MLB Trades 2014: Grades and Analysis for Latest Deadline Deals

One things is abundantly clear at the 2014 MLB trade deadline: Billy Beane is willing to do whatever it takes.

The Oakland Athletics general manager is all in on a 2014 World Series crown. He's been around the league long enough to know that you can ride a deep pitching staff all the way to a title and is loading up on starting talent, even at the expense of losing a fan favorite.

According to Jane Lee of MLB.com, the A's traded Yoenis Cespedes and a Competitive Balance pick to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and cash.

The Boston Red Sox were also involved in as separate blockbuster, trading starting pitcher John Lackey, minor-league lefty Corey Littrell and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly, per Ian Browne of MLB.com.

Here is a list of grades for the latest deals coming in just under the wire, followed by analysis of the more prominent moves.

 

Analysis

Here is what Oakland has acquired in starting pitching this month. 

Jason Hammel hasn't fared well in Northern California, which might have pressured Beane to go for Lester.

The big trade has to sting a bit for Athletics fans, giving up a delightful all-around player in Cespedes, who routinely amazes with his Howitzer of an arm and heavy bat.

It's a great bit of business for the Red Sox in picking up a right-handed power bat—Cespedes has launched 17 homers this year—to back up David Ortiz in the lineup, especially one that is under contract through the end of 2015.

Cespedes' could also turn quite a few of those off-the-Green Monster doubles into outs—or at least hold some players to singles—with his strong arm in left field.

ESPN's Buster Olney did wonder what the trade meant for one budding Red Sox star:

Boston gets the better rating, due to the fact that Lester could very easily return to the team if the A's utilize him purely as a rental. Lester has expressed a desire to play in Boston, despite the contract impasse.

"Yeah, why not?'' Lester said earlier in July, via Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. "I mean, this is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said many times, this is where I want to be. If they trade me, I completely understand."

Oakland did pretty well to mitigate the damage by picking up Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld in separate trades; both players have played for the Athletics in the past. However, the piecemeal approach and their combined age (65) means Beane will have to unearth promising outfield talent over the next couple of seasons.

Tommy Milone should be quite happy with his move, as he will have plenty of opportunity to work his way into a prominent role in the Minnesota Twins organization after being relegated to Triple-A status in Oakland, a minor casualty of the pitching trades made by Beane.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick liked the pickup for the Twins:

The Red Sox deserve further kudos for nabbing plenty of talent in giving up Lackey, a 35-year-old righty currently sporting a 3.60 ERA.

Allen Craig is a fine hitter mired in essentially a season-long slump; he's batting .237 but hit over .300 in the three seasons prior to this one.

Joe Kelly is just 26 years old and, although he is having a down year, could very easily revitalize his play in Boston and return to the form that propelled him to a 10-5 record with a 2.65 ERA in 2013.

That's not to say this is a trade the Cardinals shouldn't have made. They have their own championship aspirations after finishing as runners-up last season, and the recently-acquired Justin Masterson is no sure success story.

Lackey can help eat innings and save a tiring Cardinals bullpen; he's thrown seven or more innings in 10 starts this season. 

It's interesting to see the Athletics and Red Sox in something of a role reversal at this deadline. The low-budget Athletics are making moves with a short-term impact and an eye for winning now.

Many small-market teams don't have the luxury of a crafty general manager like Beane. The astronomical plus-162 run differential also puts considerable pressure on this team to live up to its historically great numbers.

Meanwhile the Red Sox, less than one season removed from winning 97 games and the World Series, are the ones busy selling off players and looking toward a crop of young talent and minor leaguers to reboot. 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the historic nature of the fire sale:

Beantown can and will bounce back—likely sooner rather than later—with the big budget, winning tradition and talented farm system.

Beane will be hard-pressed to assemble a roster like the one he has this season, especially with Josh Donaldson's looming expiring contract. It's World Series or bust in Oakland.

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David Price Shouldn’t Be Moved by Rays at MLB Trade Deadline

There may come a time when cutting ties with David Price would make the most sense for the Tampa Bay Rays. Heck, that time very likely will be this offseason, with Price primed to earn the big bucks.

But the moment to say goodbye to their ace is not before the MLB trade deadline. 

There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that the Rays are still very much in the postseason hunt. Yes, at 53-55, they are still eight games back in the AL East, but they are just 5.5 games back in the wild-card chase. 

More importantly, they're red hot. They've now won 11 of their last 13 games, and we've all witnessed September magic from this team before.

Just ask the 2011 Boston Red Sox

Plus, Price can't become a free agent until after the 2015 season, though it seems unlikely arbitration would go well for the Rays this winter. And Price will probably want more than the one-year, $14-million deal he signed this past season. 

But the fact that they can deal Price in the offseason—and yes, MLB teams would still be quite interested in dealing for him—means the Rays can afford to make a run at the postseason with Price this year and deal him in the winter. 

Losing Price would likely kill their postseason hopes. Price is once again one of the best pitchers in the American League, with a 11-8 record, 3.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 189 strikeouts in 170.2 innings pitched. Throwing in the towel right now simply doesn't make sense. 

But just because the Rays shouldn't trade Price doesn't mean they won't. Joel Sherman of the New York Post is hearing the ace, indeed, will be dealt:

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1 adds another team to the mix:

And Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has more:

Meanwhile, coming into the day, Jayson Stark of ESPN heard from several executives about how the Rays would approach the Price situation:

Not that the asking price had come down. That part hasn't appeared to change appreciably since Wednesday, when another exec said the return would have to be a package so loaded that 'they couldn't say no.'

An American League executive described the Rays' approach this way: 'They know what they want to do,' he said at one point. 'If they get what they want, they'll do it in a heartbeat," he said at another point. "They want to do a deal, but they're not going to do it under value,' he said at a third juncture.

Give Price this—he's had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. 

By the end of the trade deadline, we'll certainly know how the Rays view the rest of this season. If he's dealt, the team is throwing in the towel and building toward next year. If he isn't moved, however, the team has decided to make a push for the postseason. 

It's a big decision, and even if the Rays want to keep him, they may receive an offer they simply can't refuse. More than likely he'll be dealt, but the Rays would be wise to keep him barring an absolutely huge return.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest News on Potential Joaquin Benoit Deals and More

The trade deadline is upon us, and the rumors are coming in hot and heavy. Some deals have already completed Thursday and more should be on the way.

Here's three of the hottest stories to follow with a special concentration on the San Diego Padres.

