Over a month ago, Billy Beane pulled off a stunner of a trade and acquired perennial MVP-candidate Matt Holliday from the Rockies. At the time of the trade, the motivation behind the move was somewhat nebulous. The A's were clearly in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith seemed to be serviceable and cheap long-term parts in that rebuilding effort and the Angels seemed poise to keep a stranglehold on the AL West division for at least the end of the decade. Thus, a one-year rental of a player highly-unlikely to sign long-term with the team seemed like a waste of resources.
However, in the next few weeks after the trade it became obvious that the A's were on a mission to make the 2009 team competitive and upgrade the team wherever possible, using recently-liberated payroll room to go-after free agents that normally wouldn't be within Oakland's sphere of influence. The first target was Rafael Furcal, whom the A's wined and dined and for whom the team was willing to overpay. Despite the attention and financial incentive to sign with Oakland, Furcal spurned the A's and threw a wrench into the team's off-season plans. To make matters worse, the team confounded it's shortstop problem by exposing Bobby Crosby to outright waivers only to find no takers for the disappointing former ROY. Now it seems the team will have to find a spot in Oakland or Sacramento for Crosby and pay him his $5.25 million 2009 salary to boot. Clearly, shortstop is an area where the A's will be forced to disappointingly accept sub-standard production for one more season.
Other rumors indicated that the A's were simultaneously interested in free agent starter Randy Johnson to help front a young, untested and sure-to-be inconsistent 2009 starting rotation. Yet, that interest never seemed to really materialize into anything more than "exploratory talks" and now the Big Unit appears likely to sign with the Giants or another NL team, thus leaving the A's rotation without a clear option from whom to expect veteran leadership and solid innings.
While the A's are still interested in bringing Jason Giambi back to Oaktown for another stint, so far this off-season has been disappointing since the Holliday trade. Rather than upgrade the two weakest parts of the likely 2009 team (shortstop and the starting rotation) the team has been rebuffed in their efforts and, as of now, will not be surrounding Holliday with a team that could best take advantage of his enormous talent. While the off-season is still young, it doesn't seem like the Holliday trade has turned out to be just the opening salvo of a rapid and radical restructuring of the 2009 team as previously thought - rather, the trade itself may turn out to be the first and possibly only major addition Oakland makes to the 2009 team. With all that being said, I'm still happy to have Matt Holliday in Green and Gold - even if it will only be for a couple of months - and I'm still looking forward to the 2009 Oakland Athletics and am still confident that a few other actions can and will be taken to improve this team for 2009 and beyond.
First off, I think the price paid for one-year of Holliday was fair and while Cargon and Smith had a little value to the team long-term as cost-controlled, fairly healthy, slightly better than replacement-level players, they will surely not be missed and Street had already worn out his welcome with the A's. On top of that, Holliday will likely improve the A's lineup by his mere presence. I think Jack Cust could certainly post another .900+ OPS season with 30+ homers batting in front or behind of Holliday for example, while Eric Chavez could be a nice complement to both Cust and Holliday now that he won't be forced into the 3-spot or 4-spot in the lineup.
Also, in hindsight, at the time the trade was consummated, with the A's front office fully aware that they were likely to be aggressive in free agency, the decision to take the risk, give up a couple of non-crucial pieces to get a player of Holliday's caliber was certainly advantageous. It's disappointing that the A's have yet to follow-up on the Holliday trade with other radical roster improvements, but I'm still really glad that during this Holiday season I can look forward to another Holliday season starting off in a couple of months. Whether or not the A's turn into the contenders we thought they would be with the possible additions of Furcal and the Big Unit, the A's will still be a better team next season with Matt Holliday highlighting an offense that really has nowhere to go but up from 2008.