CLEVELAND -- The Texas Rangers didn’t pull the trigger on any trades before the passing of the non-waiver deadline, but manager Ron Washington feels the American League West lost one of its most dangerous weapons.
In a rare deal of teams swapping stars, the AL-leading Oakland Athletics made headlines on Thursday as they dealt outfielder and two-time Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox in a deal for ace left-handed starting pitcher Jon Lester.
“This is only my opinion, but I feel like Cespedes was the most dangerous hitter they had in that lineup,” said Washington. “But they got quite a few dangerous hitters in that lineup. So to get Lester, that’s the one they had to part with.”
In 101 games this season, Cespedes is hitting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs. In his career against the Rangers, the 28-year-old left fielder has been a bit more successful, hitting .292 (an OPS of .942) with 10 home runs and 30 runs batted in; only the Seattle Mariners have allowed more home runs to the Cuban-born player.
“He hits all pitches,” Washington said. “He smacks changeups, curveballs, sliders, fastballs; up, down, in, out, it don’t matter. He smokes them.”
A’s general manager Billy Beane surrendered his top two prospects to the Chicago Cubs on July 5 in a trade for All-Star pitcher Jeff Samardzija and veteran right-hander Jason Hammel. Beane followed up the Lester deal Thursday morning by trading left-hander Tommy Milone to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Sam Fuld.
The A’s have a 66-41 record, the best in the American League, but lead the second-place Los Angeles Angels by just 2½ games in the AL West.
In Lester, Oakland is receiving a pitcher with a stellar postseason résumé, including a 0.43 career ERA in the World Series during his time with Boston.
In addition to his work at the plate, Cespedes comes equipped with one of the game’s best arms while possessing the versatility to play multiple outfield positions. In dealing Lester (10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 2014) for Cespedes, Boston is believed to be bucking its trend of high on-base percentage players in order to provide power to support veteran sluggers David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Far be it for Washington to second-guess Beane, the man who is responsible for the “Moneyball” revolution, but the Rangers’ manager believes the Red Sox acquired the additional power they needed.
Though his team failed to make a deal at the deadline, Washington can take some solace knowing he will no longer have to face Cespedes more than just a handful of times over the next few seasons.
“In Oakland, they feel like they got a chance to get it and they’re going for it,” Washington said. “But I do know one thing: [Cespedes is] going to tear that wall apart in Boston. Put some dents in it. That guy hits the ball hard everywhere. He don’t get cheated with his swing.
“I guess [Beane] feels like he has enough offense to move forward. He just wants to make sure he can shore up his pitching. That’s what it comes down to in the playoffs -- pitching.”