 

Joaquin Benoit Possibly on the Move

With John Lackey already dealt from the Boston Red Sox to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, per Peter Gammons of the MLB Network, the Los Angeles Dodgers have apparently set their sights on bolstering their bullpen.

Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Dodgers have their eye on San Diego's 37-year-old reliever, Joaquin Benoit. The veteran's contract situation is manageable.

Benoit isn't an unrestricted free agent until 2017. He's owed $2 million this season and $8 million for next year, but there is a club option for 2016.

In 42 appearances this season, Benoit has amassed a sparkling 1.88 ERA and an 0.84 WHIP. He's also averaging 9.81 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His presence could help solidify the Dodgers bullpen, which has been one of the few problematic areas for the team.

Los Angeles currently ranks just 21st in the major leagues in bullpen ERA and 17th in batting average against for its relievers. Brian Wilson, Pat Maholm and Chris Perez have all struggled to ERAs well over 4.50.

Grouped with J.P. Howell and Brandon League, Benoit could give the Dodgers a third dependable setup man to get the ball to the team's closer, Kenley Jansen. 

After spending his first eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, Benoit has been well travelled. The Dodgers—or any other team Benoit is traded to—would be his fourth club since 2010. 

 

Chris Denorfia Getting Attention from Mariners and Braves

The Seattle Mariners are apparently still interested in Rangers outfielder Alex Rios, but if they don't complete a trade for the coveted veteran, then Chris Denorfia appears to be the backup plan.

Per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Mariners wouldn't be alone in their pursuit of the Padres' 34-year-old veteran outfielder.

Denorfia would be a definite downgrade from Rios for the Mariners as it pertains to offense, but he could provide excellent defense. Though he's hitting just .242 with one home run this season, Denorfia has committed just one error in 94 games.

He can play every outfield position. Because of his versatility, he could find some at-bats with the Mariners' light-hitting outfield group.

In Atlanta, Denorfia's at-bats wouldn't be as plentiful playing behind the Upton brothers, Justin and B.J., as well as right fielder Jason Heyward, who is dealing with a bad back, but should be fine, per MLB.com's Mark Bowman.

Still, Denorfia's could be a late-inning defensive replacement, a pinch runner or a valuable veteran clubhouse presence. His current manager had nothing but good things to say about him at the end of last season.

Per Corey Brock of MLB.com, manager Bud Black said:

When you say heart and hustle, there are a couple guys that come to mind, but Deno is right there with them. Every day that he comes to the ballpark, he comes in fresh. ... People around the league -- other managers, coaches, players -- have a great deal of respect for Deno.

Those words appear to be ringing true as at least two teams vie for Denorfia's services to close the 2014 season.

Denorfia is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, so the team that lands him could be renting him for only the stretch run.

 

Andrew Miller Drawing Interest from Multiple Teams

Boston Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller is on the wish list of almost every team in the market for a proven left-handed reliever, per Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet

The 29-year-old has been solid and consistent this season, especially in the last two months. In June and July, Miller allowed just two earned runs in each month. He also struck out 16 batters in both months, as well.

His ERA for the season is 2.34 in 42.1 innings, and his WHIP is just 0.90.

The Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates would do well to acquire a specialist in the midst of such a strong season for the stretch run. Miller has spent the last 3.5 seasons with Boston and has really come into his own since 2012.

He is a free agent at the end of the season and could return to Boston during the offseason. Per Rob Bradford of WEEI 93.7 in Boston, Miller wouldn't close the door on a potential return to Beantown.

He said:

I completely understand the way the game works. It’s not a grudge. I’ve loved my time here and I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to an end in the next couple of days, but if it does it won’t spoil it for me. If it does I’m certainly not going to burn a bridge on the way out of town. There’s value to us for both of us, so by no means will I close out that angle.

The Red Sox would do well to keep in touch.

 

All stat references per Baseball-Reference.com.

All contract information per Spotrac.

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Boston Red Sox Will Come out on Top in Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes Trade

The Red Sox wisely dealt Jon Lester Thursday morning in a trade that positions them better for the future.

Not three years down the road but next year.

Boston acquired Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for Lester and Jonny Gomes. The Red Sox also received a competitive balance pick, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.

Lester will be nothing more than a rental for the Athletics, who cannot afford to compete for the free-agent-to-be in the open market. On the other hand, Cespedes is under contract through 2015, and Lester has said he wants to return to Boston.

As the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham noted, Boston's offseason pursuit of Lester could be fruitless. Suitors will not need to forfeit a draft pick if they sign Lester, as a result of Thursday's trade.

But Boston still has as good a chance as anyone to re-sign its former ace—maybe an even better chance.

“Money doesn’t buy you happiness. There’s some guys, that drives them. That’s great,” Lester told WEEI.com's Alex Speier on Sunday. “For me, I want to be happy. I want to be comfortable. I want to be in a place that wants me and appreciates what I do.”

If Lester stays true to those words, Boston could re-sign the southpaw, who is having the best season of his career. His 2.62 FIP, 3.03 xFIP, 2.01 walks per nine innings and 1.12 WHIP are all career-bests. 

Even if Lester accepts a lucrative contract in Los Angeles, New York or some other big market this offseason, Boston will have received more than it would have by keeping Lester. Cespedes is under contract next year and the Red Sox received a draft pick, albeit a slightly worse pick than they would have gotten if Lester left them for another team in free agency.

Boston's lineup has been impotent, with the exception of David Ortiz. The offense ranks 20th in the majors with a 10.3 WAR, 17th with a .309 wOBA and 21st with 91 wRC+, as per Fangraphs.

Cespedes has accounted for 2.3 wins above replacement. His .332 wOBA isn't great but it's better than Boston's collective clip, and he has produced 113 wRC+.

Of course, by dealing Lester and John Lackey, Boston waved the white flag for 2014. Cespedes cannot transform the Red Sox into a playoff team this year. Nor can Allen Craig and Joe Kelly—the two returns for Lackey from St. Louis, as reported by Peter Gammons.

The Athletics, meanwhile, will be a popular pick to win the World Series this fall.

This trade is also great for them. They won't be able to pay Cespedes in free agency, and he's not as snug of a fit in their system as Billy Beane had initially hoped.

Lester strengthens their chances of avoiding the Wild Card game, and has excelled in the postseason—especially the World Series—throughout his career.

But Boston has to be thrilled with the return.

