Not satisfied with the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel earlier this month, the Athletics grabbed one of the best available pitchers in Jon Lester, the lefthander who helped Boston win the 2013 World Series.
Oakland also acquired righthanded-hitting corner outfielder Jonny Gomes, who played for the A’s in 2012, while sending Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston, where he will relish at playing at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will receive a supplemental second-round pick, which Oakland received a week ago, and will reportedly send $1 million to the A’s.
For Oakland, the deal helps furnish a potential postseason rotation of Lester, Samardzija, Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray. The platoon-centric A’s also get Gomes, who remains effective against lefthanders (including an .831 OPS this year), helping neutralize the loss of Cespedes somewhat.
Cespedes was slashing .256/.303/.464, helping the A’s rank first in the majors in runs scored.
RED SOX ACQUIRE
Yoenis Cespedes, lf
Age: 28 Bats: R
The Red Sox hope Cespedes brings what other former righthanded-hitting Oakland sluggers Tony Armas and Jose Canseco brought to Fenway: home-run power. He has one more year of control than Lester, which made him attractive to the Red Sox, a team desperate for outfield power at a reasonable cost ($10.5 million in 2015). The Red Sox rank 14th in the American League in runs and 12th in homers.
Though righthanded pull hitters, like Cespedes, tend to thrive at Fenway, he does not fit the organization’s typical model of patient, high-on-base batters.
Jon Lester, lhp
Lester is a free agent after the season, but the A’s will cross that bridge when they come to it. He’s having arguably his best regular season (2.52 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, 9.4 SO/9) and gives Oakland the much-needed Game One starter the team has lacked as it fell short in its previous playoff pursuits. Lester has gone 6-4, 2.11 in 12 postseason starts and helped the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2007 and 2013. He also stands to gain from pitching in a more forgiving ballpark and in front of a stronger defensive unit. He’s also been very durable, making 31 or more starts every year since 2008.
The lefthander had indicated a desire to stay in Boston, and he could return to the Red Sox as a free agent after the season, though the Cubs among others certainly are expected to pursue him as well.
Jonny Gomes, lf
Age: 33 Bats: R
Gomes, who has a career .875 OPS against lefthanders, remains an effective platoon player, but one who probably will struggle with the expansive left field in Oakland. He returns to the A’s, for whom he had an .868 OPS in 2012 for the AL West division champs. He’s a free agent after the season, and his acquisition could result in Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt or new acquisition Sam Fuld assuming more playing time in left field against righthanded starters.