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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Before the Clock Strikes 12

When the 2013 Major League Baseball Trade Deadline passed, what I remember most is that it was not memorable at all. that is not the case in 2014. A flurry of 11th hour trades with some All Star caliber players were dealt at the last minute this afternoon. These transactions are certain to impact both pennant races and may be the moves that tip the scales in favor of the eventual 2014 World Series champion. The following are the highlights of the day.


The Oakland Athletics eliminated any doubt to whether they are employing a "World Series or bust" strategy in 2014 with the trade of two-time Home Run Derby Champion and 2014 All Star cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes (.256, 17 HR, 57 RBI) to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for their ace, Jon Lester (10-7, 2.52 ERA, 149 Ks). The A's are getting a veteran leader in the prime of his career with loads of postseason experience and two World Series rings. The Red Sox are getting another budding superstar from the recent Cuban invasion of MLB who will provide a desperately needed infusion of power into the batting order. The A's also received Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes (.234, 6 HR, 32 RBI).

Cespedes had another year remaining on his contract and Lester is all but certain to be a two to three month rental for Oakland. The A's would probably not have been able to resign Cespedes after 2015, but they could have had him for another year.On the other hand, Cespedes was one of the highest paid members of the A's with a $10.5 million salary. His defection (and that of his salary on a financially frugal, small market team) in exchange for a bona fide ace pitcher who help could win a World Series is not the worst subtraction from the roster.


Red Sox: A
Athletics: B-


The Cardinals have employed hired guns before, but seldom at such a steep cost. In Lackey (11-7, 3.60 ERA, 116 Ks), the Cards are getting a solid starter who, at his best, plays at an All-Star caliber level. They also have a dirt cheap option that they are likely to exercise on Lackey in 2015. The cost was steep, however. Joe Kelly (2-2, 4.37 ERA) has shown he can be a solid starter, but Lackey will replace him in the rotation. Allen Craig, however, was thought of to be the future of the franchise and now he is gone. Craig (.237, 7 HR, 44 RBI) has had a down season and has a disastrous July, but his potential is evident. The Red Sox need hitters and gambled on his evident upside.


Red Sox: B+
Cardinals: B-

John Lackey 2

To quote the Fallout Boys, it ain't a scene, it's an arms race. The Tigers dumped the weak link in their rotation, Drew Smyly (6-9, 3.93 ERA) and centerfielder Austin Jackson (273, 4 HR, 33 RBI) while picking up the former Cy Young award winner in David Price (11-8, 3.11 ERA, 189 Ks) from the Tampa Bay Rays. This was a three team trade that also involved the Seattle Mariners. While Detroit still has some exploitable pressure point in its bullpen, its starting rotation now looks almost bulletproof, especially for a postseason run in which as few as three pitchers could be rotated.


Tigers: A
Rays: C
Mariners: C+

David Price pitched 7 innings in his final game as a member of the Rays. 3
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