With trades, A's make loud statement, set high expectations

With trades, A's make loud statement, set high expectations
July 31, 2014, 6:00 pm
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The A's added Jon Lester (left), Jonny Gomes (second from right) and Sam Fuld (right) while shipping out Yoenis Cespedes. (AP)

Still trying to wrap your mind around the Yoenis Cespedes-Jon Lester trade?

Of course you are. The A’s keep upping the shock factor with each big deal they make. No other trade that took place on Thursday’s deadline day packed as much star power as the A’s shipping Cespedes to Boston for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

[RELATED: A's land Lester, send Cespedes to Red Sox]

So many different angles to explore with this one. Here’s some random thoughts as the hours pass and we get a chance to digest all that went down …

--Quick … can you rattle off the A’s starting rotation when the regular season got underway?

Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone.

And now the rotation as it currently stands – Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel/Jesse Chavez.

Pretty mind-boggling when you think about it. Lester is a free agent after this season, and with the money he can command on the open market, there’s obviously a strong chance he’ll be wearing a different uniform next season.

Already the storyline seems etched in stone: The A’s are a team built to win the World Series, and in the eyes of many, anything less this season will be a failure. This is where Bob Melvin’s strength as a manager will have to kick in. Melvin is terrific at getting his team to focus on the “now” – not getting caught up thinking about the ultimate prize – and not worrying about the enormous expectations outside the clubhouse.

The A’s ability to deal with that pressure of being perceived as front-runners will be a primary challenge.

--Seeing the A’s part ways with Cespedes was a shocker to all, given his off-the-charts physical abilities and the fact that he was under contract through next season at a relatively affordable $10.5 million. But I’d gotten word back in November that the A’s were open to the possibility of trading Cespedes as far back as then. It would have taken an eye-popping return package – someone along the lines of Lester – to pry him away then.

Obviously the A’s saw their current need for more starting pitching as motivation enough to deal the All-Star outfielder.

The fact that the Cespedes trade happened with several hours remaining before Thursday’s 1 p.m. trade deadline had many A’s players paying close attention.

“He got traded and we were were kind of like, ‘Nobody’s safe,’” closer Sean Doolittle said with a touch of humor. “I think we were hoping we were done (trading).”

[RELATED: What they're saying: Cespedes for Lester, Gomes]

Doolittle said he was shocked to see Cespedes dealt, but added that he’s excited about the addition of Lester, not to mention the return of Jonny Gomes, an instrumental player and clubhouse leader for the 2012 A’s, who won the first of back-to-back A.L. West titles.

“It was a little surprising, but this organization has shown that it’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team,” Doolittle said. “Obviously they know what they’re doing. They’ve proven that with the team they’ve put on the field. I think at the end of it we came out a better team.”

--Speaking of Cespedes, what a scene it will be Saturday at the Coliseum. The A’s are going ahead with plans for a Cespedes “La Potencia” (“The Power”) T-shirt giveaway. The first 10,000 fans will get a keepsake of a player who’s no longer with the team, while the main guy Cespedes was traded for, Lester, makes his A’s debut on the same day.

Could you script the wackiness any better?

Doolittle, for one, is happy the A’s are going ahead with the giveaway.

“Maybe it’s kind of like a parting gift or consolation prize for fans, to give them some closure, and on a small scale celebrate the career he had here.”

--Gomes gets somewhat overlooked in this deal, but the Petaluma native’s return to the A’s is no small part of the equation moving forward. His reputation as a clubhouse leader is well known, and with all the hype and pressure that will be swirling around this team, it’s valuable to have a postseason veteran like Gomes around.

[CSN New England: Gomes: 'I definitely didn't want to go anywhere']

But he’ll be needed on the field too. To this point, Gomes is hitting just .234 with six homers and 32 RBI. But with Cespedes gone, he seems a natural fit to get at-bats in left field and perhaps DH against left-handed pitchers. With Stephen Vogt showing he can handle first base competently, Brandon Moss seems likely to see more time in left field against right-handers.

--Many fans were upset to see Sam Fuld get designated for assignment back in April when Craig Gentry came off the D.L. He’s back now after being acquired from Minnesota on Thursday for lefty Tommy Milone, who had requested a trade last week.

[RELATED: A's re-acquire Sam Fuld, send Tommy Milone to Twins]

It’s obvious the A’s felt they needed a natural center fielder with Gentry on the D.L. and Coco Crisp’s playing status uncertain because of a neck strain that’s been problematic for more than two months.

Will the A’s regret parting with Milone? Part of that depends on A) how healthy the current rotation stays, and B) how well lefty Drew Pomeranz continues to pitch at Triple-A Sacramento and whether he proves to be a strong insurance policy as a starter.

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