We’ve looked at Billy Beane‘s Top Three Best Trades, so now we’ll shift gears and look at Beane’s biggest blunders. Coming in at number two on our list is the Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester deal.
Billy Beane has faced criticism for not winning a championship and rightfully so. The A’s have stayed relevant thanks to Beane’s creative front office, but they have also missed out on several opportunities to bring a championship to Oakland.
Whether it is fair or not, Beane’s decision to go all in during the 2014 season is widely regarded as one of his biggest blunders. The A’s were the best team in baseball during the first-half of the season.
The trade instantly made Oakland the favorite to win the World Series. Led by Sonny Gray, the A’s rotation was dangerous with the additions of Samardzjia and Hammel. Pitching was the key, especially when factoring in the A’s previous two season in 2012 and 2013.
Oakland missed out on chances of advancing to the ALCS thanks to the Detroit Tigers’ fierce starting rotation. Matching up against the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer had been difficult for the A’s.
With Samardzjia, who was having a stellar season with the Cubs, the A’s figured they could match up against anyone in the American League in a five game series. Offensively, the A’s had plenty of weapons with Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes leading the way.
In a stunning move, however, Beane swiftly moved Cespedes for Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes. The deal shocked the A’s clubhouse and deeply affected the team’s identity on offense. Suddenly the A’s were pressing for more production from Donaldson, Moss and others in the absence of Cespedes.
Going All In Backfires
Lester’s name instantly made the A’s rotation seem untouchable, but it came at a steep price. Pitching and defense are two winning ingredients, but the A’s already had those two element before the Lester deal.
Beane faces great criticism for not winning in the playoffs. That’s fair. However, Beane faced enormous criticism when trying to go all in during the 2014 season. Was it fair criticism?
The A’s essentially traded away their future that July. Addison Russell was sent over to the Cubs for Samardzija and Cespedes, who still had one year remaining on his deal, was sent packing for Boston.
Lester was simply a rental player that the A’s hoped would lead them to their first championship since 1989. In the end, Lester could only help the A’s secure a Wild Card spot.
After posting baseball’s best record in the first half, the A’s plummeted in the second half. They closed out their final 43 games by going 15-28. They nearly missed the playoffs, but secured the second Wild Card spot thanks to Sonny Gray’s efforts in the final game of the season.
Oakland was knocked out by the Royals during their Wild Card matchup. Lester started the game, but failed to live up to expectations. Bob Melvin, of course, deserves some of the blame for leaving Lester in the game for far too long.
Desire To Win
The A’s could have kept Cespedes and rolled with a rotation that included Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija and Hammel, but instead Beane felt the urge to go all-in. Had Lester won the WC game, the A’s would have gone on to face the Angels in the ALDS.
In a five game series, the A’s rotation may have pulled off a series win. After all, Beane’s goal was to build a strong rotation capable of shutting opponents down in a five game series.
The fact that Lester failed to deliver in the playoffs, though, makes this deal difficult to accept. The A’s were absolutely rolling up until the deal, but Beane wanted to make a serious run at a championship.
Can’t fault the guy for wanting to win a championship, but we can fault him for making a deal that was unnecessary to make in the first place.
What do you think? Should Beane have made the deal that sent Cespedes to Boston? Sound off below in the comments!