It's been said that trades need to be evaluated in context, and that's the way to look at this deal from the A's perspective. Given that, here is the context of the trade, as best as I can tell
- The A's are coming off of 94 and 96-win seasons, respectively
- Bartolo Colon was the nearest thing the A's had to a front-line starter in 2013. The A's will not re-sign Bartolo Colon (well, they could, but they have all but stated publicly that their pursuit of him is over)
- Top of the rotation starting pitching is one of the few weaknesses that the A's have had over the last two seasons, despite the high team win totals
- Brett Anderson is injury prone, and his trade value is questionable
With regards to the winning seasons idea, it's clear that 2014 is the year the A's will cash in any marketable trade chips they have to upgrade the team, and plug the holes made by departures of players via free agency. Chris Young was replaced by Craig Gentry, acquired for Michael Choice. Jim Johnson was acquired for Jemile Weeks to replace Grant Balfour. Scott Kazmir was signed to replace Colon. All of these moves make sense in the idea that the A's have to replace the lost talent. It's even fair to say at least one of the moves (Gentry) upgrades a position it is meant to replace. Indeed, Beane also upgraded the bullpen by trading away Seth Smith for Luke Gregerson, and signed Nick Punto to upgrade the middle infield defense.
Another upgrade, though, would be the rotation. To be clear, barring a massive trade the A's are unlikely to make, there are no real "aces" available to them. The best pitchers who are available on the free agent market now (Jimenez, Santana, Colon) have some warts attached to them, and if everything breaks right, could slot as a #2 starter. With the signing of Kazmir, the A's clearly think that his rebound performance was more than a mirage and he can be that #2 rotation anchor he was always thought to be. That upside is one of the main reasons I advocated for Kazmir's signing. Anderson is a lot like Kazmir in that way: a top of the rotation potential guy who has fallen on hard times with the injury bug. Put another way, if Anderson was available on the free agent market, or via trade from another team, he's a guy I would expect the A's to target as a buy-low candidate.
Furthermore, I do not see how this trade fits into the win-now mode. One can certainly say that the A's farm system is barren, and this is a necessary trade to replenish it. I get that to some extent, but Pomeranz's addition will not demonstrably affect the quality of the system as a whole, and Chris Jensen seems to be just a warm body to start the season in AA. If the team cared about its farm system, it would not have bothered trading away Michael Choice for Gentry. If the A's are going all-in, then keeping Anderson is part of that risk: his upside is much higher than Pomeranz's right now. Sure, Pomeranz has more years of team control, and may ultimately produce more value to the team than Anderson will over two years; but again, that's not what the rest of the offseason has been about.
To look at it from a projections standpoint, Dan Szymborski, the keeper of the ZIPS projection system, tweeted out rather optimistic projections of Pomeranz in Oakland, and pessimistic ones for Anderson in Colorado:
Pomeranz ZiPS in Oakland: 4.39 ERA, 88 ERA+, 123 IP. Anderson in Colorado - 4.33 ERA, 103 ERA+, 43.2 IP— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 11, 2013
Given the way the projections work, it's not surprising that it spits out Anderson at 43.2 IP. After all, he's had ridiculously low IP totals for the past 4 seasons. On the other hand, the bulk of those missed innings were due to arm trouble, which has been repaired. It's a fair bet to take the over on that number, and that's exactly what Colorado did. He could either be excellent and healthy, for once in his pitching career, or he could find himself with more body trouble and end up on the shelf most of the year. As a team who could really use a high-upside starter, it's a reasonable bet. Here is the problem with that line of reasoning though: the A's are also that team that could use a high-risk, high-upside starter making relatively little money in today's market. They had that guy in Anderson, and traded him away! For the A's to demonstrably improve the team, it's risks like these that the team has to take.
To play Devil's Advocate, however, it is certainly possible that Beane has a player payroll budget he needs to stick to and dumping Anderson is also ridding himself of his contract. As it stood pre-trade, the A's major league payroll would have been a franchise high of around $86M. If that is the case, then it's hard to say Beane didn't do well. As he said himself, this resets the clock on someone who also has some upside, but more importantly, has six remaining years of team control. What's more, Pomeranz has the prospect pedigree, being drafted 5th overall in 2010. As far as wild cards/projects go, there are definitely worse guys to have. It's just that Anderson has already had the major league success when he's been healthy, whereas Pomeranz apparently has had mechanical issues, and maybe some nibbling the plate issues, too. Plus, given that the A's sent $2M to Colorado to sweeten the deal, that means they only saved $6M of his 2014 salary. They could have accomplished the same thing by trading away Callaspo for pure salary relief (it is questionable what kind of value he can bring in a trade anyway), and non-tendering Blevins.
Now that you have had a chance to digest this overnight, what do you think? Same as yesterday (which appeared to be mostly negative), or feeling better about it?