When I first saw the news on Twitter that the A’s had acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, I thought it was a joke. Certainly the A’s wouldn’t trade away Cespedes in the middle of a pennant race, even for an ace like Lester. But then it was tweeted by other recognizable sources and it began to sink in. This really happened.
Billy Beane has made some shocking trades over the years but this one might take the cake. Major league talent for major league talent trades don’t happen all that often to begin with, at least on this large of a scale, but then you throw in the fact that a team in a pennant race traded away their All Star left fielder and this one’s on another level.
Jon Lester is an ace. He is that probably more than Jeff Samardzija is an ace, more than Scott Kazmir is an ace, and more than Sonny Gray is an ace. They’re all great pitchers but Lester has gotten it done in the postseason and on the big stage. He’s the guy you match up against Verlander (or David Price, this year) in a Game 1/Game 5 matchup with Detroit and actually have a chance to win.
But what do the A’s do about the loss of Cespedes? There’s no doubt that he’s an imposing hitter and a game-changing player with tons of talent. Jonny Gomes was acquired along with Lester in this deal but he’s not going to replace Cespedes’s production, at least versus right handed pitching. Versus left handed pitching, well he’s pretty good and will do just that:
Cespedes vs. LHP: .232/.319/.455 this season and .275/.348/.496 career
Gomes vs. LHP: .302/.400/.431 this season and .279/.379/.495 career
As for versus righty pitching, the A’s have enjoyed the emergence of Stephen Vogt this season as not just a clutch hitter but as a versatile player who can play the corner outfield spots and first base as well as catcher. He’s been kind of ridiculous:
Vogt vs. RHP: .365/.396/.524 this season and .286/.328/.421 career
We have to figure he’s somewhere between those two lines. He’s a good hitter, but not one of the top hitters in the game. And then there’s Cespedes:
Cespedes vs. RHP: .263/.298/.467 this season and .257/.306/.459 career
Also a good hitter, but not one of the top hitters in the game. Sure, he’s got big time power but the overall numbers do not appear irreplaceable. I think the offense will be fine, and isn’t necessarily that much worse without him.
He’s been an exciting player to have on the A’s and get to watch play every day but this season is about winning the World Series, and to do that you need top notch pitching that can shut the opposition down. In 2012, the ALDS games were started by Parker, Milone, Anderson, Griffin, Parker versus Verlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander. In 2013, it was Colon, Gray, Parker, Straily, Gray versus Scherzer, Verlander, Sanchez, Fister, Verlander. This year, baseball gods willing, we’ll have Lester, Samardzija, Gray, Kazmir. That’s a quartet of number ones like nothing we’ve had in recent years. I’ll miss Cespedes but as always I trust Billy Beane knows what he’s doing.