#DigSportsDesk - The Lede
BOSTON, July 31, 2014 -- Boston Red Sox left-handed ace Jon Lester was traded to the Oakland A's Thursday morning as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane continues his all-in push for a World Series and Boston's hierarchy continues to dismantle the surprise winners of the 2013 World Series.
For Beane to acquire Lester, the A's part with All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a 28-year-old who served as the big bat in the middle of Oakland's balanced offense. Minus Cespedes, the A's might be required to make another move to bolster the offense. Lester gives Oakland a nearly unrivaled one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Beane acquired ace right-hander Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs and the rotation also includes Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, who could be frontline starters on other teams. The trade will send Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's. Lester is ticketed for free agency at the end of the season, as is Samardzija. The A's approach of building from within was tossed out of the window with two blockbuster trades in the past 26 days.
Lester, 30, is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 149 strikeouts against 32 walks in 143 innings this season. He was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday in anticipation of a possible trade after the two sides publicly discussed calling off contract negotiations until the offseason. Boston will be short on starting pitching, especially lefties, and the club's 2015 projected depth chart shapes up as a mystery.
Lester was having a career year in his contract season. The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers were known bidders for Lester. Lester said last week he would consider returning to Boston if he was traded away, but the Red Sox have not shown an interest in paying what is market value for their home-grown ace. Lester reportedly turned down a four-year contract worth more than $17 million per season in spring training.
The Red Sox will have Cespedes under contract for $10.5 million in 2015, the final year of his current deal. In his third major league season, Cespedes is batting .256 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI, and is a strong defensive outfielder. Plate discipline -- his on-base percentage was below .300 last season -- has been the biggest knock on Cespedes.
Gomes, 33, is hitting .234 with six home runs. He played for the Athletics in 2012, hitting .262 with 18 homers in 99 games.
The deal could signal a full-blown sell-off for the Red Sox, who traded right-handed starter Jake Peavy to the Giants last week and would be willing to move John Lackey's contract before Thursday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. Jason Hammel, also acquired in the deal with the Cubs, is having a tough go in the American League and could be moved if the A's aren't confident in their outfield depth. Beane's approach has almost always been anchored by the belief that pitching wins, dating to the high-profile starting rotation that included Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
Baseball Hall of Fame Cuts Eligibility Window
That means players including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa will have less time to remain on Hall of Fame ballots.
The Hall of Fame is also installing a new balloting and registration process for Baseball Writers' Association of America voting members.
"The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant," Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. "We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame -- player's record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity -- to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward."
The changes are effective immediately and will reflected voting in 2015. It is the first time since 1991 and second since 1985 that the Hall is implementing new voting rules.
The names of BBWAA members casting ballots will be made public with the election results. However, an individual's ballot will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame. Voters must also complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct.
Three players with 11 to 15 years are still on ballots and will remain eligible: Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th) and Lee Smith (13th).
You Deserve a Break Today?
The NBA is using a week-long All-Star break as its model while it completes the schedule for this season.
However, the league may decide to continue its traditional four-day break before officially releasing the schedule.
One of the parameters of the week-long All-Star break is that each team would have to take on at least one additional back-to-back set of games.
Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James is among several players who have lobbied for a longer break. Silver told assembled media at the league's last All-Star game in February that he met with James and others to discuss the issue.
"One of the issues LeBron raised is a break during All-Star (Weekend)," Silver said. "(For) a guy like LeBron, All-Star Weekend is not a break for him in any way. He's going around the clock with a combination of things the league is asking him to do, personal commitments, and I think it makes sense if we can work in the schedule a few days so the All-Stars can get a break as well."
Silver also said that such a change in the schedule would require negotiating with the NBA players union.