Cespedes and Ortiz will give the Red Sox a formidable heart of the order next year. Craig's well-documented struggles in 2014 were preceded by three years of success at the dish. His .281 BABIP in contrast to his career .330 BABIP indicates a resurgence could be around the corner. And Joe Kelly's 3.72 xFIP suggests he has actually been better than last year, when he broke through with a 10-5 record and 2.69 ERA but 4.19 xFIP, as per Fangraphs.

And then there's always the chance Lester re-signs with the Red Sox.

Based on his comments, Lester seems rather intent on returning to Boston. If that happens this offseason, Boston walks away from this deal as a prescient, unequivocal winner.

All statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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Boston Red Sox: Breaking Down the Trade of Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics

The time has come when we can put away all speculation about the rumors surrounding what will happen with the Boston Red Sox's former No. 1 ace Jon Lester.

No longer will we have to ask ourselves whether or not he'll receive an extension. No longer will we have to ask ourselves whether or not general manager Ben Cherington would deal him. 

We now know the answer.

The Boston Red Sox have sent Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick in the 2015 draft.

News of the deal was first confirmed by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who made the announcement early on July 31.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can easily see how this transaction was inevitable. But how did it get to this point? What were the various factors that convinced Cherington and the Red Sox's front office to make such a blockbuster deal?

More importantly, what does this mean for Boston moving forward? 

The Red Sox have already traded one of their starting pitchers—Felix Doubront—to the Chicago Cubs, and there also remained a very good chance that veteran starter John Lackey would be on his way out via a trade, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (h/t CBS Local).

That respective move eventually transpired per Heyman (h/t Mike Axisa of CBS Sports). The Red Sox moved Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Talk about shaking up a starting rotation.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this blockbuster move, let's try to figure out what led to this situation happening.

 

The Context

Lester was entering the final year of a five-year, $30 million contract in 2014. In the wake of his performance during Boston's 2013 World Series title run, there was plenty of talk surrounding whether or not the Red Sox would grant him an extension.

There were some discussions in this direction, but according to Rosenthal, Boston's offer was far less than what Lester was seeking. He wrote back in April:

The Red Sox's most recent offer to Lester was far below market value -- four years for between $70 million and $80 million, according to sources within the team'€™s clubhouse. 

Lester, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, rejected the offer and will not resume negotiations with the club until the offseason, the sources said.

Lester had stated multiple times that he wanted to remain in Boston—an aspect he reiterated strongly before the 2014 season via Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.

But the two sides remained far apart and with the Red Sox's season floundering, one had to wonder whether or not Lester's immediate future with the team was in doubt.

Approaching the July 31 deadline, talks heated up with a number of teams speculated to be in the mix for Lester's services.

Then came the news that Lester would be scratched from his regularly scheduled start on July 30.

This action was perhaps the biggest indication yet that Lester would be on the move.

As it turned out, we just had to wait one more day.

 

 

The Numbers

As stated above, the Red Sox will receive Cespedes and a 2015 competitive draft pick from the Athletics.

In exchange, the A's add Lester to their starting rotation along with platooning outfielder Jonny Gomes and with cash.

Lester currently owns a 10-7 record on the year with a 2.52 ERA—on pace to be the lowest in his nine-year career. Lester will be added to a star-studded Athletics rotation that already includes All-Stars Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, along with the promising Sonny Gray, per Edes. 

This move, along with some of their other transactions, puts the A's in an position to remain a favorite playoff contender, perhaps finally being able to push beyond teams like the Detroit Tigers in the postseason—something they have been unable to do in the last two seasons.

But the A's paid a lofty price for Lester, sending away the back-to-back Home Run Derby champion in exchange.

Cespedes had been batting .256 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs before the trade. This is only his third year in the majors, and there are plenty of reasons to speculate that the 28-year-old has plenty of good years ahead of him.

From the A's perspective, losing Cespedes is a tough pill to swallow. But Cespedes was due to make $10.5 million in 2015—the final season of his four-year, $36 million contract. 

For the mid-market Athletics, whose net payroll is just above $91 million, sending away Cespedes makes sense from a contractual standpoint. Simply put, Boston can afford Cespedes in 2015. The A's cannot.

 

Gomes is due just over $1.5 million in the final year of his two-year contract. He was batting .234 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 209 at-bats.

Now we can assuredly speculate that Oakland is not planning on re-signing Lester to a lengthy contract extension. It is hard to fathom them having the money to execute such a deal. Thus, Lester fits the mold of a pure two-month rental to help propel the Athletics into—and perhaps through—the postseason.

 

Benefit for the Red Sox

Is there any? Is this the deal that Red Sox fans wanted to see happen?

This author will go ahead and let the backlash play itself out. From a public-relations standpoint, dealing Lester will probably come with plenty of negative implications in coming months, but at least we can start shifting our focus to the future and putting this abysmal 2014 season to rest.

In short, Boston is in desperate need of outfield help. Prior to the trade, Boston's crop of outfielders was batting a combined .244 with an OPS of .656.

Anyone who has followed the Red Sox over the course of this season can tell you of the problems this unit has endured. There have been injuries, underwhelming performances and the like.

Cespedes does fill an immediate need and provides an upgrade at the corner outfield positions. The Red Sox don't have a lot of soon-to-debut prospects in their minor league system to supplement this need, so dealing for Cespedes does help considerably.

We should also consider the numbers Cespedes has put up at Fenway Park, though, it is only a small sample size. In six games and a mere 24 at-bats, Cespedes is hitting only .250 in Boston, but three of his six total hits there have been doubles.

More importantly, we can take into consideration the lofty confines of Fenway in comparison to the relative pitcher-friendly aspects to Oakland's O.co Coliseum.

Thus, it would be a safe bet to assume Cespedes' numbers will increase at Fenway during his stay.

Additionally, the Red Sox can afford the $10-plus million owed to him in 2015. The short-term deal fits right in line with what Cherington likes to do from a contractual perspective. If Cespedes does not work out, the Red Sox are not tied to him for the long run. 

 

Boston's Future

As stated, there may be plenty of implications surrounding this trade, some of which may last for a while. Who knows what the eventual impacts will be upon Lester's former teammates—guys like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, both of whom have stated they wanted Lester to stay, per Ricky Doyle of NESN.com.

But the business of baseball remains, and those implications will have to play out.

More importantly however, we should take a look at what the immediate ramifications will be upon the Red Sox's pitching staff. The team has already dealt Doubront, and with Lester now on the move—and possibly Lackey as well—how will Boston's starting rotation look moving forward?

