MLB: A’s Beane once again pulls off stunner
Billy Beane has already been the focus of one major motion picture in Moneyball.
Beane pulled a stunner of a trade July 4 when he acquired right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell and right-hander Dan Straily.
The Athletics rocked the baseball word again Thursday — hours before the deadline for making trades without securing waivers on players — with a late push to acquire left-hander Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox along with outfielder Jonny Gomes. Oakland paid a premium, though, by surrendering All-Star left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
The Athletics entered Thursday with the best record in baseball at 66-41 yet were just 2 1/2 games in front of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.
The Athletics have not won a postseason series since 2006 or been to the World Series since 1990. The only black mark on Beane’s otherwise brilliant career as an executive is the A’s failure to win it all.
A rotation — in some order — of Lester, Samardzija, right-hander Sonny Gray and left-hander Scott Kazmir is going to make Oakland tough to beat in October. An added benefit is that it will allow Hammel and right-hander Jesse Chavez to go to the bullpen and give the Athletics an even deeper relief corps.
Losing Cespedes will hurt, though not as much as it seems on the surface. Cespendes hit .256 with 17 home runs and a .767 OPS in 101 games with the Athletics. Good numbers but not eye popping.
A platoon of the left-handed hitting Sam Fuld and the right-handed hitting Gomes won’t replace Cespedes’ production, but the dropoff won’t be severe for the Athletics, who are leading the major leagues in runs scored with an average of 5.00 per game.
Beane’s famous line is that his stuff doesn’t work in the postseason. Well, he didn’t say stuff, but we’re keeping it clean.
If it is ever going to work, this is the year.
Around the horn
n Three biggest deadline winners (non-Athletics category):
The Detroit Tigers landed the biggest prize of all by acquiring left-hander David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays. Like the Athletics, the Tigers will be tough to deal with in the postseason with a rotation of Price and right-handers Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. They will also have Price next season, softening the blow of Scherzer likely leaving as a free agent.
The Boston Red Sox upgraded an outfield that had produced 14 home runs all season before Thursday by getting Cespedes and also acquiring right fielder Allen Craig — with right-hander Joe Kelly, to boot — for right-hander John Lackey. Cespedes and Craig will help the Red Sox’s offense in 2015, though it’s anyone guess who will be in their rotation.
The Seattle Mariners filled two big needs by acquiring right-handed-hitting center fielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers as part of a three-way trade with the Rays. Chris Denorfia, acquired from the San Diego Padres, also upgrades the outfield.
n The three biggest deadline losers:
The Philadelphia Phillies did not make a trade to add some much-needed young talent and are still stuck with the bad contracts of left-hander Cliff Lee, closer Jonathan Papelbon, first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley.
The St. Louis Cardinals gave up a lot to acquire Lackey, who is far from a sure thing and a bad clubhouse guy. Conversely, right-hander Justin Masterson, acquired from the Cleveland Indians for a minor leaguer on Wednesday, is a great guy but a question mark after struggling all season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were in the hunt for both Lester and Price but got neither. Putting either one at the top of the rotation would have made the Pirates a dangerous team in October.
n The San Francisco Giants seemed to be grasping at straws last weekend when they acquired veteran right-hander Jake Peavy from the Red Sox in a trade for two minor leagues. The 33-year-old went 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts in the AL this season.
Peavy had a rough debut with the Giants on Sunday night, giving up four runs in six innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers while taking the loss.
However, scouts who watched Peavy believe he still has something left and will gain the usual bump that comes when pitchers move from the AL to the National League. Furthermore, his recent tendency to give up a ton of fly balls won’t hurt so much at spacious AT&T Park.
“I think it’s a good move,” said a talent evaluator from an AL club. “You get him back together with Bruce Bochy, his old manager from their days together with the Padres, and it’ll create a comfort zone. This is going to rejuvenate his career. I really believe that.”
n The crowd at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony cheered last Sunday in Cooperstown when Barry Larkin was asked about his favorite moment in baseball history and the Cincinnati native replied it was when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s career hits record in 1985.
It has been nearly 25 years since then-Commissioner Bart Giamatti gave Rose a lifetime suspension for betting on baseball while serving as Reds manager. Rose long ago appealed to current commissioner Bud Selig but has never received a response.
Selig is scheduled to retire Jan. 15 and it is clear many fans have forgiven Rose and would like to see reinstated and given a chance to be inducted into the Hall.