The big head-scratcher of the Athletics' trades this season has been all the potential they gave up for the present.
The A's have been known as the smart, calculating team that almost always sticks with cost-effective potential over proven major league talent.
This year, that course reversed, and the largest commodity they gave up was their highest-paid player, Yoenis Cespedes.
On Sunday, Cespedes hits a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a win. The Athletics knew that they had to give up good players to get a top-quality pitcher like Jon Lester. It was just surprising that they were willing to make the move so soon after winning the bidding for Cespedes' contract after his defection from Cuba.
He also is well known for his cannon arm.
How are the trades working?
Cespedes' homer was his first with the Red Sox, a team that seems to be out of the playoff hunt this season, sitting 15 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles. He's hitting .265 in his first 34 Boston at-bats.
"I knew I hit it well," Cespedes told MLB.com on Sunday through a translator. "I've faced Smith plenty of times and knew after he threw a sinker that he would likely throw me a slider. He did and I was able to hit it out."
The Athletics, meanwhile, are holding onto a four-game lead in the AL West with a 72-45 record, making it understandable why they feel like this is their season.
Lester is 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in Oakland, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning and leaving after eight innings of a three-hit shutout against the Twins on Thursday. He is scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday.
"We all know what Cespedes did for this organization and how well he's liked,” Lester told MLB.com after the win. “Just coming over here, you don't want to screw that up. You want to make the trade look like it had a purpose and it was good. You don't want to come in halfway through the year after these guys have been battling their butts off to be in first place and screw that up."
The rest for Oakland
Sonny Gray, oddly enough the mainstay in Oakland's rotation, was the July AL Pitcher of the Month who had a rare bad outing his last time out in a loss to the Rays.
Scott Kazmir continues to pitch well. Jason Hammel, acquired from the Cubs with Jeff Samardzija, is starting to pitch a little better after starting his Oakland career with four miserable starts. While Samardzija is 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA since the move. It's a lot better record than his 2-7 in Chicago with a little worse ERA than his 2.83 there.
"(The run support) allows you to calm down a little bit,” Samardzija told MLB.com about his new team after his last outing. “I was fighting myself a few times. I felt like I was in the stretch the whole game. Just one of those days I was able to make a couple pitches when I really needed to, made it a little harder on myself at other times, but when you get those runs, it kind of brings you back to center, and you want to attack and make some quick outs and get your offense back in the dugout and let them keep doing what they were doing.”
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