The Lester trade is a win-win

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I’m seeing a lot of people criticizing the Red Sox’ end of the Jon Lester trade. Saying that they wished they got more for him than Yoenis Cespedes. Prospects, perhaps. Hitters with more team control, as Cespedes is a free agent after 2015. Frankly, I think that’s wrong. I think this is a win-win trade.

For Oakland, it makes perfect sense. They are a legitimate World Series contender and when you’re a legitimate World Series contender, you do what you need to do. Adding one of the best starting pitchers in baseball is one of those things you do if the opportunity presents itself. Giving up a season and a half of a good but by no means indispensable outfielder like Cespedes is not a hard price to pay.

It’s more complicated for Boston, obviously, but it all comes down to what you think of the Red Sox’ chances to contend in 2015. If you think they’re sunk and need to rebuild, sure, you lament the fact that you didn’t get prospects. I don’t think that’s the case however. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to think they’ll bounce back in 2015 and adding Cespedes to what has been a troublesomely non-productive outfield is a big boost in that regard. No, he was not indispensable in Oakland, but he’s coming to a good hitters park in Boston and represents a solid upgrade. On defense too, where he will be paired in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr., giving the Sox some awesome D in the outfield.

The biggest question, obviously, is what Boston will do for pitching next year, especially if they trade John Lackey too, which is rumored. Well, I don’t know. But there’s no reason they can’t bid on Lester when he walks in free agency from Oakland (remember the A’s can’t give him a qualifying offer since he hasn’t been with the team all season). And the fact is, in this day and age it’s easier to add pitching in the offseason than it is to add a big bat. The Sox just added their big bat.

So don’t cry, anyone. This is a win-win.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.