Beane: Trades put A's in playoffs

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Support his big moves or not, Billy Beane made one thing perfectly clear: The Oakland Athletics' season probably would have ended sooner without Jon Lesteras a part of it.

"Simply put, if we don't have Jon Lester, I don't think we make the playoffs," the A's general manager said Wednesday as players packed up their belongings in a quiet clubhouse.

Oakland had the man on the mound it traded for to shine in these very moments, and the A's summed up their topsy-turvy season in a single game, over a span of innings -- and extra innings.

A roster of tired, banged-up bodies that owned baseball's best record as recently as mid-August and stumbled through September is now headed into the offseason after a 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals in Tuesday's AL wild-card game.

Beane went all-in on July 31, dealing slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for Lester, who seemed poised to pitch his team into the division series before Oakland collapsed once more late this season.

The small-budget A's beat out the big spenders in the Lester sweepstakes. Then Wednesday, Beane bid Lester a likely farewell as the veteran left-hander heads off for a big-money contract elsewhere.

An offense that had been prolific until mid-August almost immediately went into a long funk, sparking questions and scrutiny about Beane's decision to part ways with someone as dynamic in the middle of the order as Cespedes, the two-time reigning Home Run Derby champ. The Cuban defector signed a $36 million, four-year contract before the 2012 season.

"Any time you lose a hitter like Cespy, you're going to miss someone like that no matter who else steps up," outfielderJosh Reddicktold reporters.

Beane's other deals included the July 4 acquisition of right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for three top prospects.

"When we traded for Samardzija and Hammel, I think one of the first questions was, 'Why would you trade for two pitchers, you're first in the league in ERA?'" Beane told reporters. "We weren't going to stay there. We knew it. Our job is to try and correct things before they become a problem, and some of the problems that we had we could see coming."

On Aug. 31, the GM traded away pitching prospect Nolan Sanburn for Adam Dunn, who reached the playoffs for the first time but didn't see the field Tuesday and plans to retire without a single postseason at-bat. He had counted on this being his chance in his 14th major league season.

"Horrible, it's an awful feeling," said manager Bob Melvin, who fully expected to be in the ALDS and use Dunn. "I have so much respect for Adam Dunn that it kills me he didn't get in that game."

The A's went 88-74 to get back to the playoffs, failing to stay with the red-hot Angels down the stretch after Oakland won the previous two AL West crowns.

Beane said he saw the Angels' surge coming.

"The Angels were going to catch us," Beane told reporters. "They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point. If you go back to my quotes from when we made those trades, despite the fact of where we were, at no point were those trades made for the playoffs. I was adamant about it. I could feel the Angels breathing down our necks.

"What I didn't reveal was that I was also concerned about us, which was the point of the trades. I have said this many times: It's not where you are, it's where you're headed. And I like to think being here every day, I have a feel for where we're headed."

Now, Oakland must decide who will play shortstop in 2015 given thatJed Lowrie is set to become a free agent at a position that won't have many.

"It's somewhat cathartic for us to start working on next year," Beane said. "There's still a lot of good pieces here. We're very much a jigsaw puzzle."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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