One of the best arms in Red Sox history, especially among left-handers, is now in Oakland as the Red Sox have finally made the tough (but correct) decision to trade their ace. While neither team has confirmed the trade yet, it’s practically official that the Red Sox will trade both Lester and platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s in exchange for power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
A high-profile Cuban defector in the 2011-2012 offseason, the Athletics surprisingly picked up on the outfielder with a 4 year/$36M contract. Cespedes had an excellent debut season with Oakland in 2012 as they improbably made the playoffs carried by Cespedes’s impressive .292/.356/.505 slash line and excellent defense.
Since that rookie season, however, Cespedes has had trouble continuing his success in Major League Baseball. He hit just .240/.294/.442 last season and, while this season’s .256/.303/.464 line is an improvement, it’s still not at the levels of his first season. However, while those slash lines aren’t terribly impressive on the surface, it’s worth considering that Cespedes has hit for elite power while playing half of his games in Oakland, which is a renowned pitcher’s park.
Cespedes has as much raw power as anybody in baseball, as evidenced by his back-to-back Home Run Derby titles, and as a right-handed bat, it’s easy to picture him thriving in Fenway Park. That’s not even considering Cespedes’s defense, where he displays one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball with countless highlight reel plays.
There are certainly flaws in Cespedes’s game as well. Like many Cuban players, Cespedes walks too little (6.5%) and strikes out too much (18.5%) to be a truly elite hitter. However, in a hitter’s park and with his prodigious right-handed power, it’s easy to picture his walk rate improving as pitchers attempt to pitch around him. And if Cespedes can improve his walk rate, then his strikeout rate (which is currently the lowest of his career) won’t be as much of an issue as his elite power could allow him to easily eclipse 30 home runs in a season.
On the whole, it still hurts to see Lester go. However, it’s hard to imagine receiving a much better return than Cespedes and, though he’s only under control through next season, he should be awfully fun to watch in Fenway Park. But tell us what you think. Was it a good trade?