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A's get Lester, Gomes from Red Sox for Cespedes
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Billy Beane considers Jon Lester a proven ace who can carry a pitching staff through the playoffs, just like he did last fall. The general manager acquired Lester to make sure Oakland gets there first.
The baseball-leading, small-budget A's won the mighty Lester sweepstakes Thursday, acquiring the left-hander and outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"Once again players like this really don't come along too often," Beane said. "When you get a guy who's a legitimate No. 1 starter in the middle of the season and we currently sit in first place, we're excited. ... There's no looking ahead. The way the playoff system is now, you want to win the division."
Oakland, with the best record in baseball at 66-41, also received cash from Boston in another blockbuster deal by Beane. The Red Sox also receive a draft pick.
"I believe that the deliberations leading to the two trades we did today were deeply analyzed, thoughtful and value-added," A's owner Lew Wolff said in an email. "The best trades are when all parties have potential benefits, and what Billy accomplished is an example of such a win-win. The calls I have received from other owners were very complimentary."
Lester is 10-7 with a career-best 2.52 ERA in 21 starts in another outstanding season. He has allowed seven earned runs in his last eight games with 54 strikeouts and nine walks. But the Red Sox put him on the trading block because he can become a free agent after the season - and Beane isn't ready to commit to re-signing the lefty.
Lester, 30, was sought by many teams, including Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The three-time All-Star originally was scheduled to start Wednesday night for the slumping Red Sox, who instead scratched Lester ahead of Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline.
After winning their third World Series in 10 seasons last year, with Lester getting two of the four wins with a 0.59 ERA against St. Louis, the Red Sox are last in the AL East with a 48-60 record. They had Thursday off after losing for the eighth time in nine games to drop 13 games behind first-place Baltimore.
While the Red Sox look to next season, the A's are determined to take the next step after losing in each of the past two Octobers in five-game division series to Detroit. Oakland was off Thursday before returning home to begin a weekend series with Kansas City on Friday night.
Lester is scheduled to start Saturday's game against the Royals.
"Well I am awake," Friday starter Sonny Gray posted on Twitter when the trade news broke early Thursday. Oakland later sent lefty Tommy Milone to the Twins for outfielder Sam Fuld, who will help fill a void in center field with Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry sidelined.
Beane believes in starting pitching depth, and the A's sure have it. Lester joins Gray (12-3), Scott Kazmir (12-3) and recently acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, obtained in a July 4 trade with the Chicago Cubs.
Gomes, a fan favorite who grew up in nearby Petaluma, provides a veteran presence who was invaluable during the A's run to the AL West title in 2012. He also was a respected clubhouse leader in Boston, which signed him as a free agent before last season. He is hitting .234 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 78 games.
For Boston, this marks another big move of a starting pitcher to the Bay Area after Jake Peavy was traded to San Francisco on Saturday for two pitching prospects. The Red Sox traded John Lackey to St. Louis later Thursday.
The 28-year-old Cespedes won the past two Home Run Derby titles at the All-Star game. The Cuban left fielder is in the third season of a $36 million, four-year contract he signed before spring training 2012. Cespedes is batting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs.
"He's a tremendous talent, we've had a tremendous amount of success since he's been here," Beane said. "It is difficult. But if you're going to separate yourself from everybody else and try to get a player like Lester, you have to do something that's unique."
Speculation had centered on the Red Sox seeking prospects to add to their already deep farm system. That would have given them more young players to use in another deal for an established player, possibly a power-hitting outfielder.
They got that in Cespedes, whose 17 homers is the exact number hit this season by the nine Red Sox players who spent time in the outfield. And Gomes' six were the most.
Lester has said leaving the Red Sox doesn't rule out a return to the team next season. He had said he would take a hometown discount to stay in Boston, but the team's four-year, $70 million offer in spring training fell far short of what he could get on the open market.
Lester leaves his only pro baseball organization. The Red Sox drafted him in the second round in 2002. He made his major league debut June 10, 2006, and got a no-decision in a 7-4 loss to Texas.
