The hill the Angels must climb to win the American League West championship grew considerably steeper Thursday when the division-leading Oakland Athletics acquired Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes for left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
On the plus side for the Angels, they may actually be able to score a runner from second base on a hit to left field against the Athletics now.
Cespedes threw out two runners at the plate in the second inning of an 11-3 win over the Angels in Oakland on May 31, and in a June 10 game in Anaheim he air-mailed a 300-foot throw from the corner — Angels Manager Mike Scioscia called it a “guided missile” — to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate.
But with the addition of Lester, the A’s probably have baseball’s best rotation, one that includes right-handers Sonny Gray and Jeff Samardzija and left-hander Scott Kazmir, which, when paired with an already dominant bullpen, positions them well for a World Series run.
Don’t expect the Angels to counter with a run at Tampa Bay ace David Price or Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels. They do not have the high-end prospects required to swing such a deal, and General Manager Jerry Dipoto has said repeatedly that he does not want to subtract from the major league club to make a trade.
The Angels’ best hope is that C.J. Wilson, on the disabled list since July 10 because of a right-ankle sprain, gives the rotation a boost when he returns this weekend and that the loss of Cespedes, Oakland’s cleanup batter, puts a considerable dent in the A’s offense.
Dipoto has already done some major renovation work on his bullpen, acquiring closer Huston Street, setup man Jason Grilli and left-hander Joe Thatcher.
Asked Wednesday night if he was concerned that Lester or Price would go to a competitor, Dipoto said, “You can only control what you can control. We have a rotation that has pitched very consistently, a bullpen that has been very good for four to five weeks and is still coming together and an offense that has been consistent in its ability to score runs.
“There are going to be some ups and downs, and we’ve hit a rough patch coming out of the All-Star break, offensively, but we’ve found way to scratch runs across and win games. There’s a long way to go, but we certainly feel have as good a chance as anyone else to compete [for a World Series title].”