Trade deadline day has gotten going in a big way in major league baseball, with the Boston Red Sox reportedly sending pitcher Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes and cash to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 competitive balance draft pick. The Red Sox scratched Lester from his scheduled start on Wednesday, which seemed to virtually guarantee a trade was coming and that has come to fruition.
Oakland added Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a trade with the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, and the addition of Lester bolsters an already strong starting rotation. Lester will be a free agent after the season, so that makes him a solid fit for the payroll-strapped A’s, and general manager Billy Beane clearly sees a window to go all-in for a World Series title this year.
Cespedes is hitting .256 with 17 home runs, 67 RBI and .464 slugging percentage this season, and is slated to become a free agent after the 2015 season. He is an automatic upgrade to Boston’s outfield defense, and moving to Fenway Park will boost his already very good power numbers. The Red Sox will get a close look at Cespedes now, and they certainly have the payroll flexibility to sign him to a long-term deal if they choose to.
Gomes is struggling so far this season (.234, six home runs and 32 RBI over 246 plate appearances), but he hit 18 home runs in 279 at-bats for Oakland in 2012, including a .299 batting average and a .974 OPS against left-handed pitching. Gomes is also in the final year of his contract, and presumably could be re-signed cheaply by Oakland if they want to keep him around after the season.
Lester and the Red Sox were unable to agree to a contract extension, and the team’s fall out of playoff contention made a trade inevitable. But Lester could head back to Boston as a free agent next winter, even if the price to bring him back has certainly gone up now.
We may look back at some point and see a clear winner of this trade, but everyone attached to the A’s and Red Sox should feel very good about the result right now. Oakland has added a starter with playoff experience and success, along with reducing their future financial obligations, and Boston added a very talented outfielder who is in his prime while keeping the possibility of bringing Lester back in free agency.