It isn't that far off that we may see veteran righty Clay Buchholz as the only remaining starter from Boston's 2013 championship squad. Considering his 5.87 ERA this season, that is a scary thought.

But the Red Sox do have some other immediate options to fill the void. Both Brandon Workman and Allen Webster have major league experience, and Workman filled in for Lester on July 30. Rubby De La Rosa is also a likely candidate to earn some starts.

The Red Sox may also want to see what they have with the recently acquired Kelly regarding the future of their rotation.

However, the major focus will be on what transpires with the Red Sox's rotation next season.

Yes, the Red Sox have a solid group of prospective starters working their way up through the farm system. Guys like Workman, Webster, Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo could very well factor into the equation within the next year.

We also cannot overlook the possibility that Lester returns to Boston during the offseason. As stated, it is hard to think the Athletics will re-sign Lester considering his likely contractual demands. The Red Sox could afford bringing him back.

Of course, there are plenty of other teams that will be seeking his services as well. It may ultimately be up to Lester to decide what the best situation is for him after the 2014 season. Boston could be a favorite landing spot, inciting a reunion of sorts hopefully without any attached hard feelings.

But anything beyond that remains pure speculation at this point.

 

Conclusion

This was a blockbuster deal. There isn't any way to get around it. 

Boston sends away its No. 1 ace—a fan favorite and one who has cemented his legacy with the Red Sox already.

Obviously the A's are in much better position to contend for an American League championship. Boston's outfield has immediately been upgraded, too. They needed that help in desperate fashion.

But it is going to be hard to swallow what has just happened. No matter how one views the trade, the short- and long-term ramifications of this deal remain undetermined. 

With the Red Sox now entirely focused on 2015 and beyond, one can only wonder what happens from here.

 

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contractual information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive for Red Sox news, insight and analysis. Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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Deal Of The Day: 91% Off On Pure Python Hacker Bundle

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 1.09.20 PM

Learning how to code is an invaluable skill. Fortunately, with deals like the one you’re looking at today, you can do so without breaking the bank. In this case, today’s Pure Python Hacker Bundle includes 7 courses and over 52 hours of content that should do a pretty decent job at teaching you Python. From a beginner’s level, to more advanced lessons, today’s deal gives you $553 worth of classes for $49. That’s 91% in savings, and you can access these courses anytime, on any device, for an unlimited period. If you’ve been even so much as playfully thinking about teaching yourself how to code, now’s the time.

[ 91% Off On Pure Python Hacker Bundle ]

The post Deal Of The Day: 91% Off On Pure Python Hacker Bundle appeared first on OhGizmo!.

OhGizmo! Review: The OGIO No Drag Mach 3 Motorcycling Backpack

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Riding around town on two wheels is an amazing experience, but it’s also one that inevitably causes you to compromise on many fronts. There’s no storage space on a motorcycle if you don’t have saddle bags, for instance, yet you might still want to bring stuff with you on your rides. Regular backpacks flop around in the wind at higher speeds and tend to become annoying after a while. We were looking for something designed specifically for riding; after some research, we settled on the above. We’ve spent the last few weeks testing the OGIO No Drag Mach 3 Backpack, and we’d like to spend the next few lines telling you about it. If you’re not in the mood for reading, out here we can tell you this much: it’s fantastic and well worth the money.

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The Hardware
The OGIO No Drag Mach 3 backpack’s exterior is made from a single shot molded shell that’s mostly waterproof. It’s semi rigid, so you do end up looking somewhat like a turtle. However, it’s a cool look and ends up being distinctive rather than ugly or distracting. It also does mean that the bag keeps its shape under the pressure of the wind, which is exactly the point of designing it that way.

smIMG_65468
The Mach 3 opens up from the inside, from the part that touches your back, to reveal a very spacious interior lined in a high-visibility red fabric. This rear panel swivels forward, but not all the way, which prevents objects you might’ve stashed in the pockets to fall out. It is itself covered in a ton of compartments designed to hold a variety of things, from pens, to laptops, to pretty much anything you’d want to carry. There are zippered compartments, unzippered compartments, and compartments with holding straps.

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On the sides, still on the inside, are two dedicated shoe storage compartments, which stops your shoes from moving around and getting your clothes dirty. And on the top part of the bag, accessible from the outside, is a fleece-lined zippered pocket made specifically to hold electronics, or glasses, or anything else that could get easily scratched.

Fleece-lined zippered pocket

Fleece-lined zippered pocket


On the exterior, you have some high quality shoulder straps, padded and comfortable, one side of which features a quick-release clasp. If you ride with a jacket (as you should), this is a very appreciated feature. There’s also a sternum strap that prevents the shoulder straps from sliding off, as well as a waist strap to keep the bag glued to your back. The final strap is a Nubuck-lined “helmet leash” which lets you carry your noggin-saver around with ease.

Helmet leash

Helmet leash


Interestingly, on the outside of the opening panel, touching your back, are two foam pads designed to create an air gap and increase ventilation. That’s a nice touch.

Rounding out the features is a hydration hole that makes it super simple to route a straw from a container kept on the inside, straight to your mouth. Going on long rides in the hot summer sun makes this a highly desirable capability.

Quick-release shoulder strap

Quick-release shoulder strap


The Performance
All the features in the world mean nothing if it’s not comfortable, or if there are glaring flaws. We’d like to say that we haven’t found anything to really complain about. It’s super comfy. There’s just something about the shape and positioning of the straps that makes it conform to your shoulders and back perfectly. It never pulls or tugs when riding at higher speeds. It’s super spacious and ingeniously designed. If we had to find something to criticize, we would have to say that the irregular and angular shape of the interior does make it harder to stash certain things without wasting space, like little boxes. It’s also hard to set down vertically on any surface since the bottom part is also angled.

Interior with Coke can for scale

Interior with Coke can for scale


But overall, the quality of the materials and the stitching is top notch. It’s a solid bag designed with ergonomics in mind, and all the little details OGIO thought of incorporating show that they kept a rider’s needs at the forefront. While its distinctive styling would suggest that this is a bag that favours form over function, we’re happy to report that it’s actually quite the opposite. The Mach 3′s style is clearly a result of OGIO’s designers looking for, and finding, an optimal solution to all of a rider’s carrying needs.

