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August 1, 2014 at 8:59 am ET
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Les Than Enthused by A’s Gambles

slot-machine“Wow!” “Great!” “Pulled the trigger!” “Billy Beane’s a genius!”

That’s all I’m hearing today about the two trade moves by the Oakland A’s with the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. Call me a pessimist, or just naturally argumentative, but I have some problems with the trades and the rationale behind them.

On its face, bringing Jon Lester to Oakland is great numbers-wise. He’s having a career year –a 2.52 earned run average- after a string of solid years. There was one blip in 2012 where his ERA spiked to nearly five, but it’s obvious that was an aberration.
Losing Yoenis Cespedis for Lester does bother me because of what the team loses in power and arm strength in the outfield. I don’t know who’s going to provide the power in the lineup.

However, I’ve never been that big of a Cespedis guy. I hate having a power guy at the plate in the playoffs when I and the opposing pitcher and everybody in the stadium knows he’s impossible to walk. These at-bats go something like this –slider outside, fastball inside, slider, slider, out.

That said, I think the A’s made a fair value-for-value on-the-field deal. Billy Beane probably even got the better end of the deal.

But, the finances of it make no sense when you consider the A’s also traded pitcher Tommy Milone (6-3, 3.55 ERA) to Minnesota for an outfielder with no power and a .240 career average, though he is hitting .274 this year. Milone can’t be a free agent until 2018. He’s making $500,000 this year and is arbitration eligible this winter, but he’s already proven he’s worth whatever he’d make even with a first-year arbitration raise.

Lester on the other hand is a free agent at the end of the year. He made $13 million dollars this year and there’s no way in god’s green and gold earth the A’s sign him.

I don’t know if Lester’s good work will continue or not. The way he’s pitched this year, I would think so. But, I don’t think losing Milone –who has similar numbers the past three years compared to Lester and who was pitching well this year before he was sent to Triple-A Sacramento is worth it necessarily in the short run or the long run. Milone could have pitched for the Athletics for another four seasons. Lester’s the hired gun who could end up shooting himself and the town barber in his first two gunfights. Just in case you missed it, Milone was demoted with the arrival of Jason Hammel from the Cubs. Milone then asked for a trade and is now possibly reconsidering that now that he’s in Minnesota.

Whoa! Wait! Wait! Wait! Is that the same Jason Hammel who I said shouldn’t take Milone’s spot in the lineup? Is that the same Jason Hammel who now has an ERA over 9 and who has 17 innings pitched in four starts? Hmmm, I wonder. I’ll check some stats and maybe get back to you…

O.K. I’m back and it most definitely is the same guy.

Speaking of the same guy or never the same guy, I hate Jonny Gomes’ inconsistency. He’s added another five years to his career with one post-season home run, but he’s still a guy who takes up at-bats from good minor league players who have more talent. That’s a long-winded way of saying he swings and misses… a lot. By all accounts, though, he is a good teammate and as good as anybody else available for pinch hitting duty in the post season. If he could play second base, then I might be interested. The A’s have not one but two players flirting with the Mendoza line.

All right, let’s bury this trade in sunflower seeds and good thoughts and say a prayer it works out. If Lester continues to deal and does what he did during the Red Sox World Series run and the A’s make the World Series and Fuld can keep hitting .270 and steal bases to make up for what the A’s lose with outfielder Coco Crisp’s injury and if Hammel starts going nine innings and giving up four runs instead of the other way around or finally gets moved to the bullpen and is productive and if Gomes is halfway productive…well then it’s a great couple of trades, and I’ll say “Wow! Pulled the Trigger!”

Otherwise, my living room will echo with the sound of me mumbling something about the day Tommy Milone got away.


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