There is no A's baseball today, so we'll have to make do. Aren't off-days just the worst?
This afternoon, I would like to step away from the Athletics' current roster, and take a look at the players who have left us over the past year. In today's professional sports, transaction logs are packed and roster turnover is high. Therefore, many fans get enjoyment not only from watching their own teams, but from keeping tabs on players who once wore their clubs' colors. Perhaps the player was an old favorite whom you still root for, or perhaps you are just curious which team got the better result from a particular trade. If you're reading this right now, then there is probably a 95% chance that, at some point this season, you have checked Trevor Cahill's 2012 stats, just to see how he is transitioning to the National League. After reading this, there will be a 100% chance that you have checked Trevor Cahill's 2012 stats, because they are in here. Foreshadowing!
Following up Baseballgirl's retrospective about former fan favorites, here's a look at the early 2012 performances of Oakland's recent departures. I expect to update this piece periodically throughout the season. (I am limiting this article to players who wore green and gold at some point in 2011; so, basically all of last year's squad).
***The Big Trades***
Trevor Cahill: 5 starts, 31.2 IP, 21 K, 13 BB, 1 HR, .221 BAA, 3.13 ERA
Spin: Cahill was always a very polarizing player in his time in Oakland. The results looked good, but the underlying peripheral stats always screamed, "Overrated!" He never struck out enough hitters, never showed enough control to make up for that weakness, and always seemed on the verge of giving up too many hits to succeed. In early 2012, nothing has changed. The K's and BB's are right in line with what he did last year, and he still lives and dies on how well he can keep the hits down. Cahill has had more good starts than bad so far (and he conquered Coors Field a few weeks ago), but he's struggled in his home park and is probably going to end up allowing more than one homer per five starts. It's hard to see Cahill ever being an ace, but so far he is delivering exactly the type of production that Arizona could have reasonably expected. You have to feel good about Oakland's end of this trade right now, with the early performances of Parker and Cook (more on Cook later today).
Craig Breslow: 11 games, 12.1 IP, 11 K, 7 BB, 1 HR, .167 BAA, 2.19 ERA, 4.0 GPA
Spin: The smartest man in the Majors is picking up right where he left off this year. He still walks too many hitters, but posts solid strikeout numbers and keeps the hits down. Although Oakland's bullpen in undeniably weak this year, it's not singularly because we lost Breslow. Relievers are the most easily replaceable commodities on an MLB roster, and Billy Beane has proven adept at pulling them out of his...garden. Indeed, the reliever which we received in this trade (Cook) has outperformed Breslow so far this year. In fact, Cook has outperformed just about every reliever in baseball so far.
Premature trade analysis: This one is looking good for Oakland. In the short-term, the players who we received are currently out-performing the players we gave up. In the long-term, our players have higher ceilings, as well.
Gio Gonzalez: 5 starts, 29.2 IP, 34 K, 12 BB, 0 HR, .155 BAA, 1.82 ERA, 88 pitches per game (high: 97)
Spin: Gio has not just taken a step forward in 2012; he's taken several giant leaps forward, and it all has to do with his control. After years of struggling to get his K:BB ratio north of 2.0, he's now flirting with 3.0. He was always good at keeping the hits and homers down, but this year he's been ridiculous, allowing fewer than 5 hits per 9 innings without a single homer. He won't keep up those numbers, but he won't have to if he keeps striking out 10 batters per 9 innings while limiting his walks. Another result of his improved control is his efficiency: he is yet to throw 100 pitches in a game, but has pitched 6 or 7 innings in 4 of his 5 starts. Washington has gotten their money's worth so far.
Premature trade analysis: Dealing Gio Gonzalez was as big of a blow to Oakland's fan base as any transaction of the last 10 years. Between his performance, his upside, and his infectious personality, he was an overwhelming fan favorite. However, even with his dominant performance so far, it's hard to be upset when you look at the package that Oakland got in return. Milone is already in the rotation, and Peacock and Norris could make appearances in 2012. Both teams got what they were looking for in this deal.
Andrew Bailey: Has not played in 2012
Spin: When you're a bad team with a good closer, you should probably trade him for more useful assets. When that closer is also injury prone, you should trade him NOW before he gets hurt again. On a long enough time scale, all closers are injury prone, so you shouldn't wait to find out when your guy will start getting hurt. Oakland already knew that Bailey was injury prone, so they dealt him when he was healthy. He's already hurt again. In economics, that is called selling high. Bailey is a great guy, so I don't mean to revel in his misfortune, but this deal couldn't have worked out better for Oakland.
Ryan Sweeney: .361/.397/.556, 155 OPS+, 0 HR (but MLB-leading 12 doubles!), .448 BABIP (career: .329)
Spin: Sweeney is lighting it up in Boston. I said for years (on other websites, trust me) that Sweeney would thrive in Boston, but predicting that a hitter would thrive in Boston is sort of like predicting that your snowman would have lasted longer in Antarctica. Bold prediction, Nostradamus. Nevertheless, Sweeney is rapping doubles all over Fenway, which is just adorable since he still can't physically hit a home run. This really could be the year that he arrives as a consistent .300 hitter, but he is due for serious regression from his current stats. He has been almost exactly league-average throughout his career (98 OPS+, career-high 100 OPS+), and I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish just slightly north of average (say, 105-110 OPS+).
