Looking Back on the Trade Deadline… So Far

Lester 2Trading for Jon Lester—a dominating veteran with a postseason résumé to show for it—was without a doubt a positive pickup for the Oakland A’s as they look to compete for their first World Series in the Billy Beane era (1997-present).

That guy they gave up to get him though was damn good too.

In the way the left-handed Lester has had an immediate impact in Oakland, Yoenis Cespedes has been a positive addition for the Boston Red Sox.

In just his first 11 games on the East Coast, Cespedes has hit a pair of game-winning home runs while also driving in eight runs. Others have taken notice in the clubhouse, especially David Ortiz. “He’s one scary dude up there,” Big Papi told The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “He’s got real big-time power. When he comes up there, pitchers are a little afraid.”

Sad PuntoHowever, should the Green and Gold’s confidence waver after they let two-time defending Home Run Derby champ and one of the most promising sluggers in the game slip away? Probably not. But maybe a little.

We’re dealing with a tiny sample size, admittedly, but in the 20 contests the Athletics have played without Cespedes they’ve only averaged 3.6 runs per game, which is a significant drop down from about 5 runs per game when the powerful Cuban patrolled left and hit cleanup.

A's v AngelsThey’ve gone 9-10 in that stretch including a 5-game losing streak, their longest in nearly two seasons.

But the question remains, is it time to panic? Again, probably not.But maybe a little. At 75-52 entering play Friday, Oakland has now fallen out of 1st place in the AL West, who’s title now belongs to the Angels. But, on the other hand, the A’s have still scored more runs than any other team in baseball and have the best run differential by far.

Also in terms of his performance, Lester has thrown as advertised, going 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 25 strikeouts in four starts, including a complete-game shutout.

Sad Sonny GrayThe problem though, is that Lester can only take the mound every fifth day. In the other four games, what Oakland has essentially done is have is a swap of Cespedes for the other player acquired in the deal with Boston, Jonny Gomes.

Gomes, a former Athletic, has value that is hard to see. But simply has not brought the production that Oakland needs – 0 extra base hits and only 3 RBI’s over 12 games.

When the deal occurred, a lot East Bay residents were surprised, including those on the team. “My mind is blown,” Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick told SFGate.com’s Susan Slusser at the time. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would give up Cespy.”

However for General Manager Billy Beane, it was quite clear-cut. Pitching wins titles. Get the best pitching. Try to win a title. “It’s a zero-sum game, and in Jon Lester, you’re dealing with someone who is one of the best at his position in the game and has been for a long time,” Beane told Slusser. “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Theoretically, the A’s could bring Cespedes back as he has one year and $10.5 million remaining on his contract and could become a free agent as soon as 2016. This is quite unlikely though as this kind of move just doesn’t fit the “Moneyball” scheme.

This also means they almost certainly won’t re-sign the guy they got for him either, as Lester becomes a free agent after this season and has said he’d “definitely” consider a return to Boston, according to ESPNBoston.com. If he helps the Oakland Athletics win a championship, it’ll be hard to call the deal a failure regardless of the future, no matter the cost.

But as of right now, it just doesn’t seem to be looking that way.

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