In his nine major league seasons, Lester is 110-63 with a 3.64 ERA. He's also a proven postseason star with a 3-0 record in his two World Series. He pitched 5 2-3 shutout innings against the Colorado Rockies in the clinching fourth game in 2007.
"In Lester's case, we're also dealing with a guy who's one of the best at his position in the game," Beane said, "and has been for a long time. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up."
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Boston contributed to this report.
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 02:17:00 +0000
Lackey goes from Red Sox to Cards for Kelly, Craig
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Red Sox traded right-hander John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig before Thursday's deadline.
The deal leaves the Red Sox without their top two starters. Both teams announced the move a few hours after the struggling Red Sox said they sent their No. 1 starter, left-hander Jon Lester, to the Oakland Athletics with outfielder Jonny Gomes and cash for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 draft pick.
The Red Sox also sent cash and minor league left-hander Cory Littrell to St. Louis.
Lackey is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA in the fourth year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal.
Kelly is 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven starts. He has made four starts since being activated from the disabled list on July 11. Craig is batting .237 with seven homers and 44 RBIs.
Lackey has had two strong seasons since being sidelined for all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
He was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA last year when he pitched his second World Series-clinching game, allowing one run in 6 2-3 innings in a 6-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 6. In 2002, he won Game 7 for the Anaheim Angels over the San Francisco Giants, a 4-1 victory in which he gave up one run in five innings.
The Cardinals, in a tight race with the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central, had obtained right-hander Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
"I felt good about our club before we did these deals," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "When you look at adding a top of the rotation starter with Lackey, getting somebody like Masterson, who has a history of eating innings, when you look at our rotation prior to this deal, sometimes our third, fourth and fifth starters were having trouble going deep in games, putting a lot of pressure on our bullpen.
"I think this will help alleviate some of that."
Kelly joins a Red Sox rotation with a much different look than the one that began the season.
Lester, Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront all are gone. Peavy was traded to the San Francisco Giants last Saturday and Doubront was sent to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Only Clay Buchholz, an inconsistent right-hander, remains from the original group.
The 26-year-old Kelly was 5-7 with a 3.53 ERA as a rookie in 2012 and 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA last season.
He's "not a finished product but really talented," Boston general manager Ben Cherington said, "someone our scouts have liked for a long time."
He said Kelly would immediately go into the rotation.
Craig brings more power to a weak-hitting outfield that was bolstered by the acquisition of Cespedes. In the past two seasons, Craig totaled 35 homers and 189 RBIs, hitting .307 in 2012 and .315 in 2013.
The 30-year-old Craig has been in a season-long slump after batting a major league-best .454 with runners in scoring position in 2013. He's gotten days off to help emerge from his slide with little success. He hasn't been the same since missing the last month of regular season with a left mid-foot strain but came back for the World Series, playing some designated hitter and first base.
Kelly and Craig both were hurt running to first, Craig when he landed awkwardly rounding the base and Kelly injuring his hamstring sprinting to beat out a bunt.
"When you think about the success this organization has had over the last three years, Joe Kelly and Allen Craig have been a major part of that," Mozeliak said. "Pulling away from that is never easy."
While the Cardinals make their playoff push, the Red Sox are in last place in the AL East and looking ahead to next season. With the departure of four veteran starters, several of their top prospects should get a long look the rest of the season.
AP Sports Writers R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis and Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 01:12:00 +0000
Stern sees Sterling saga ending well, lauds Silver
NEW YORK -- Former Commissioner David Stern praised the NBA's handling of the Donald Sterling controversy and predicts it will "end well" for the league.
Stern said his successor, Adam Silver, has been "forceful" but also "demonstrated a compassionate side" in his reaction to the racist remarks that were made by the Los Angeles Clippers owner.
"He's done great. He has been forceful, he has been reflective, he has been buttoned-down and I think he has also demonstrated a compassionate side as well," Stern told The Associated Press on Wednesday during a phone interview.
"So I think it's going to end well."
Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life after the recorded comments became public. Sterling's wife, Shelly, later agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, a transaction the league believes will close shortly even as Donald Sterling continues trying to fight in court.
Stern retired after 30 years as commissioner in February. He will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next week.
During his tenure, Shelly and Donald Sterling faced allegations that they discriminated against tenants based on race in Los Angeles according to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Department of Justice in 2006. The Sterlings, who at the time owned and managed about 119 apartment buildings or 5,000 apartments throughout Los Angeles County, agreed to settle the suit for $2.725 million.
Stern has remained an adviser to the league and remained in frequent contact with Silver, who worked under him since 1992. Silver was the commissioner for less than three months when TMZ released audio of Sterling's remarks.
Silver handed out his punishment days later and has navigated the league as it tries to oust Sterling, who owned the Clippers franchise even before Stern became commissioner.
"Adam has been a part of the fabric of every important decision and event for the last 22 years," Stern said. "He knows exactly what to do, he's done mostly everything, and he's continuing his run as being a terrific manager."
Sterling still has lawsuits against Silver and the league, though his best attempt to block the sale may have slipped away when a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the team.
That's a relief to players, some of whom have said they wouldn't want to play if Sterling is still in the league. New Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the response to Sterling would likely be on the list of things she would discuss with the players, whose president, Chris Paul, plays for the Clippers. Interim CEO Dick Parsons testified that coach Doc Rivers said he would not return if Sterling did.
"Coach Rivers and Chris Paul and those guys made their statement in what they would do if he was back as an owner. It's very tough to play for someone like that, that came out with a statement," said Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who is trying to make the U.S. national team.
AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:47:00 +0000
Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive
MIAMI (AP) One of the last things Miami Heat President Pat Riley told LeBron James before free agency began this summer was that he would be selling potential players on the notion of playing alongside a four-time NBA MVP.
And James never made him think otherwise, Riley said - until roughly the same moment that the entire world was made aware of his plan to go home.
Riley made that revelation Wednesday, shortly after the Heat completed the signing of Chris Bosh to a $118 million, five-year contract and essentially wrapped up their roster-rebuilding project for next season, the first of the post-LeBron era in Miami.
The Heat have 12 players locked in for next season, Bosh and Dwyane Wade foremost among them, and Riley expects the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions to compete once again this coming year. But much of his first session offering in-depth remarks about free agency revolved, predictably, about James - the MVP who got away.
"I went into it with the thought and the notion that he was coming back and I was selling that to players," Riley said. "I believed that firmly so I was selling that to players. And that's the only way I went into it. I let him know that. . He never said to me, `No, don't do that."'
Riley, however, noted that he did not feel misled by James during free agency.
James is now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that he left for Miami in 2010, four trips to the NBA Finals and two championships ago. The Heat scrambled quickly to move on to Plan B, locking up Bosh (whose signing was agreed to weeks ago) and Wade before long and avoiding what could have been an absolute disaster otherwise.
Riley said he's become energized by the task of building a champion again.
"We are up to the challenge," Riley said. "We're going to be as competitive as anybody, I think, in the Eastern Conference. I feel great, right now, today, making sure that we got Chris signed, got him under contract, and got D-Wade back and Udonis (Haslem) and the core of our foundation and we'll go from here."
Before he announced his decision, James and his inner circle summoned Riley and Heat general manager Andy Elisburg to Las Vegas for a meeting.
Riley and Elisburg left believing they had done well.
A day later, James was meeting with Sports Illustrated, collaborating on the first-person essay that would come out and announce his decision to return to Cleveland. The Heat were told of the contents of that essay moments before it was released publicly.
"I don't get hurt," Riley said. "This is business. This is all business. As soon as something happens in this business, I had to react, we had to react as an organization, and we did."
Riley said Wednesday that once the Heat learned that James was leaving, it was too late to get involved in the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, who wound up re-signing with the New York Knicks.
Still, it was more than a salvage project. Wade and Bosh are both likely Hall of Fame players. The Heat wound up with some of their top free-agent targets in players like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, both of whom Riley raved about about.
