Revisiting the Off Season Moves by the A’s

If you are like me, and every long suffering Oakland A’s fan, you remember our beloved team once again conducted a psuedo fire sale this offseason. Once again selling off ouor best assests for prospects and a few promising young players. It was somewhat reminiscent of when the A’s traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder within a span of three days back in 2004. It is now 2 months into the new young season and looking back at the trades, we all ask “How did Billy Beane do?”

The first to go was Trevor Cahill back on December 9th, 2011 along with Craig Breslow, shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook.  At first, the trade didn’t seem to be a great one for the A’s, giving up a lefty reliever and front rotation guy who has given them double digit wins every season as a starter since being called up in 2009. But then at second look at the end of May, you see Ryan Cook a consistent set-up man (off the heels of a impressive scoreless inning string to start the season) who could blossom into a key role for the franchise, maybe even become the future closer. Jarrod Parker, a young starter who has been the victim of a punchless offense so far, but will definitely contribute to the team in the coming years. Last but not least you see Collin Cowgill, who has filled due to the rash of injuries to the Oakland outfield. (Wait, haven’t we heard this before?) While the A’s gave up 2 young pitchers, they also got 2 equally talented, with more upside and an outfielder with speed who could spend more and more time roaming the outfield in Oakland.

Gio Gonzalez, after 2 All-Star caliber seasons, was attracting much trade hype during last seasons trade deadline, and finally on December 22, Billy Beane pulled the trigger in sending Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals in exchance for 4 prospects. This group included 20 year old A.J. Cole (who many consider to have the highest ceiling talent wise), Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, and Derek Norris. Peacock, Norris, and Cole ranked third, fourth and ninth repsectively in the Baseball America’s list of top prospects for the Nationals. Now that time has passed, Milone (who many have compared to a young Tom Glavine) has become a solid starter in his first full season in the American League and has been exceptional at home posting a 4-1 record and a 0.98 ERA in 36.2 innings (as of June 14th). There is no doubt in my mind he is benefitting of the spacious dimensions of the Coliseum, because his road stats are almost Jekyll & Hyde like with 2-4 record and a 7.42 ERA in 43.2 innings. In the future we are sure to get more consistency out of him, so all we can do is be patient and hope he can develop. Remember with a gutted pitching staff, the Oakland A’s are (as of June 14th) 5th in the American League with a team ERA of 3.76 and 10th in all of baseball. I have no doubt the prospects acquired will contribute in Oakland in the next couple years as we have seen in the past with the spoils of the many trades. Brad Peacock will probably be the next called up, as he is the next major league ready arm, but with Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson set to return from the DL in August, I don’t see the A’s rushing Peacock to the bigs anytime soon.

The final huge move the A’s made this offseason was trading their closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Josh Reddick, and 2 class A prospects (20-year-old third baseman Miles Head and 19-year-old righty Raul Alcantara). This one probably hurt the most. While Andrew Bailey has had some health issues as of late, he was a consistent closer, someone who orignially was not a closer and blossomed into one of the AL’s elite closers. Ryan Sweeney, while never found his power stroke nor consistent playing time in Oakland the last couple of seasons, was always a consistent hitter (hence his .301 BA in 50 games for Boston this season). The biggest knock on Sweeney as a player was with his 6’4 frame, he should hit for more power, but he is primarily a contact hitter, someone who will get you 2-3 hits a game rather than go 1-4 with a homerun. It was tough to swallow this sort of trade, Monte Poole of the Oakland Tribune even wrote about his displeasure with the franchise; Monte Poole writes in the Oakland Tribune.

“The con is kaput, the game over. A’s ownership, having run out of patience, isn’t even pretending to care about competing, much less pleasing its fans. Dedicated first and last to themselves, the owners have upped the ante. In their desire to leave Oakland, they’ve stopped waiting for or pleading with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. … They have moved into the next phase, one of such utter defiance that it stomps all over the ideals of the game.

“By trading the players who have represented Oakland in the last three All-Star games, all in a three-week span, the A’s are announcing they’re packing it in for 2012 and maybe even 2013. They’re quitting, backing away from the 2012 season so early and so emphatically that even Pete Rose, the disgraced hit king, has to scratch his head and wonder, once again, what is the definition of ‘integrity of the game.’

“… MLB has an ownership team brazenly deciding to ‘throw’ a season three months before opening day. The A’s have made a series of dramatic moves over the past 20 days, effectively demolishing any pretense of trying to win and simultaneously sending the message that until they get the trade they really want — trading Oakland for San Jose — they’ll just keep making a mockery of the game.”

While I agree with Monte Poole, that was only December and as we have seen in the months since, the A’s were able to fill some of those roster spots with some role players to help. Yes the A’s were in a situation where they had to get the most value out of their best players or be subject to another Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Barry Zito, etc. type situation. And this trade has probably worked out the best for Oakland. Josh Reddick has put in a fairly good as the 3rd/4th place hitter. Batting .268 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI’s as of June 14th. While these are the best numbers, if you look at the past, not many Athletics have hit 14 HR’s in a season in a while, since the days of Jack Cust, let alone have 14 in June! Now only if they can Manage to keep Cespedes on the field and somehow find some other protection in the lineup, the A’s could be winners in the long term. Unfortunately for Andrew Bailey. he is sidelined due to thumb surgery and is out until after the All-Star break while Ryan Sweeney, despite one trip to the DL, has played a key role in the outfield with the absences of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury.

So far, Billy Beane did an amicable job. He was put into a corner where his best players probably had the most value and some may argue he did not have to deal Gio or Cahill or even both, but the return on the these players was incredible. Coupled with the signing of Albert Pujols to the Angels and the emergence of the Rangers as perennial American League favorites, the A’s had to deal their players before risking an off-season and less trade value for the duo. Along with Sweeney in a crowded outfield and Bailey’s off and on injury problems, the time to make the deal was this past off-season and I back him up 100%. Hopefully the A’s can make some strides this year and develop their talent, now the only issue is how can we develop some hitters to back up this incredible offense?

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