Judging by the results going back to the 2002 “Moneyball” draft, few if any of the players the Oakland A’s take in the baseball draft that began Thursday night (June 6) will be playing for the team over the next few years.
But if the next five years follow the pattern set over the past 11 years that started with the 2002 draft, those players may help the A’s in obtaining other players.
Only three of the A’s 25 active players were drafted or signed originally by them, and reliever Sean Doolittle was taken 41st overall in 2007 as a first baseman out of the University of Virginia.
The New York Yankees, in contrast, though they have a well-deserved reputation for signing star free agents, have FOUR TIMES the home-grown talent on their roster.
Not counting Derek Jeter, who has been on the disabled list all season, and a couple of others also on the DL, the Yanks still have 12 on their active roster who originally signed with them.
Still, give Beane credit. The annual amateur draft, as key as it is, is only one tool in talent acquisition. Those draft picks may not become future A’s stars but can be traded to help acquire such stars. Sometimes, it’s the trade of those whom were traded for.
In any case, the result is that as of Friday the A’s are the hottest team in baseball. After a 5-4, 10-inning win Thursday in Chicago over the White Sox, the A’s have won 17 of 20, and each of the three losses they could easily have won.
In which case, we would be talking about them equaling and about to break their own American League record of 20 straight wins set in 2002.
That was the “Moneyball” season, about which author Michael Lewis wrote his best-selling 2003 book. The book and the 2011 film starring Brad Pitt were two very different things, though both entertaining and interesting.
The movie centered on the team’s 20-win streak, the division-winning season fueled by that streak and how the team was able to make up for losing star Jason Giambi as a free agent to the New York Yankees.
But much of the book centered on the 2002 draft and big changes in draft strategy implemented by GM Billy Beane.
So just how have the A’s drafting techniques worked out? Eleven years after the fact, that may be a fair question. I’m asking myself since that year, what home-grown stars have they drafted and/or signed and then developed into a bona fide star?
Anybody come to mind who is of the caliber of Buster Posey, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg, Evan Longoria, Joey Votto, Tim Lincecum, Troy Tulowitzki, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Ryan Braun or Matt Cain?
Nope. But in most cases there is an obvious reason: Many were taken in the first round before the A’s picked. Of those 12 stars listed above, only Trout in 2009, Cain in 2002 and Votto in 2002 were still on the board when the A’s picked for the first time.
The A’s took shortstop Grant Green of USC with the 13th pick in the first round in 2009, with the Angels snagging Trout with the 25th pick. In that 2002 “Moneyball” draft, the A’s had taken Nick Swisher and pitcher Joe Blanton by the time the Giants selected Cain.
But by the time the Reds selected the future NL MVP Votto in the second round with the No. 44 overall pick, the A’s had splurged five more picks on shortstop John McCurdy, pitcher Ben Fritz, catcher Jeremy Brown (featured in “Moneyball” the book but not the film), pitcher Steve Obenchain and third baseman Mark Teahen from Saint Mary’s.
Only two A’s draft picks since 2002 have developed into All-Stars, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey. They have since been traded, and what Beane got in return helped build the nucleus of last year’s team that surged to the AL West crown and this season’s club.
Indeed the roots that led to the acquisition of most of those now on the Oakland roster can be traced back to some previous A’s draft picks.
Chris Carter was part of the deal for Lowrie, and Carter was acquired in 2007 from Arizona in the Dan Haren trade. Haren, in turn, was obtained after the 2004 season in the trade of Mulder to St. Louis. Anderson was a part of that Haren trade as was Aaron Cunningham, later sent to San Diego in the deal that yielded Sogard.
Emerging star Josh Donaldson traces back to pitcher Rich Harden, drafted by the A’s (2000 17th round) and traded in July 2008 to the Chicago Cubs. Donaldson was one of four prospects landed in the deal.
Josh Reddick’s arrival traces back to two A’s draftees, Bailey (6th round, 2006) and Swisher (first round, 2002). Reddick and other prospects came from the Boston Red Sox in December 2011 for closer Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.
Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Sweeney both were part of a three-for-one trade of Swisher to the Chicago White Sox after the 2007 season. Gonzalez blossomed into an All-Star before being sent to the Washington Nationals in a four-for-two trade in December 2011 that brought among others … starting pitcher Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris.
Outfielder Seth Smith arrived a month later, January 2012, from the Colorado Rockies, and former A’s draft pick Joe Blanton (first round, 2002) played an indirect role. Pitcher Josh Outman, acquired in the July 2008 trade that sent Blanton to the Philadelphia Phillies, and pitcher Guillermo Moscoso went to the Rockies for Smith.
Swisher got the A’s Gio Gonzalez, who got the A’s pitcher A.J. Cole (along with Milone and Norris). A year later the A’s, in order to obtain Jaso, sent Cole back to Washington in a three-team deal also involving the Seattle Mariners. Washington, which also got Treinen and months later Krol, sent slugger Mike Morse to Seattle, which sent Jaso to Oakland.
But the bottom line for all of this is that those the A’s are now drafting likely will contribute to some of the team’s future success, but also just as likely, it may not be how they or A’s fans may be envisioning.