A’s are flush with aces 

click to enlarge By adding Jon Lester to the starting rotation, the A's arguably have four aces in their pursuit of a World Series title. - AP PHOTO
  • AP photo
  • By adding Jon Lester to the starting rotation, the A's arguably have four aces in their pursuit of a World Series title.

Already the author of the 2014 trade season's splashiest deal by way of dishing his top two prospects for a new ace (Jeff Samardzija), A's general manager Billy Beane topped himself Thursday by dishing his most dynamic position player for another, better, new ace (Jon Lester).

All of this, of course, drops down in the pecking order the incumbent ace (Sonny Gray), who had been bumped up in the order to start the season in concession to an injury to the expected ace (Jarrod Parker).

Remember, too, that the A's have yet another pitcher, a 2014 All-Star whose ERA ranked third in the American League as of Thursday, who would be an ace on most other teams. Name's Scott Kazmir.

Granted, Parker won't be available this year. He's one of many young studs rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, practitioners of which are being kept extremely busy by the first wave of youth all-star travel ball graduates to hit the big leagues. But Lester won't be available to Oakland next year. He'll almost certainly be counting cash elsewhere as a graduate of this winter's thin free-agent class.

But still, the bottom line? That's a lot of aces -- even without Parker, four aces. And that's the kind of hand you need to be holding when you go all-in, which is exactly what Beane did in sending All-Star outfielder and two-time defending Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes to Boston on Deadline Day.

Across the Bay, Giants GM Brian Sabean went the opposite direction. Fitting, right? The A's and Giants have been going in opposite directions for a while now. Sticking with the poker analogy, Sabean stood pat.

Or did he fold? You can look at it both ways, although the latter seems more fitting within the analogy because those who stand pat typically do so because they're OK with the hand they're already holding. And given what we've been seeing at China Basin for the past couple of months, you have to assume that Sabean isn't thrilled with the hand he's holding.

Sabean has a pretty good poker face, though, so he's not going to cop to folding. Publicly, he's hoping that the wild cards that are the respective returns of Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan give him something close to the hand with which he started the season, and that was a pretty good hand while it lasted.

But even if Belt and Pagan return, both to the active roster and to pre-injury form, the hand won't be quite the same. Matt Cain, for example, is out for the foreseeable future, with Jake Peavy having been acquired in Sabean's only trade-season action of note as a replacement. Sergio Romo, who was closing as the original poker hand roared to a visions-of-October-glory start, has been replaced by Santiago Casilla.

And let's face it: When you're digging through the deck and find yourself desperately saying yes to Dan Uggla and Travis Ishikawa, folding can't be far from your mind. Especially when the guy at the table next to you -- in Sabean's case, it's Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti -- has a gang of aces of his own (not to mention a pretty stacked deck of an offense).

Sabean, by not doing anything, did the right thing.

Did Beane? That's going to take some time to figure out, but consider that Cespedes is under contract through 2015, he's an everyday player whose mere presence in the lineup made the A's better on offense and defense, and he was the only guy on the roster with a history of big-stage success at the plate.

Now he's gone, and the offense and defense have been indisputably weakened.

Lester has a history of big-stage success on the mound, yes, but he's only here for three months, tops. And he only works every five days. And the A's were already damn good on the mound.

It's a polarizing deal, to be sure, and those in favor of it pointed, in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, to two more indisputable facts: pitching wins championships, and the A's have those four legitimate aces. Unbeatable hand, right?

Unless someone else has four aces, too. In adding David Price right before the deadline, the Detroit Tigers -- damn those Tigers -- picked up a fourth of their own.

Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of "Inside the Bigs," which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ "The Game" (95.7 FM).

About The Author

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).
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