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Tigers Grab Price After AL-Best Athletics Deal for Lester

Jon Lester
The Athletics made the big early move, sending All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox to acquire Jon Lester, a 30-year-old left-hander, seen here, and bolster a starting rotation that’s helped Oakland to a major league-best 66-41 record. Photographer: Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers got David Price, while the Oakland Athletics picked up Jon Lester and got stuck with a bunch of outdated T-shirts.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox swapped players for the first time since 1997 just before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. The Red Sox were the biggest sellers yesterday.

The Athletics made the big early move, sending All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox to acquire Lester, a 30-year-old left-hander, and bolster a starting rotation that’s helped Oakland to a major league-best 66-41 record.

That left Oakland with 10,000 T-shirts saying “La Potencia” (“The Power,” in Spanish) in honor of Cespedes. The A’s said in a news release yesterday that the shirts still will be given to the first 10,000 fans to attend tomorrow’s home game against Kansas City, as planned before the trade.

The Tigers countered Oakland’s move for a big-name pitcher by landing Price, 28, from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade that also involved the Seattle Mariners. The deal gives Detroit, which leads the American League Central division with a 58-47 record, the past three Cy Young Award winners in the AL.

“Wow...what a day!!” Price wrote on his Twitter account. “Rays fans THANK YOU!! Great Chapter of my life just ended...ready to start a new one with the Tigers!!”

The St. Louis Cardinals also picked up starting pitching help as they seek to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, getting John Lackey from Boston for pitcher Joe Kelly and infielder/first baseman Allen Craig.

Nine months after winning the World Series, the last-place Red Sox turned into sellers at baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. In addition to dealing Lester and Lackey, they sent relief pitcher Andrew Miller to the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles for a minor-league prospect and shortstop Stephen Drew to the Yankees for infielder Kelly Johnson and cash.

Rare Trade

It was the first trade between the division rivals since Sept. 29, 1997, when the Red Sox sent Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Tony Armas and Jim Mecir. The Yankees, who are in third place in the AL East with a 55-52 record, also acquired infielder Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In other moves ahead of yesterday’s 4 p.m. New York time trade deadline, the A’s sent pitcher Tommy Milone to the Minnesota Twins to re-acquire outfielder Sam Fuld; the Milwaukee Brewers got outfielder Gerardo Parra from Arizona; the Mariners picked up outfielder Chris Denorfia from the San Diego Padres; the Washington Nationals acquired shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians; the Houston Astros dealt pitcher Jared Cosart to the Miami Marlins, and the Atlanta Braves got infielder Emilio Bonifacio from the Chicago Cubs.

Price and Lester were the biggest names to change teams heading into the final two months of the regular season.

Award Winners

The AL Cy Young Award winner in 2012, Price has an 11-8 record this season with a 3.11 ERA and a major league-best 189 strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings. The left-hander joins a starting rotation that includes Max Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner, and Justin Verlander, who received the award as the AL’s best pitcher in 2011. Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez are the other starters for Detroit, which reached the AL championship series the past three years yet hasn’t won a World Series since 1984.

“We looked at what would give us the best chance to win the World Series and to first get there,” Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski said at a news conference. “We thought adding him to our rotation at this time would give us the best chance to do that.”

Trade Pieces

The Rays, in fourth place in the five-team AL East, receive pitcher Drew Smyly from Detroit and infielder Nick Franklin from Seattle in the deal, while the Mariners got outfielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers. Jackson was applauded by the Detroit crowd as he was taken off the field in the middle of an inning in yesterday’s game.

“I was in a daze,” Jackson, who had driven in the Tigers’ first run, said after being informed of the trade. “It was one of those situations where you don’t know what to do.”

Lester, who is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA, moves into an Oakland starting rotation that includes Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The A’s starters have the fourth-best collective ERA in the majors at 3.32.

“Our philosophy is to try to win while we can,” said A’s owner Lew Wolff, 78, whose team most recently won the World Series in 1989. “Especially at my age, I don’t want to plan for 10 years down the road.”

The Athletics got outfielder Jonny Gomes in addition to Lester, who had a 110-63 record with a 3.64 earned run average over nine seasons in Boston. He was 6-4 in the playoffs, including a 3-0 mark with a 0.43 ERA in the World Series.

Free Agency

Both Lester and Price will become free agents after the season, so their new teams may only have them for the last two months of the regular season and potentially the postseason.

The Athletics, who lead the AL West by two games over the Los Angeles Angels (64-43), won the division title the past two seasons and then lost in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’ve got a couple of months to capitalize on that,” Wolff said. “The goal is to get deeper in the playoffs than we have the last two years.”

The Tigers won the past three AL Central titles, yet lost in the championship series in 2011 and 2013, and were swept in the World Series in 2012.

Boston, which beat Detroit for the AL pennant en route to last year’s World Series title, overhauled a roster that has a 48-60 record this season. Cespedes, 28, is hitting .256 and ranked third on the Athletics with 17 home runs and 67 runs batted in, while Craig, 30, batted .237 with seven homers and 44 RBIs in 97 games for the Cardinals.

“We had to find a way to take advantage of the unfortunate position we’re in,” Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington said at a news conference.

Boston Additions

Cespedes is under contract through next season, when his $10.5 million salary would have been the highest on the Athletics’ roster. Craig, an All-Star in 2013, has a contract that guarantees him $26.5 million over the next three years.

Lackey joins a Cardinals rotation that includes Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Justin Masterson, who was acquired two days ago from Cleveland. The Cardinals (57-50) are two games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central division.

Lackey, 35, has an 11-7 record with a 3.60 ERA this season. The Cardinals are scheduled to host the Red Sox in a three-game series starting Aug. 5.

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