A's general manager Billy Beane had already bet big on the now, shipping away his top prospect earlier this month.

Thursday, he went all in. Pushed all his chips to the center of the table by giving up All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. And he did it basically to rent Boston ace Jon Lester for three months.

The A's pursuit of a ring just reached Gollum level.

This move is desperate and a little crazy. Who trades a key cog on the best team in baseball? But the A's emerge on the other side of the trade deadline with a team even more suited for the postseason.

Did their move prompt Detroit to go get ace David Price, upgrading the Tigers' already vaunted rotation? Maybe. But even before worrying about the Tigers, this move was good because it solidifies the A's for an A.L. West fight with the Los Angeles Angels.

The A's starting rotation is even better now. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir have been on point all season. The addition of Jeff Samardzija, who arrived July 4 in the trade that sent top farmhand Addison Russell to the Chicago Cubs, gave the A's a third starter with ace skills.

Now they add Lester, a certified beast, to the rotation. The lefty boasted a 2.52 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP while pitching for one of the worst teams in the American League. More important, he has a 2.11 ERA in the postseason, having given up one run in 21 innings of World Series action.

With Thursday's stunning move, the A's head toward the postseason with something they haven't had in recent years: power pitching. Their top four starters average 8.35 strikeouts per nine innings. For perspective, Price, baseball's strikeout leader, is at 10.0.


Advertisement

Even if the Tigers' starters are better with the upgrade of Price, the A's have a comparable rotation to go with one of the best bullpens and the highest-scoring offense in baseball. It's hard to imagine the A's being in better position to win it all.

And while the A's gave up a fan favorite and the most physically gifted player in their clubhouse, Cespedes wasn't as big a cost as many think.

Yes, the A's gave up their cleanup hitter. Cespedes, who had 17 home runs and 67 RBI, brought power and presence to the middle of the lineup. That matters.

Still, Oakland leads MLB in runs scored. So if any team can afford to take a chunk out of the middle of its lineup, it's the A's.

Plus, Cespedes' production didn't really match the hype he created by his stellar 2012 campaign. He is entertaining, especially with that arm of his. But Cespedes never really fit the "money ball" style of play.

His on-base percentage (.303) is a sign of his lack of plate discipline. Despite being the team's highest-paid player, Cespedes was behind Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, John Jaso, Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp in OPS.

Donaldson and Moss each have more homers and RBIs than Cespedes, who makes $5.9 million more than both of them combined.

The A's also got Jonny Gomes from Boston. He was a perfect fit with the A's two years ago, what with his patience and timely hitting.

Last season with World Series champion Red Sox, and with the A's in 2012, his OPS numbers were .771 and .868, respectively. Gomes and more Stephen Vogt (.911 OPS) could possibly match the production of Cespedes, even if it isn't as pretty.

If Beane had already decided Cespedes wasn't in the A's long-term future -- he is in line for a monster deal in 2016 -- the question becomes what could the franchise get for the star Cuban defector.

Sure, Beane could've dangled Cespedes next season, maybe filled a couple holes for the future. But the A's have a chance to win the World Series this year, and they bolster that chance with Lester.

The hardest part to swallow is Lester won't be sticking around after this season. He'll almost certainly be taking his considerable skills elsewhere for $100 million plus.

If the A's don't make the World Series, criticism will be worthy because the 2015 squad will have some holes: a big right-handed bat, a second baseman, possibly a shortstop.

But who's doubting whether Beane can, down the line, fill the holes this move left behind?

Risky? Absolutely. Worth it? No question.

Contact Marcus Thompson at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.

Beane
A's G.M. solidified possibly best rotation in MLB by adding Lester.


INSIDE
Giants stand pat. PAGE 5