Perhaps most importantly, the Heat not only figure to be good enough to compete now, but have the flexibility financially for Riley to go out in the already-anticipated free-agent summer of 2016 and try to build what he did when he got James, Wade and Bosh to team up.
And instead of blasting James - as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did when he left Cleveland in 2010 - the Heat have taken the high road, with managing general partner Micky Arison writing an open letter to fans this week reminding them that even without James, the franchise's goal of winning more titles hasn't changed.
"We're going to try to make it another generational team," Riley said.
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:24:00 +0000
Indians trade Justin Masterson to Cardinals
CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians had little choice but to give up Justin Masterson. The trade doesn't mean they're going to surrender the season.
"We will never raise the white flag," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "That's not an option. Anybody who stands next to me in the dugout knows that will never happen."
Protecting themselves in case the 29-year-old Masterson left as a free agent after the season, the Indians traded the right-hander on Wednesday to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The trade of Masterson could be followed by other moves by the Indians, who entered Wednesday 6 1-2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central and in a scramble with five other teams for the league's second wild-card spot.
The Indians could also trade shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera before the deadline. Like Masterson, Cabrera is in the final year of his contract and the Indians have shown little interest in re-signing him. Dealing the two-time All-Star could bring a prospect in return.
General manager Chris Antonetti said he's exploring deals to improve the team before Thursday's 4 p.m. trade deadline.
"Our focus is to continue to try to win as many games as we can," he said. "We're currently in the midst of having conversations to bring players in to impact our team at the major league level. Whether or not that happens over the next 24 hours, there are a lot of factors in play and it's hard to handicap that."
Masterson began the season as the Indians' ace. He'll end it with a different team in a different league after a disappointing four months.
"I was surprised," Masterson said. "It's bittersweet. I'm sad to leave the fellas and the fight we're making here in Cleveland, but I'm excited to get to St. Louis and be a part of what they have going there."
In exchange for Masterson, who was scheduled to come off the disabled list later this week, the Indians got outfielder James Ramsey. A first-round pick by the Cardinals (No. 23 overall) in 2012, Ramsey has spent this season at Double-A Springfield, where he batted .300 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs.
Antonetti said Ramsey will be moved up to Triple-A Columbus.
Masterson went 14-10 last season and then turned down an offer of a contract extension in spring training.
"It's an extraordinarily difficult day for us," Antonetti said. "It wasn't an easy decision, but it's one that made sense."
Masterson is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts this season and has had a noticeable loss in velocity. In five starts before being placed on the DL with right knee inflammation, he allowed 19 runs and 27 hits in 18 innings.
Masterson, who hasn't won since June 8, said the impending free agency didn't affect his performance.
"I guess I could try and blame that, but that would be a lie," he said.
The Cardinals are in the race for the NL Central crown, a season after going to the World Series.
"I'm excited," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said before the Cardinals played the Padres in San Diego. "I've watched this guy. Yes, the numbers don't quite look the same as what they looked last year, but we're talking a year ago. Still, good movement, he's able to attack the strike zone. We can see there's a lot of potential here to help us out."
Masterson will join the Cardinals on Friday in St. Louis and is scheduled to start against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
"Let's go. There's no sense waiting around," Matheny said.
Masterson was acquired by the Indians at the trading deadline in 2009 in the deal that sent catcher Victor Martinez to Boston. Before Tuesday's series opener against Seattle, Masterson said he wouldn't be surprised if the Indians made any moves before the trade deadline Thursday.
Masterson had said he was hoping to stay and help them make a playoff push.
Francona was Boston's manager when Masterson was dealt to Cleveland. Masterson went 48-61 with Cleveland.
"The hug was a little longer than normal," Francona said. "We may part teams, but my admiration for him isn't parting."
Joked Masterson: "Tito keeps trading me away. What's up with that?"
AP freelance writer Steve Herrick contributed to this report.
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 02:17:00 +0000