Premature trade analysis: It's hard not to be happy about this one. Bailey isn't playing, and Josh Reddick is arguably better than Sweeney already (and is a good bet to have a better career). I would have taken Reddick straight up for Bailey, so the fact that we picked up a couple of intriguing prospects for Sweeney is just icing on the cake. Mmm, cake.
Josh Outman: Rehabbing in AAA, likely ticketed for bullpen
Spin: Outman was once a part of Oakland's future rotation. Then he got hurt, and fell off the depth chart. If he was still in Oakland, he would not be a part of any short- or long-term plan. He is looking more and more like a non-factor.
Guillermo Moscoso: 7.91 ERA (AAA), 10.80 ERA (1 MLB start vs Mets)
Spin: Moscoso was a surprise for Oakland last year, but it was pretty clear that he would not repeat his success. So far, he hasn't. Beane sold high on Moscoso, dealing him for a legitimate Major Leaguer. He's looking like a journeyman 5th starter, at best.
Premature trade analysis: Beane took two guys with no futures in Oakland, and turned them into a solid player who is under team control through 2014. Even though Smith is struggling so far, this deal is pretty clearly a win for Oakland.
***The Free Agents***
Josh Willingham: .325/.429/.636, 192 OPS+, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0.9 fWAR in 22 games
Spin: After signing a 3 year, $21M deal with Minnesota, The Hammer is off to a torrid start for the Twins. However, it no longer looks so obvious that the A's should have tried to re-sign him. With Cespedes and Reddick locked into two outfield spots, Coco clogging up LF, and a host of cheaper options available to ultimately replace him (Smith, Gomes, Taylor, Manny), it is probably for the best that Oakland let Willingham walk. I loved watching him in 2011, and wish him the best in Minnesota. Also, he drew a very important walk last night.
David DeJesus: .238/.333./.286, 75 OPS+, 0 HR, 18.5% K rate (career high, so far)
Spin: Yep, looks about right. Bummer to see a guy's career crash and burn like this, but he has pretty much been the same sub-par player that he was in Oakland. You have to wonder if that thumb injury from 2010 is still affecting his offense. No word yet on if he still smiles after every strikeout. The funny part: DeJesus is hitting leadoff for the Cubs. Every day. The less funny part: He still has a higher OBP than almost every player on our team. D'oh!
Spin: It's hard to imagine that Matsui has much left in the tank, but if anyone can get value out of him, it's Joe Maddon and the Rays. I expect that he will not do much in 2012, and then will randomly hit one or two season-changing home runs in ridiculously clutch spots.
***Other 2011 A's (in alphabetical order)***
Adrian Cardenas: If Cardenas ever pans out for another team, A's fans will weep. There was never really a place for him here, and his minor-league numbers, while solid, never projected well to the Majors. At age 24, he is lighting up AAA with a .972 OPS. More importantly, he is finally showing a bit of power, with an Isolated Slugging Percentage of .223. With a bunch of sub-par players manning second and thirds bases in Chicago, Cardenas might soon force the Cubs to give him a shot in the Majors.
Mark Ellis: .276/.370/.322, 0 HR, 0.6 fWAR in 24 games for the Dodgers. Looks about right. He still can't hit much (96 OPS+), but his fielding makes him a solid contributor. He'll always be a fan favorite here, but Weeks is the future (even though Ellis is currently out-playing him).
Kevin Kouzmanoff: .306/.352/.412, 0 HR....in AAA. Kouz is not even good enough to play for the Royals right now. (To be fair, he is being blocked by a much better player). No matter how dire our third base situation is, I'm still glad that we don't have Kouz. He makes more outs at the plate than he does in the field. I'm happy with Brandon Inge, for now.
Trystan Magnuson: Pitched one game for Toronto's High-A ball team
Jai Miller: .811 OPS for Baltimore's AAA club
Landon Powell: .725 OPS for Houston's AAA club. Considering how bad Houston's catchers are, I'm surprised that they don't give Powell some playing time. He's got some talent.
Brett Wallace: .235/.279/.358 for Houston's AAA club. Wallace never played for the A's, but he is still a very relevant piece of our transaction history. I'm not going to get into the details now, but suffice it to say that he was all that the A's had to show for the ill-fated Carlos Gonzalez deal. Beane flipped him for Michael Taylor, and right now it appears to have been a smart move. Taylor hasn't yet panned out, but he's a lot closer to doing so than Wallace. Houston is so bad that they're calling up players from AA to see who sticks, so it's very telling that Wallace is still in the minors.
Brad Ziegler: 12 games, 10 IP, 10 K, 6 BB, 0 HR, .250 BAA, 1.80 ERA. After blowing a save in his first appearance of 2012, Ziggy has settled down and is pretty much doing his thing: keeping the ball in the park and getting tons of ground balls (69.2%, career high so far), but walking too many guys. Solid reliever, but ultimately replaceable.
Conclusion: All of our offseason trades are working out beautifully so far. Not only are we getting production from the players we received, but none of the players we dealt are lighting the world on fire (except for Gio, for whom we got the best return). The free agents who we let walk aren't making us miss them, and the prospects we gave up on are floundering. You could argue that Willingham would look good in our lineup, but he will cool off and is still injury prone.
It's tough to enter every season with a brand new roster, but this time around, Beane seems to have made the right picks. I don't regret any of the moves that he made last winter, and although I wish all the best to the players who have left us, I am happy with the way that things are playing out so far.