(NOTE: for those that want to see the trade proposal before, reading my analysis- scroll down. But the trade and why it makes sense, I believe, is greatly informed by establishing the circumstances surrounding each team (Oakland, Miami, and Toronto).
Over the past month, there have been a couple of fan posts on where the A's should go from here. These posters have proposed sound plans that make sense (regardless of how the stadium situation shakes out). So, I will refrain from proposing another grandiose scheme. Instead, I will just agree with most of you that the A's, however they do it, need to rebuild. The proper plan may be a mass exodus of all valuable major league assets this offseason. It may be a methodical roll-out plan that entails selling a valuable player when the player's market value is perceived to be at its highest. Or, it may be a combination of the two approaches. Whatever the case, this is yet another time when the A's front office needs to get creative. Luckily for Billy Beane, getting creative this time around shouldn't require re-inventing the wheel (like Moneyball and its application), it may just require good intuition and returning to old trade tactics that have worked in the past.
The major hurdle in any rebuilding plan, as most of us are acutely aware of, is the fact that General Managers these days have more readily available information at there disposal and are, therefore, less susceptible to making a bad trade. After all, a pre-sabermetrics general manager (whether he had a quality scouting eye or not) simply could not watch every organizational prospect enough to develop an intuitive sense of each player's future potential. So, he had to rely on coaches and organizational scouts, maybe even one scout, to provide him with a sense a single prospect's value (hell, if the moneyball movie is accurate in this respect, some GM's barely knew the names of some of the kids they were trading away to land an established name). Now, most teams have a full arsenal of scouts and statistical analysts that can tell them whether a prospect: walks like a duck (how the scouts perceive his tools) and talks like a duck (what statistical analysts say his true value is) which allows GM's to make a reasonably objective determination whether the prospect will become a fuckin-A Golden Goose (or at least a league-average duck with solid skills across the board). But that does not mean that there are not moments, albeit fewer of them, when interests become aligned and particularized motivations lead to bold moves. I believe, for Billy Beane and the A's, such an opportunity might be there in the form of a three-way trade with Toronto and Florida (er... um, Miami... Oh and BTW your new uniforms are gross, food for thought).
Don't get me wrong, a plausible three-way trade between these teams has more to do with the players/prospects they can input into the trade than it is about extraneous motivations and interests that might be at play. But these factors can serve as the tipping point for when a hypothetical trade becomes a reality. So I want to quickly address the other teams motivations and interests (admittedly, as I perceive them) before proposing my hypothetical trade.
This is more about a hunch, but I believe an plausible inference can be drawn from Miami's recent moves, and rumored moves, that Gio Gonzalez might be a more desirable trade target than other similarly valued starting pitchers. It is no secret that Miami is a tough place to get fans to come out and consistently support a team--no matter what sport, how good the team is, or how nice the venue is. There are a lot of factors that go into that (not the least of which involves the weather conditions, beaches, etc.), but I believe that it also has a lot to do with the lack of unity that Miami's residents feel with most of their teams- This inference is drawn from simple observations: 1) Marlins struggle to draw fans; the Raiders-Dolphins game yesterday had the attendance of HS game; and even the Miami Heat, with the best collection of star power in the NBA and a relatively new arena (I believe) don't sell out every game. I could be completely wrong on this, but I do know that you go to Boston and you meet plenty of people who internalize being Sox's fans as part of who they are, Same with New York and the Yankees, and even in Oakland with the A's and, especially, with the Raiders. It's hard to imagine Miami ever replicating what Boston and New York has, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't take steps to align the identity of their team with the identity of the community- and it seems they are attempting to. The first is changing the name from Florida to Miami. When an outsider thinks of Florida they thing old (mostly white) retirees and that does not mesh with the makeup of Miami as place filled with young, diverse residents (including, most importantly, a large hispanic population). So the name change from Florida to Miami is a perfectly logical marketing move to, combined with the allure of a new stadium, attract the very market of customers which it is situated in. But marketing factors don't stop there.
The marlins just signed Jose Reyes and they are rumored to be heavily pursuing Albert Pujols. To me, acquiring these players is about more than simply the objective value they provide on the field. It is about the statement they want to make to the fans: Here is a team that is full of quality players that you can identify with. And so, acquiring a player like Gio Gonzalez (a pitcher of hispanic decent who also grew up in Miami) very much furthers that interest.
More briefly, the motivation here is that Toronto is already a quality major league team and has the impressive prospect depth to engage in trades that will make them a bona-fide playoff team (without crippling their system). AA admitted as much when he stated that the organization's greatest strength was their prospect depth. But with the Red Sox in organizational transition, and a very good core roster already in place, now may be as good of a time as ever to flip prospects for established (but still young and relatively affordable) players who can turn them into a 90 win team.
