Photo: Yoenis Cespedes
The Oakland Athletics bolstered their pitching staff on Thursday by acquiring ace starter Jon Lester from the cellar-dwelling Boston Red Sox for Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
The A’s, who have the best record in baseball at 66-41, were looking to load up on arms with a view to the playoffs, having been eliminated the past two years in the postseason by the pitching-laden Detroit Tigers.
Lester compiled a record of 10-7 and a career-best 2.52 ERA this season in 21 starts for the Red Sox. His ERA is fifth-best in the American League and his 149 strikeouts (in 143 innings) are sixth-best in the AL.
He will join a starting staff that also includes Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, and Jeff Samardzija, whom the A’s acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this season.
The Red Sox, who won their third World Series in 10 seasons last October thanks in part to Lester’s strong pitching, especially in the Fall Classic, were unable to sign the southpaw to a contract extension in recent months and he can become a free agent at the end of this season.
Cespedes hit just .256 for the A’s this season but he was a big part of the team’s offense, having driven in 67 runs and scored 62 runs, third- and second-best on the team, respectively.
The right-handed slugger, who can become a free agent after the 2015 season, should also be able to capitalize on Fenway Park’s short left-field fence to boost his numbers.
The A’s also received outfielder Jonny Gomes and cash from the Red Sox, while Boston also got a 2015 draft pick.
The Red Sox, who have endured a disappointing 2014 and are looking to rebuild, also traded two other starting pitchers ahead of Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
They sent John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly and dealt Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants last weekend for two minor league pitchers.
Not to be outdone, the Detroit Tigers, who are first in the AL Central with a record of 58-47, pulled off a blockbuster three-team trade Thursday, acquiring Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price in a deal that saw Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson being sent to the Seattle Mariners, the Detroit club confirmed on its Web site.
The Rays, meanwhile, obtained Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, Tigers starting pitcher Drew Smyly and highly touted Tigers minor-league shortstop Willy Adames.
Price, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 and is considered the best left-handed pitcher in the American League, will further bolster a Tigers starting rotation that includes 2011 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and 2013 AL Cy Young recipient Max Scherzer.
Price’s 189 strikeouts so far this season are tops in the Major Leagues.