The thing that struck us about this year's non-waiver trade deadline, which expired Thursday at 4 p.m., was the utter lack of sentimentality in some of the bigger, franchise-changing deals.
We know baseball is a business, of course. But the rosters are made up of popular players who have grown up with a particular team and its fan base. Look at Jon Lester and David Price, the two mega-names to switch uniforms, with only a few hours separating them.
The Red Sox made the decision to trade Lester after talks about a contract extension reached an impasse. They figured this season was lost anyway. Rather than keep him to play out the schedule in the hope of rekindling talks during their exclusive negotiating window, general manager Ben Cherington instead chose to get what he could for a jump start on 2015. By doing so, there's a good chance Cherington ensured that the Boston chapter of Lester's career -- after two World Series titles -- was permanently over.
"It's not easy,'' Cherington said. "But I think everyone understands too that everyone is trying to make something better. Going through it is hard.''
The feeling in Tampa Bay was similar, but not the same. With Price still a year away from free agency, the Rays could have kept him to help with a second-half playoff push. But they chose not to, with principal owner Stuart Sternberg blaming the sport's unfair economics for making such a trade necessary.
The A's even dealt Yoenis Cespedes three days before his T-shirt giveaway at O.co Coliseum. A marketing nightmare, for sure. But this year, if you weren't dealing, you weren't trying, so here's a look at some winners and losers from the deadline.
WINNER: OAKLAND A'S
GM Billy Beane made a bold, pre-emptive strike weeks before the deadline in taking Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel off the market in one blockbuster trade with the Cubs. Many figured that was the A’s going into “World Series or Bust” mode by dealing their top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell. But that was merely the appetizer. Beane showed just how serious he is about late October by shipping Yoenis Cespedes, a feared righthanded slugger, to Boston for Jon Lester, one of the game’s best playoff pitchers. This wasn’t about getting to the postseason. It’s about the A’s winning a World Series for the first time since 1989. Along with Lester, Oakland grabbed Jonny Gomes, who will platoon in leftfield, and added Sam Fuld, acquired Thursday from the Twins for Tommy Milone.
WINNER: DETROIT TIGERS
They got David Price. What else needs to be said, really? But when you look at what they gave up to have Price through 2015, GM Dave Dombrowski comes out even better. Detroit sent centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and the Rays received pitcher Drew Smyly and Class A shortstop Willy Adames. With Price, the Tigers now have the last three Cy Young winners in their rotation -- Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are the others -- along with Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. The only other club that can match up pitching-wise is the A’s, so the ALCS could wind up producing the likely World Series winner, too.
WINNER: BOSTON RED SOX
There is some hesitation to put Boston on this list, only because we’re surprised that Ben Cherington jettisoned Jon Lester rather than agree to an extension with his lefty ace well before this. But we’ll also credit Cherington for realizing the “bad math” the defending champions were facing in the second half and the futility of keeping a bad team together at this point. For a two-month rental of Lester, the Sox get Yoenis Cespedes, an outfield thumper they badly needed, through 2015. John Lackey brought them back major-league talent in Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. The Sox also traded Andrew Miller for one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects in Eduardo Rodriguez. Trading Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson saved them a few bucks in salary.
LOSER: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Standing pat at the deadline with a bunch of overpaid, underperforming players never looks good, and you’d have to think -- despite GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s comments -- the Phillies could have unloaded Marlon Byrd or A.J. Burnett with a few creative deals, even if it was only to save a couple million. And just when things looked as though they couldn’t get any worse for the Phillies, hours after the deadline, Cliff Lee -- a big-time post-waivers trade candidate -- left a game with elbow inflammation that likely will end his season. Ouch.
It’s not so much what Brian Cashman did that put the Yankees on this side of the ledger. In terms of trades, Cashman actually pulled off some pretty decent incremental upgrades, first with Brandon McCarthy, then Chase Headley followed by the deadline swaps for Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. No, the Yankees ultimately wound up losers because of what their AL rivals did to increase the gap between them. In desperate need of a No. 1 starter, Cashman could only watch as his division pals traded their aces -- knowing full well there was no shot of either Jon Lester or David Price being traded to the Bronx.
Maybe the term “losers” is a tad harsh here, but we’ll consider it more of a call to action for this coming offseason, when the Mets need to turn their prospect pool into an impact bat or two at the major-league level. Sandy Alderson conceded that there were deals he could have done by the deadline, but he didn’t feel he would be getting back fair value for his own players. And for now, that’s fine. The Mets are on the outer fringes of contention, and if they want another half-season to evaluate the roster -- both in Flushing and below -- maybe that sets them up better for the trade market in the offseason. Obviously, someone like Cespedes would have been perfect for the Mets. But they weren’t a match to help the A’s win a World Series this year, and only an ace such as Lester was getting that type of return this July.