Now that the A's have lost 8 in a row, their 2B, 3/5 of their rotation, and demoted their everyday 3B, I think it's pretty safe to say that the future is here. Except that it's not... because the A's farm system isn't very good. In a way I'm relieved that the A's have the opportunity to sell any valuable assets they have because it really would've sucked for them to be 2 or 3 games out until September only to lose it at the end.
Believe me, I want a competitive team, but there's no way the A's were going to win the division. I would've said "There's no way the A's were going to win the division unless the Rangers lost their 2 best hitters" but... well... they lost their 2 best hitters for quite some time and the A's couldn't overtake them. And the Rangers have the farm-system strength to add pieces if they need to; whereas, the A's don't. So being that the A's didn't get a 3-5 game cushion on the Rangers when Hamilton and Cruz were out, the writing was on the wall.
So I started thinking about who the A's might trade and what they could get back. For the sake of comparison, I used MLB Trade Rumor's transaction search to see a list of all of the trades that took place between June 1, 2010 and August 1, 2010.
As I started examining the trades, I kept getting the strange sense that the A's are this year's Astros. They don't have much excitement on the field and have virtually baron farm systems. And the Astros had a couple of nice pieces to trade at last year's deadline: Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
Berkman was in the last year of his contract, so he was virtually a rent-a-player. Of course, I believe he was a Type A player so the acquiring team could've offered arbitration and received draft picks. Berkman's status and stats are fairly similar to Josh Willingham's this year. Willingham's OPS is .770 with 10 HRs and 39 RBIs, while Berkman's OPS was .808 with 13 HRs and 49 RBIs. Keep in mind that Berkman was traded at the end of July, so Willingham's stats reflect about 7 fewer weeks of games. They both stink in the OF.
So, how did the Astros do in that trade? Well, they got a decent middle relief pitcher who now gets saves, and they got Paredes who basically stinks. That's not a very good haul for a decent OF.
Other OFers traded at the deadline last year were Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, and Austin Kearns. Ludwick and Ankiel were involved in multi-player deals with Ludwick being part of the Westbrook trade and Ankiel going to Atlanta with Farnsworth.
Ankiel went to ATL with Farnsworth for Jesse Chavez, Gregor Blanco, and Tim Collins - Collins was clearly the best of those 3. And if Baseball-Reference is correct, he's never started a professional game. So at best he's another good/decent middle reliever, which, as we know, are a dime a dozen.
Austin Kearns was traded for a PTBNL, so he didn't get the Indians a haul.
My conclusion is that Josh Willingham (And David DeJesus) should not be traded and the A's should let him walk and take the draft picks. (NOTE: Of course, if a team wants to give more than that, the A's should take it. And who knows what the CBA will look like.)
Roy Oswalt was a great pitcher for many years, so he certainly had a great track record. Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill don't have that record, but they also aren't in the second to last year of their contract like Oswalt was. Because Gonzalez and Cahill are younger and have more years, I value them slightly more than Oswalt at the 2010 deadline.
So let's look at who the Astros received from the Phillies. JA Happ burst onto the scene in 2009 with a pretty decent rookie year. He had a 2.93 ERA with 6.5 k/9. His minor league track record was also pretty good. In 6 minor league season he had a 3.52 ERA with more K's than IP.
Anthony Gose was a supposedly toolsy player that would eventually learn how to hit. (Yeah, right.) He apparently plays a good CF. As many of you know, he was immediately flipped to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace. But Gose's minor league numbers were awful. I believe his value is in defense and the silly notion that he'll eventually learn how to hit.
Jonathan Villar was the #94 prospect on Baseball America's pre-2011 list, but I'm not sure why. He's been playing in the minors for 4 seasons and has yet to OPS more than .767 in A+. He's now struggling in AA.
All in all, I don't believe the Astros got much in return for Oswalt. Getting back to Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. At this point, unless the A's are blow away with an offer, the 2010 market tells us that the A's won't get much in return. But look at it this way, would JA Happ, Anthony Gose, and Jonathan Villar for Trevor Cahill get you excited? Not me.
The other starting pitcher trade that caught my eye was Edwin Jackson for Dan Hudson and David Holmberg. In my opinion, the Diamondbacks got back far more for Jackson than Oswalt got for the Astros. Hudson's minor league stats are really good and he's a young, cost-controlled pitcher. Since everyone knows that Oswalt is much better than Jackson, I can only assume that even contending teams value younger and better-priced arms than better and older pitchers.
My conclusion is that the A's should trade one of Cahill and Gonzalez. (My proposals are below.)
Any and all of their middle relief pitchers should be traded.
I think that 2010 shows that middle relief pitchers will net the A's a positive return. Farnsworth and Ankiel were traded for Tim Collins. Even if Collins isn't any better than Farnsworth, he's a lot cheaper.
Octavio Dotel was also traded to the Dodgers for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo. McDonald is a former top prospect who seems pretty inconsistent in the big leagues, but at the very least could be the A's number 4 starter for a few years while they rebuild. He's cheap and good enough.
I hate doing these things because everyone disagrees with everyone else's suggestions. But since I put all of this work into this post, I might as well leave people with something to talk about.
Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez AND Andrew Bailey/<or other relief pitcher that would work> for Shelby Miller and Zack Cox. This give the Cards exactly what they need and gives them what they need for a few years. They'll have an established closer who is still cost-controlled and a top of the line starter.
Yes, Miller and Cox are probably their top 2 prospects... but Cahill and Bailey aren't exactly rent-a-players, either. The A's will have a pitcher in 2 years who will probably be as good as Gio and Cahill and finally have a 3B of the future. If filler is needed... please include your favorite mixer.
Devine/Balfour and Sweeney/Crisp and Suzuki and Kouzmanoff for Belt and Peguero. This give the Giants a C, bullpen help, a kick in the ass to Tejada, and a bat off the bench. If this season is lost, the A's won't miss any of these players but will get back a truly legit 1B and the CF of the future. I sort of guessed with Peguero, but I do think that package would get the A's 2 of the Giants's top 7 prospects.
Balfour for Devin Mesoraco (C-Cincy). This gives the Reds a lot more bullpen help, which they'll need to stay in the race with their starting pitchers who don't go deep into games. This trade might be a reach as Balfour has a big contract. But I certainly don't think it's out of the question. He would immediately be the catcher of the future.
These trade would get the A's a, perhaps, top-notch starter, 1B of the future, 3B of the future, C of the future, and perhaps a nice CF of the future. By letting Willingham and DeJesus just leave, the A's will get a lot of draft picks to also help restock the system. As I've shown, I don't see much of a market for either of them.
But I also think these trades are fair because the Cards will get really good players and get to keep them beyond this year. The Giants will get a bunch of filler players to provide the depth to make a good run this year and also gives them the flexibility to move Posey to 1B if they want. The Reds would get a great boost to their bullpen.