A’s Are All In

With Big Trade, Oakland’s Going for Broke

Oakland Athletics' Jon Lester works against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Oakland Athletics' Jon Lester works against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Oakland A’s have provided the second big jolt of the baseball season. Billy Beane leaves no doubt he is going for a title.

Right now.

The A’s acquired another coveted arm in Jon Lester from Boston, along with Jonny Gomes. How? Beane gave up Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, Beane just did that.

It’s clearly World Series title or bust for the A’s. They just gave up a key cog in the best offense in the majors to rent one of the hottest commodities in baseball.

Lester has a 2.52 ERA while pitching for one of the worst teams in the American League. He is a beast. He does more than fill the hole created by Jason Hammel’s struggles. This makes the A’s rotation scary good with a top four of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija and now Lester.

But ... Lester is going to make a boatload of money in the offseason. He’s way out of the A’s price range. He’ll get $100 million-plus to take his considerable skills elsewhere.

There had been reports the A’s were in the mix. But that felt much more like the A’s were kicking tires, maybe seeing if they could fill a need by being a third-team. Beane, however, was pushing all his chips to the center of the table.

Why would the A’s give up Cespedes to get Lester for August, September and October?

It shows you the kind of concern Beane had with the ultra-talented Cespedes. He had one more year, 2015, left on his contract. And it’s clear Beane didn’t think he was going to be worth the money he would command. Or, he would be too rich for the A’s blood. So instead of waiting to trade him, Beane decided to parlay Cespedes to bolster the championship hopes

Cespedes has never really fit the A’s style of play. His on-base percentage (.303) was 12th-best on the A’s. His slugging was seventh (.767). He’s batting .256 while ranking third in home runs and RBI. Both Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are providing more run production. And only Cespedes was making $15 million. He never quite regained his production from his rookie season.

Gomes’ OPS is .683. But last season with Boston, when the Red Sox were good, and with the A’s in 2012, his OPS numbers were .771 and .868. Beane has to be thinking Gomes can fit right in for the short term and take up some of the slack in the A’s lineup, which is good because of its depth and top-to-bottom production.

The A’s lead the majors in runs. So if any team can afford to take a chunk out of the middle of its lineup, it’s the A’s.

This is an easily criticizable trade. The A’s gave up a position player. They took power out of the middle of the lineup. And they did it to rent a guy they can’t afford. Risky is an understatement.

But if you know Cespedes’ time is running out with the A’s, it makes some sense. If you believe you can find pieces down the line, which Beane has shown he can do, you can swallow the uncertainty of next season.

And it all will be worth it if the A’s actually win the World Series.