Don't need to rehash, we know that the A's need more than what their system and bargain FA's can provide. The only way to potentially turn Gio Gonzalez into 2 or 3 potential players of similar value is by trading Gio (and others) for quality prospect packages.
NOW, HOW I ENVISION THESE TEAMS COMING TOGETHER
The principal trade would start off between Oakland and Miami because Oakland is actively shopping Gio and Miami would want Gio. The main reason, far and away, would be that Miami needs another top of the rotation and the options are probably limited to Gio, CJ Wilson (thru FA), Shields and Garza. Conventional wisdom says that CJ Wilson would be the most logical pursuit, but if they get Pujols (Or P. Fielder, and already have acquired Reyes and Bell) it's safe to say they won't have the money for him. So, it comes down to a trade- and given the aforementioned marketing interest, it would be reasonable to suspect they have an additional motivation to acquire Gio. But if that is the case, what do they have that Oakland would want?
Once you throw out the wet-dreams of Hanley and Stanton, you are probably left with Logan Morrison and Christian Yelich (prospect and recent 1st round selection). Those two might provide a more than equitable value for value return in a vacuum, but given the A's current needs, that trade probably doesn't make sense for the following reasons: 1) Logan Morrison, the Outfielder, negates the value of his bat with terrible defensive play and so we would be acquiring him as 1B; 2) We already have a glut of potential first baseman (Carter, Allen, Barton, Ka'aihue) and so it just makes to much sense to acquire bats at other positions and HOPE (OMG are none of those bats gona turn into a consistent starter, really?... really?) that one or two of them emerges as our 1B and DH. So Oakland and Miami have the requisite motivations and valuable pieces to make a deal work, but they don't match up perfectly. Enter Toronto.
As previously mentioned, Toronto has a bevy of prospects and, hey what do you know, a major hole at first base (uninspiring former Cal Bear David Cooper is the projected starter). Oh, look at that, Toronto also is looking for a quality closer. Free Agency is unlikely to solve these issues because they are not going to lure Pujols or Fielder. Moreover, the closer market is quickly drying up with Bell and Papelbon already off the market. So it is reasonable to assume that AA, for all his awesomeness in dominating trades, would not try to get too cute or stingy in negotiations and, instead, be highly motivated to give up a strong package in order to acquire both Logan Morrison and Andrew Bailey.
Nonetheless, the biggest (and most interesting) obstacle in completing this trade would likely be the negotiations between Beane and AA over which combination of Toronto prospects constitutes an equitable return. To that extent, their are multiple combinations that could work and so I am only going to propose the Toronto package that I would like to see, and think is reasonable. BUT THE BIGGEST REASON FOR MAKING THIS POST IS TO FOSTER A DISCUSSION ABOUT WHICH PROSPECTS THE A'S SHOULD RECEIVE FROM TORONTO, SO PLEASE PROPOSE ALTERNATIVE PACKAGES THAT YOU THINK WOULD WORK. So, here is the trade that I think would work:
1. Gio Gonzalez
(gives up Logan Morrison and Christian Yelich)
1. Logan Morrison and
2. Andrew Bailey
(gives up Travis D'Arnaud C, Jake Marisnick OF, and Deck McGuire SP)
1. Travis D'Arnaud C- B+ prospect according to Sickles
2. Jake Marisnick OF- B+ prospect according to Sickels
3. Deck McGuire SP- B+ prospect according to Sickles
4. Christian Yelich OF- B prospect according to Sickels
(gives up Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey)
I see AA refusing to include D'Arnaud and being hesitant to include Marisnick. I see Beane settling on Anthony Gose, instead of Marisnick, but for all of Gose's tools, speed and defensive prowess he reeks of bust (though, his defense and speed alone might render him a 2 WAR player so I use bust loosely to include "a failure to capitalize on his many other tools"). Deck McGuire (or Drew Hutchinson), on the other hand, is the perfect 3rd player to ask for in this deal because Toronto has 5 other pitchers who are also B+ rated but are projected to have greater UPSIDE. But Deck's just your typical old-solid "innings eater" who will give you 200 innings and be a solid number 3. He's the exact type of pitcher who you'd expect to come to Oakland, suddenly add a few ticks in velocity (he's 6'5 so projectability and a genetic predisposition to injecting himself wiiiiit... I mean just projectability), and suddenly he is, or at least perceived to be, a frontline starter.
I'd delve deeper into each prospect proposed, but it's 4:30am and I'm in the middle of law school finals so maybe, Its time I get in an hour or two nap. But my knowledge of them does not extend much beyond the readily available information on sites like minorleagueball.com, etc., so additional comments would probably be nothing new to most. Also, especially in the Miami motivations and interests portion, I made some assumptions based on limited understanding/observation of what I believe to be common knowledge and not after doing any reading for the purposes of this post-- So if I have mischaracterized something or am just wrong, I apologize, and feel free to correct me. Hopefully, reading this post was worth your time.