PROS
+ Semi-rigid outer shell doesn’t deform in the wind
+ Multiple pockets and compartments accommodate a number of objects
+ Spacious interior lined in a high-visibility red fabric
+ Quick release strap
+ Helmet leash
+ Dedicated shoe holders

CONS
- Irregular shape makes it hard to set down vertically
- Irregular shape makes it hard to carry squarer boxes without wasting space

PRICE
MSRP: $139

[ OGIO No Drag Mach 3 Backpack ]

smIMG_655714 Interior with Coke can for scale smIMG_655412 smIMG_655011 smIMG_654910 Fleece-lined zippered pocket Helmet leash smIMG_65426 smIMG_65437 smIMG_65468 Quick-release shoulder strap smIMG_65382 smIMG_65371

The post OhGizmo! Review: The OGIO No Drag Mach 3 Motorcycling Backpack appeared first on OhGizmo!.

This’ll Scare the Crap Out of You: Horror Story Toilet Paper

Horror Story Toilet Paper

Done reading all of the books and comics you’ve stashed in the bathroom? Then here’s one bathroom reader that might just literally scare the crap out of you: the Horror Story toilet paper roll. Sorry if that was a bit too graphic for you, but I just couldn’t resist. This is basically a roll of toilet paper with a scarier-than-though story printed on it.

The horrific tales are penned by Koji Suzuki, who’s known for writing the “Ring” and “Spiral” series. They’re sold in sets of three, with each one featuring a different story.

They’re available online for £9.99 (or about $17.)

[ Product Page ] VIA [ TIWIB ]

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John Lackey to Cardinals: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The St. Louis Cardinals have bolstered their starting pitching depth ahead of the MLB trade deadline, acquiring veteran right-hander John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman was the first to report the deal, with the Cards announcing the full details later:

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk noted that the Cardinals' risk in the deal was probably the safer bet: 

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com describes the locker room:

FOX 2 Sports Director Martin Kilcoyne reports how Craig and Kelly found out about the deal:

After missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Lackey has revived his career the past two years. He became one of Boston's most reliable starters during that span, providing quality depth for a rotation that lacked consistency at times.

Lackey will be paid just $500,000 in 2015, as the Tommy John surgery triggered a clause in his contract that will pay him that sum. Of course, that is a huge discount, considering his salary for 2014 is $15.25 million.

Thirty-year-old Allen Craig will join Yoenis Cespedes, whom the Red Sox also acquired Thursday in exchange for Jon Lester, in a much-improved outfield in Boston. While he's batting .237 this season, Craig is an experienced veteran presence who can contribute immediately.

Joe Kelly, 26, is far from a direct Lackey replacement, though Boston will be hoping he can remain healthy and maximize his potential. Kelly has battled a hamstring injury and spent time on the disabled list this season.

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com indicates, the need for more pitching isn't entirely fulfilled by Kelly's addition:

Prior to dealing Lackey, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino had considered approaching the righty with an extension, via Conor Ryan of WEEI 93.7 FM:

I think that there will be some contract negotiations with him probably at the end of the year as well and we'll see what his frame of mind is with respect to longer-term contracts. … We will explore how we can keep John Lackey as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

That makes the trade a bit of a surprising move.

Of course, nothing should be too shocking considering the futility of the Sox this season. Boston has not seen the same success it did last season, when it won the World Series, and the team currently sits well outside the playoff picture. Given that, selling off assets is a good strategy for general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of the front office.

St. Louis has improved immensely as a result of the deal. With much more depth in the rotation, the Cardinals are geared up for a strong run in the NL Central against the Brewers and Pirates, who sit ahead of them in the standings. Furthermore, they get the veteran Lackey at a major discount in 2015.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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Grading the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes Blockbuster Trade for Both Teams

The MLB trade deadline is only hours away, and the first blockbuster deal of this season has been agreed upon.

As first reported by Alex Speier of WEEI 93.7 FM in Boston, and later confirmed by CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (via CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa), the Oakland Athletics have traded Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for starting pitcher Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes and cash considerations. Who do you think got the better deal? What grades would you give to each team?

Watch as B/R's Lead MLB Columnist Scott Miller grades the trade for both teams involved.

 

All stats accurate as of July 30, 2014.

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Jon Lester’s Postseason Pedigree Makes Oakland A’s New October Favorite

Warning: Justin Verlander’s read may be different, but call the Jon Lester-turbocharged Oakland A’s the Kings of the Hill.

They’ve got pitching for Game 1. They’ve got pitching for Game 2. Heck, with Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Jason Hammel and an absolutely killer bullpen, they’ve got pitching for Games 8, 9, 10 and 11, too.

Whatever October throws at them, the A’s now have the arms to throw back. And then some.

But before we flip that calendar to October and shop for the Halloween candy, let’s back up.

Without question, the A’s now take their place as heavy favorites to reach their first World Series since 1990 and win their first World Series since 1989.

It's cute the way Verlander said after the Samardzija trade that the A’s clearly had the Tigers in mind for October target practice.

But before Bob Melvin and his Cracker Jack staff of coaches even begin poring over the advance scouting reports for the postseason, take a look a few hundred miles to the south. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Los Angeles Angels of We’re Back in Business own the second-best record in the major leagues. The Angels are breathing so close to Oakland right now that the A’s can tell you if Mike Trout had grilled onions for lunch.

First thing the A’s must do, in a hot summer that looks an awful lot like 2002 (another Billy Beane October scar), is step on the Angels’ necks. And in obtaining a left-hander at the top of his game with oodles of October cred, their chances of doing that are better than ever.

Lester is 30 and arrives in the Land of Catfish Hunter and Joe Rudi with a 2.52 ERA despite threading his way through those AL East Murderers’ Row lineups in Baltimore and Toronto. He is a three-time All-Star who has grown into a true ace with the help of Red Sox manager (and former pitching coach) John Farrell and current Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves.

And, oh yeah, Lester owns the lowest ERA in World Series history among pitchers with 20 or more innings at 0.43, according to ESPN Stats & Info. For you historians in the crowd, that ranks just ahead of the immortal Harry “The Cat” Brecheen (0.67), Claude Osteen (0.86) and another former Red Sox lefty, Babe Ruth (0.87).

Do not underestimate that part of this deal: As high as the ceiling is for Samardzija and Gray, they do not have World Series experience. Lester not only has it, but he’s also bathed in it, moisturized with it and spritzed it on his wrists to keep the pleasant odor with him.

