slusser, “If the A’s had not traded Yoenis Cespedes on Thursday, they planned to after this season…” which made the trade all the more logical.
Everyone has seen in the film “Moneyball” how the A’s essentially “re-created” players they had lost from years past and did not break character in this trade. Cespedes had a .303 OBP like I discussed before and in order to duplicate this production, they will primarily use a platoon rotation of their acquired players in Gomes and Fuld. Against LHP this year, Gomes has a .400 OBP and against RHP this year, Fuld has a .347 OBP. Both of these numbers are far more impressive than the man they will replace. Now while they are obviously not even close to the same caliber hitter that Cespedes is, they will do what is most important in his stead, continue to help the team win.
Also, the forgotten piece of the Lester trade, Gomes, I believe will also help ease the Cuban passing on from a clubhouse perspective. He already has knowledge about this organization and was a focal point of the 2012 “Swingin’ A’s” who shocked the baseball world by beating out the Texas Rangers for their first of two AL West Division titles.
Also a side note: In 2012 Gomes played a HUGE role in helping Josh Reddick with the maturation of his swing. He hit 32 home runs and has not swung like that since.
A presence like that in the clubhouse will certainly help all the hitters as he brings energy and enthusiasm to the ballpark every night. On the pitching side, it couldn’t hurt for a young staff, including a soon-to-be ace like Sonny Gray to learn from a seasoned-champ like Jon Lester.
Oh and if that isn’t enough, how does this sound? Lester, Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija, Hammel/Chavez. When a pitching staff has the flexibility of making Jeff “Shark” Samardzija (a likely #1 starter for almost any other team) their #4 starter, that’s simply insane. It means that on almost any night, the A’s have an ace out on the mound who can go up against any lineup and have the potential to take over a game.
The all or nothing mentality that Beane has in 2014 may have cost his team a large piece, but he picked up a bigger one and also, in quiet Oakland-like fashion, found two smaller diamonds where others saw dirt.
Billy strikes again, but this time he may have struck gold.