On July 31st, the Oakland Athletics stood atop the league, at 66-41, two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels. They carried what was far and away the best offense in the American League, with 535 runs scored to that point and looked primed to carry that into October. Then they traded Yoenis Cespedes.
Now, the trade of Cespedes was completely shocking, but also looked at as something of a victory for Oakland as they were able to acquire Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox, forming something of a super rotation featuring the likes of Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir in order to combat the Detroit Tigers (who ended up grabbing David Price later in the day). While their pitching has continued to impress, and is a main reason they could make some noise in the postseason, the offense has scuffled quite a bit since the trade of the Cuban slugger.
Today, the A’s still hang onto that top spot in the American League West, but it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. Prior to the trade of Cespedes, the A’s were averaging 4.95 runs per game. Since then, they’re 11-12 and are producing almost a full run less per game than they were before Cespedes was shipped to Boston. Cespedes has boosted his batting average up to .267 with the Red Sox, while knocking in 19 runs. Did the A’s shoot themselves in the foot by dealing him?
There’s no doubt that trading Yoenis Cespedes left a hole in the Oakland lineup. Though he’s not the most consistent performer in the middle of the lineup (just a .286 OBP since joining the Red Sox), he has the ability to be a game-changer at the plate. That’s something that the platoon-heavy A’s really lack without him. Jonny Gomes is a solid player, but he doesn’t have that same type of game-altering capability.
Instead, what we can really look at with the A’s as a source of their recent offensive scuffle is health and the struggles of key run producers. Brandon Moss has struggled mightily since the calendar turned to August (although he had a rough July as well). He’s hit just .177 and has had any semblance of power escape him, with just a pair of extra base hits. Gomes has yet to record a single XBH since his return to the A’s. Derek Norris has also cooled off quite a bit, going for just .224 in the month of August to this point.
At the end of the day, it isn’t necessarily missing Cespedes that is plaguing the A’s. It’s health issues and a few key producers failing to make the necessary impact that has led to their struggles. This team assembled the starting staff they want. They utilize platoons effectively enough that they should continue to get somewhat steady offense. If Brandon Moss can put it back together, his ability to hit for extra bases changes everything. More power from Jonny Gomes would be a welcome sight as well.
Yoenis Cespedes was a game-changer, but not a consistent enough performer that would attribute their recent stretch to his departure.