Acquiring a starting pitcher and trading away a middle-of-the-order hitter is a weird thing. They each have value, and in the cases of Jon Lester (3-0 in 3 starts with Oakland) and Yoenis Cespedes (already 2 game-winning HRs with Boston) their value is pretty apparent. But their value comes in SUCH different contexts that it is not like comparing apples to oranges.
It's more like comparing xylophones to wombats.
Lester doesn't even participate in 4 out of every 5 games, while Cespedes plays every day as part of an ensemble cast of batters and fielders. And what we have seen so far is exactly the swap the A's have made:
4 out of 5 games, today's game being an example and Monday's game being another, Oakland's offense misses Cespedes and gets nothing back from the trade. No matter how you spin, or evaluate, the contributions from Stephen Vogt and Jonny Gomes, it's hard to argue that the lineup doesn't miss the presence and game-changing potential of Cespedes. Especially when you consider that a lot of Cespedes' at bats are ultimately going to Alberto Callaspo.
It's hard to watch games like Monday's close game in which the A's managed just 3 hits, or tonight's game in which Oakland gave up few and scored none, and realize that for this game -- and for 80% of them -- the swap is Cespedes for Gomes.
Then Lester takes the mound and so far that has meant a win every time. And it has meant a win that Lester has earned by pitching very well. So well, in fact, that the team clearly has ample offense behind him even without Cespedes in the mix. Because Lester is a true ace. But even aces miss 80% of the games.
There are metrics now to try to compare "aces who only pitch every 5th day" and "impact position players who provide good value on a daily basis". Those metrics conclude that despite appearing in only 20% of the games, aces are so good that they are still about the best thing on the baseball planet.
Yet try to convince a fan of that on those other 4 days. If you're going to make peace with the Lespedes trade, you're going to have to make peace with the A's being without Cespedes or Lester the lion's share of the time. And even when your rational mind tell you that's ok, your heart is less likely to go to that rational place. Stupid heart. When's Lester pitching again?