No question, dealing Cespedes was, and will be, painful. Every day Melvin wrote that guy’s name into his lineup, instant lightning was capable of crackling in Oakland’s lineup at any given moment. And Cespedes in Fenway Park—wow. Even the Green Monster was said to be ducking Thursday morning.

Re-acquiring Jonny Gomes, a beloved clubhouse figure in his past Oakland incarnation with a dangerous bat, will help. So will the Sam Fuld deal with Minnesota (h/t Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com).

But this game always has been about pitching, and October always has been about pitching, times two. Gray was gutty in a highly memorable Game 5 performance in the division series last fall against Detroit at the Coliseum, but Verlander was better.

And even yesterday’s blockbuster can become tomorrow’s ho-hummer. Buzz-worthy as the Cubs deal was, and as much as Samardzija looks like he’ll be able to help, Hammel, in his four starts in Oakland, is 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA. Yikes.

So the final curtain falls way prematurely on Cespedes, a proposition that you can bet kept Beane up the past several nights, pacing around in his flip-flops, but surely no more than the nightmares of exiting so many Octobers in the past decade.

How many times did the A’s have to take it on the chops at the hands of Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and every other stinking Tigers pitcher short of Denny McLain before they said screw it and built a rotation to steamroll old memories?

The A’s lost to the Tigers in the division series in ’13 and ’12. They were bounced from the AL Championship Series by Kenny Rogers, Verlander and their Tigers pals in ’06. They were squashed in the division series in ’03 (Red Sox), ’02 (Twins), ’01 (Yankees) and ’00 (Yankees).

It was in the raw emotion following that ’01 elimination that Beane uttered the tagline that has continued to stick with him all of these years: that you can plan and plan, but in the end, the postseason still is little more than a “crapshoot.”

To a large degree, Beane is right about that, just as he’s right about most things. But in acquiring Lester, a man who already owns two World Series rings (’07 and ’13), and Samardzija, Beane has done everything in his power to lessen those odds.

Now, about the only possible insurance left for these A’s to pick up is a player heady enough to make a miraculous, come-from-nowhere flip play to obtain a key October out at the plate. You know, just in case.

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Red Sox Pull off Surprising Coup in Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespedes Blockbuster

The inevitable happened Thursday morning, as the Boston Red Sox traded left-hander Jon Lester, a free-agent-to-be who was expected to test the open market after the two sides failed for months to reach an agreement in contract-extension talks. Turns out, that actually worked out pretty well for the Red Sox.

In exchange for what amounts to a rental of Lester and outfielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes for two months plus the postseason, Boston landed slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 draft pick in the competitive-balance round.

That, folks, is a surprising coup for the Red Sox under the circumstances.

Not only do they get a major piece to help them start their 2015 turnaround in the 28-year-old Cespedes, an in-his-prime bat whose power will play up away from O.co Coliseum and at Fenway Park, but the club also gets a valuable early selection next year to use toward restocking its still-formidable farm system.

Beyond all that, there's this: The Red Sox simply could re-sign Lester this offseason if they so choose. After all, there's likely no way the small-market Athletics can afford to retain him.

Plus, when the trade-then-sign scenario was proposed to him, the 29-year-old southpaw recently told Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston: "Yeah, why not? I mean, this is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said many times, this is where I want to be. If they trade me, I completely understand."

Does that mean Lester will, in fact, be a member of the 2015 Red Sox? No. But considering Cespedes is clearly a play for 2015—after which he can become a free agent since he signed a four-year deal with Oakland in 2012—this is a pretty good indication that Boston is aiming to come back in a big way after a disappointing 2014.

Whether that means going big to bring back Lester or bring in another major piece via free agency, Boston general manager Ben Cherington now has more freedom to decide from multiple options that will be available.

As for the A's side of things, this is their second all-in-for-2014 move following their trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for top prospect Addison Russell and others in early July. Perhaps, though, Hammel's failings since the swap—he's 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA!—was the impetus behind targeting Lester.

What makes this deal questionable, however, is that Oakland would give up a player in Cespedes who is helping the team so much in its title quest this season. Cespedes' 62 runs, 17 homers and 67 RBI are a big reason why the A's have been the highest-scoring club to date.

Gomes hits from the right side, like Cespedes, but he's strictly a complementary piece who's having a down season (his .309 wOBA is below the .312 MLB average) and not the impact player Cespedes can be and has been.

The numbers certainly indicate the A's are a far better team with Cespedes in the lineup:

Plus, Lester is now ineligible to receive a qualifying offer at the end of the season now that he's been traded, which means Oakland risks having nothing to show for this deal unless they actually do win it all.

Speaking of teams leading the majors in runs, after the Red Sox did so last season—and by a rather wide margin—their offense has been one of the worst in the sport this year.

With Cespedes in tow to join David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and some of their young bats who have disappointed but still have major upside, like Xander Bogaerts, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Sox get back to bashing baseballs in 2015.

What is surprising, however, is the impressive return the Red Sox managed to get for a few short months' worth of Jon Lester.

 

Statistics are accurate through July 30 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Rumors and Predictions for Last-Minute Deals

MLB franchises looking to make deals only have a matter of hours left to do so, as the trade deadline comes at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, and a flurry of activity should be expected.

The day began with a blockbuster trade between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics that sent Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes out west in exchange for slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Due to the ongoing rumors continuing to surface around the web, more league-altering deals could certainly ensue. Based on recent gossip, let's go ahead and predict the fates of a few big names currently rumored to be on the block.

 

John Lackey

The Red Sox may not be done for the day, as talk of a potential trade involving right-handed pitcher John Lackey has recently surfaced.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, several teams are interested in the starter:

It may seem as though Boston wouldn't be willing to trade Lackey after dealing Lester on Thursday; however, that may not be the case, according to an earlier tweet from Rosenthal:

So, even though a deal for Lester has already been finalized, the team was apparently willing to trade both pitchers as of Wednesday. With the interest around Lackey still high, expect the team to make another move.

According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the Marlins may be looking elsewhere for a pitcher:

Lackey makes plenty of sense for Cleveland after the team dealt Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Expect the Indians to be the team that makes something happen here.

Prediction: Traded to Cleveland

 

Asdrubal Cabrera

There's plenty of interest in Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. According to Rosenthal, at least four teams have already inquired about a possible trade:

Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted on Tuesday that Cleveland was ready to move Cabrera:

The Washington Nationals could be an interesting trade partner here. The team is currently searching for a reliable bat after the Ryan Zimmerman hamstring injury, and acquiring Cabrera's services would certainly go a long way for the team to maintain its slim lead atop the NL East.

