So, if you're an Oakland A's fan, you really kind of hope this thing works out.
The sports-talk airwaves are instantaneously full of chatter about the whys and wherefores:
- Beane and the A's are dead serious about getting beyond the first round of the playoffs this year. Adding a starter of Lester's caliber to the A's already tough rotation will help assure that Oakland overcomes a strong challenge from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and help the team make it past the pitching-rich Detroit Tigers (or whomever) on their way to the World Series.
- The disappointing performance of Jason Hammel, acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, forced Beane's hand. Hammel somehow went 8-5 for the woeful Cubs and has racked up an 0-4 record for the A's, the team with the best record in the major leagues.
- Cespedes will be eligible for salary arbitration after next season, and all the history suggests that when that happens and his market price skyrockets, he'll be wearing the uniform of the Yankees or the Dodgers or of some other team with an unlimited line of credit. So: Deal him now and get the most you can for him.
- And the A's get outfielder Jonny Gomes, a native of Petaluma, a player with the reputation of making up with heart and hustle what he might lack in talent. Gomes was popular with players and fans during an earlier stint with the A's.
Now, it would be presumptuous for me, someone who has to think hard about simple arithmetic, to question "Billion-Dollar Billy" Beane and the mountain of sabermetrics analysis he undoubtedly brought to bear on the Cespedes-for-Lester deal.
But here are a few negatives in the deal, as seen from my seat in Section 215 of the Oakland Coliseum:
- Lester is only a rental player: He's a free agent after this year. The way the market works, and given the fact Boston is the only team he's ever played for, the expectation is Lester will work out a deal to return to the Red Sox. So A's fans, enjoy your two months-plus watching this guy do his thing and pray Beane hasn't found another star like Jim Johnson.
- Cespedes is an electric talent. Yeah, I've seen him pop up a lot, and he's had his wandering moments in the field. But the guy's talent is amazing: his power, his speed on the bases and in the field, and his arm are breathtaking to see.
- While it's true Cespedes would most likely be hitting the road after 2015, gee, that's a whole season the team has given up on in return for the Jon Lester Southpaw Rental Service.
- It's a little absurd to think that any one factor guarantees success in the postseason. Sure, pitching helps. But my unanalyzed recollection is that the A's got some terrific pitching against the Tigers in their American League Division Series matchups in 2012 and 2013. It was their inability to hit the Tigers that doomed them. They just traded away one of their most potent offensive threats.
- The A's winning percentage the past two years with Cespedes in the lineup: .635. Without him: .389.
The timing of the deal was driven by Thursday's major league non-waiver trade deadline. Which is also why Beane kept dealing after making the Cespedes-Lester trade. He sent left-hander Tommy Milone to the Minnesota Twins for Sam Fuld.