Rosenthal confirmed the team's interest:

Even though there doesn't seem to be an imminent deal in place, both of these teams appear more than willing to get something done.

Prediction: Traded to Washington

 

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon may be 41 years of age; however, he's not pitching like it. He's been solid in 21 appearances this season, holding a 10-8 record with a 3.88 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Needless to say, he's garnered plenty of interest.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the Baltimore Orioles inquired about the pitcher. He writes, "The Orioles are a team that has checked in on Bartolo Colon, but the Mets don't seem to have decided whether to trade him."

The New York Mets have been rather inconsistent in their thoughts of trading the pitcher. Earlier in July, it was reported the team would be willing to eat part of Colon's contract in an effort to move him:

Well, that appears to have changed, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted the team's recent thoughts:

If the Mets aren't exactly big on moving Colon at this point, the team would have to receive a very favorable offer for the aging pitcher. While there's some interest in him, that just doesn't seem plausible.

Prediction: Not traded

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Tommy Milone to Twins: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reactions

The Minnesota Twins have acquired left-handed starter Tommy Milone from the pitching-rich Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Sam Fuld.   

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports broke the news that an agreement had been reached:

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN provided the additional details:

The Athletics then confirmed the swap:

Peter Gammons provided a synopsis of A's general manager Billy Beane discussing the acquisition of Fuld on MLB Network, courtesy of Rosenthal:

 It's a unique deal. Fuld signed with the Athletics during the winter but was designated for assignment after just seven games. The Twins claimed him off waivers, and he made 53 appearances for the team before being shipped back out west.

Milone was having a solid season in Oakland with a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts. He got caught on the wrong side of a numbers game, however, as the addition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel left him without a spot in the starting rotation.

The Athletics proceeded to send him to the minor leagues, an arrangement he was unsurprisingly disappointed by. Rosenthal reported last week that the 27-year-old lefty had requested a trade following his demotion to the Sacramento River Cats.

His chances of getting back in the Oakland rotation took another hit early Thursday when the team acquired Jon Lester in a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox also involving Yoenis Cespedes, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Now Milone will head to Minnesota, where he should get a chance to get back to the major leagues sooner rather than later.

Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports he'll start in Triple A immediately following the deal, though:

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports weighed in on the deal:

Still, it's a nice get for the Twins, who could definitely use pitching depth. Furthermore, he's scheduled to remain under team control through the 2017 season, and they got him in exchange for a player they claimed off waivers just a couple months ago.

Milone wanted a chance to continue proving his worth as a full-time starter in the majors. Minnesota hopes he lives up to his own expectations and eventually becomes a key cog in its rotation.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Deadline Chatter from Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and More

The 2014 MLB trade deadline is just a few hours away, and the rumors surrounding last-second deals have the baseball world buzzing.

With teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres being labeled as potential deadline sellers, many fans expect monster deals to come from each club. Unfortunately, many organizations are choosing to not make any moves on Thursday.

Here are the latest rumors as the trade deadline approaches.

 

Philadelphia Not Moving Cole Hamels?

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-61) are faltering in the National League East, and the team must begin building for the future by becoming sellers at the deadline. While there are many players on the roster worth moving, one star the team has little intention of trading is Cole Hamels.

As one of the franchise’s most reliable starting pitchers, Hamels has been a mainstay for years. He helped lead the team to a World Series in 2008 and has been the picture of consistency and reliability.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, Philadelphia has little interest in trading Hamels:

Hamels has been the ace of the Phillies rotation and has been everything the team could hope for in a starter. With a 2.55 ERA, a 6-5 record, 133 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP, Hamels has helped the team avoid long losing slumps and has afforded Philadelphia the chance to win almost every time he takes the mound.

The problem is the team around him has faltered and failed to support him with offensive production.

As if the Phillies desire to hold on to Hamels wasn’t enough, there are few teams in the league that would be willing to take on his monster contract. He is scheduled to make $22.5 million per year through 2018.

If Philadelphia wants to move Hamels this offseason or even next season, the team will likely have to eat a chunk of his contract in the process.

 

Tampa Bay Staying Quiet at the Deadline?

Just like the Phillies, the Tampa Bay Rays are slipping out of serious contention in the American League and should be sellers at the deadline. Fans and experts have seen in the past, though, that the Tampa Bay organization does things its own unique way.

The Rays sit at 53-55 this season and fourth in the AL East. There are plenty of targets like David Price or Ben Zobrist for teams to call about, but the franchise looks to be content leaving the core of players intact.

In a report from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, Tampa Bay is unlikely to make a deadline deal:

Tampa Bay deserves credit for having faith in its current team, but they should write this season off as a loss and start retooling for 2015. The Rays are eight games back in their division and 5.5 games back in the wild-card chase.

The decision to not make any big deals is proof Tampa Bay is gunning for a playoff berth.

If the Rays can get third baseman and offensive leader Evan Longoria hitting the ball consistently and get even more production out of outfielder James Loney, there is a chance the team could steal a wild-card spot.

Add in some consistent pitching from David Price and the entire staff, and Tampa Bay could make everyone look like fools.

 

San Diego Holding on to Joaquin Benoit?

One of the top pitchers reportedly on the market heading into the trade deadline was San Diego Padres closer Joaquin Benoit. With the market for closers limited and several quality players still available, San Diego likely wasn’t getting the offers it was asking for.

According to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report, the Padres have decided not to trade Benoit:

After playing the role of setup man, Benoit was promoted to closer when San Diego traded Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels. Whether it’s the eighth or ninth inning, Benoit has been lights-out, racking up an impressive 1.88 ERA, 51 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP in 43 innings.

The Padres should be in a position to sell at the deadline, sitting at 48-59 on the season and third in the NL West, but the team will not deal Benoit for a minimal return. San Diego holds his contract for two more seasons, and the team understands there is no rush to get a trade done now.

Benoit could be traded this offseason, but likely not before the deadline.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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Oakland Athletics’ Yoenis Cespedes T-Shirt Giveaway Becomes Awkward After Trade

A recent trade has made for an awkward Oakland Athletics giveaway this weekend.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the A's were planning on giving the first 10,000 fans through the gates a Yoenis Cespedes "La Potencia" T-shirt.

The giveaway was even being promoted on the front page of the team's website:

However, that might be a bit awkward considering Cespedes no longer plays for the A's.

Update: July 31 at 11:30 a.m. ET

It should come as no surprise that A's have made a change to their website.

--End of Update--

On Thursday morning, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman and WEEI.com's Alex Speier broke the news that Cespedes was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

The trade happened less than an hour before this was published, so there's no word yet on whether Oakland will go through with the giveaway. 

Should the A's still do the Cespedes giveaway this weekend?

[Oakland Athletics, Twitter]

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The Atlanta Braves and Their Andrelton Simmons Problem

The Atlanta Braves have a problem this season that will not be solved with a trade before Thursday's non-waiver deadline. It is also not a problem that will be solved in August.

The Braves offense currently ranks 24th in runs scored, 23rd in OPS, 23rd in total bases and 26th in strikeouts. Atlanta is simply a team that has a number of highly talented pieces who do a few things well but struggle mightily with others; call it the Andrelton Simmons problem.

Simmons was one of the better players in baseball last season. According to Baseball-Reference's defensive WAR, he actually had the best defensive season in the history of baseball! So that's something.

He was also reasonably OK with the bat. Although he didn't get on base often enough, he hit well (.692 OPS) and managed to tally 50 extra-base hits in his 150 total hits. He also managed to score 76 runs with that on-base percentage hovering around .300.

This season, though, Simmons' bat has regressed to essentially replacement level. The main difference is the power has dropped. He has registered just five home runs for the season and just 22 extra-base hits.

His glove, still great, has also slipped a bit, according to advanced stats. These things have combined to bring Simmons from a 6.9-win player in 2013 to a 2.5-win player heading into August of 2014, and he is now someone who is almost a liability in the lineup.

With the way the Braves are currently constructed, this is a huge problem. Simmons is not the only player with these "good, but" caveats.

Jason Heyward is having a similar season. He's a plus-plus defender and good runner who has been a huge minus at the plate. With Simmons, it was somewhat expected; for Heyward, his putrid year of batting is so demoralizing because of how unexpected it has been.

Although he's picked up his batting average (.260) since a horrible start to the season, the power is still not there (9 HRs). His .379 slugging percentage puts him 113th in the league among qualified hitters, behind the likes of Dioner Navarro and Adam Eaton.

B.J. Upton is yet another Brave currently falling under the invented category of unwell-rounded. He runs well and still plays competent defense. His bat is the worst of the three, though, as evidenced by his .215/.282/.333 slash line and league-leading 134 strikeouts.

Braves fans have been clamoring for a change in center field, but that wouldn't really solve this team's problem. It's an epidemic more than an infiltration.

Teams built on pitching and defense can win championships. That is not up for debate. However, because Atlanta is so poor at getting on base and scoring runs, it puts added pressure on players to be elite in other categories.

This worked out for Simmons last year; he was well worth playing every day. It no longer seems like that formula is weighted in Atlanta's favor, and it may be time for the Braves to overhaul this roster with players who can help across the board.

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Twitter Reacts as Jon Lester Is Reportedly Traded for Yoenis Cespedes

The Oakland Athletics continued their wheeling-and-dealing ways Thursday by acquiring starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes prior to the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.

The surprising blockbuster trade was first reported by Alex Speier of WEEI.com and later confirmed in full by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

With Lester and the Red Sox unable to reach a contract agreement, it has been assumed for the past several days that he was a candidate to be dealt. However, Oakland was never viewed as a potential landing spot since it acquired pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs a couple weeks ago.

The A's clearly felt as though another arm was needed, and they were willing to part with a power-hitting star in the form of Cespedes to get it.

General manager Billy Beane has done an incredible job keeping the Athletics competitive over the years without a ton of financial backing. With Oakland sporting the league's best record at 66-41, he has been extremely aggressive.

ESPN's Adnan Virk is among those who believe that this trade is a sign of Beane and the A's proving their gusto:

Passan agreed and suggested that the Athletics are likely favored to win the World Series due to their deep and talented pitching staff:

The trade makes sense on some level for Oakland since it truly believes that this is its opportunity to win it all. At the same time, though, Lester is a rental, while Cespedes is a 28-year-old slugger who doesn't become a free agent until 2018.

Because of that, Marc Bertrand of CSNNE.com believes the Sox came out on the winning end of this deal:

MLB Network's Fran Charles echoed that sentiment and was thoroughly impressed with the return Boston was able to coax out of Oakland:

With a Lester trade potentially on the horizon Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed the utmost confidence in general manager Ben Cherington's ability to make the right decision for the organization, according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes.

"What we have to do is step back from all of this and know there are decisions from the business side of the game, and have faith in the fact that Ben has a clear-cut plan to get us back to a team that will contend," Farrell said. "Our faith in Ben and the plan that's in place is steadfast."

It is entirely possible that Boston has even grander plans on the horizon following this trade. Not only do the Red Sox now have the two-time defending Home Run Derby winner on their roster, but ESPN's Jim Bowden believes they will make a big push to sign Lester back in free agency this offseason:

MLB.com's Ian Browne also acknowledged that possibility and noted that the Red Sox could emerge as huge winners:

Jen Royle of the Boston Herald added that Cherington may have put himself in position to make Boston a contender once again in the near future in the event that Lester returns:

If the Red Sox are able to pull that off, then this trade could ultimately become Gomes and two months of Lester for Cespedes, which is an unequivocal win for Boston.

Also, although there aren't any current plans to do so, Speier points out that the Red Sox could easily ship Cespedes elsewhere for other assets if they so choose:

As big as Lester promises to be for the A's down the stretch due to his playoff experience, losing Cespedes certainly leaves a hole in Oakland's lineup. At the same time, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle believes that Cespedes' unwillingness to be a team player contributed to his departure:

While most like to declare a trade a victory for one of the teams involved, ESPN's Buster Olney took a more diplomatic approach. He believes that both teams got exactly what they needed for the present and the future:

With that said, there is no question that there is now a ton of pressure on the A's to win it all. That is the only acceptable result after trading away a player in his prime who currently averages 22 home runs and 76 RBI per season in his MLB career.

If the Athletics do win the World Series, then Beane will be lauded for taking a risk and throwing caution to the wind. If they don't, however, he will be questioned for years to come.

Chances to be champions don't come about with great regularity, so it is tough to blame Beane for being aggressive. The Red Sox did well to get something of value for a player who may very well leave via free agency, but the main focus will most definitely be on how Lester performs in the coming months.

 

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