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Wheelin' and Dealin'

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Well, my speculation was right. Eric Byrnes is gone to launch monster home runs at Coors Field. He was traded along with Omar Quintanilla to the Colorado Rockies for Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick.

Good luck to Byrnes, who will thrive in Colorado (what guy with power doesn't?). Quintanilla's numbers had actually gone down the last few seasons, but there is a chance he might still wind up being a high quality player. I know Ron Washington had said several times he felt like Quintanilla would eventually be an outstanding middle infielder. But with Cliff Pennington poised to rise through the ranks quickly, the A's suddenly felt like they could move Omar. In his first two seasons in the minors, Quintanilla had a .387 OBP and a .329 batting average. This year, Quintanilla dropped to a .347 OBP and a .293 average. Those just aren't the kind of numbers that makes Billy Beane excited. Oh, and here is a key line from John Sickels The Baseball Prospect Book 2005 (which, by the way, was the only book Billy Beane had on his desk):

He does not draw tons of walks, but he doesn't strike out much either, and is the sort of player who can get away with a mediocre walk rate due to his high batting average.

That batting average has dropped this year. Not a good sign.

Any way, the A's lose guaranteed right-handed thunder against lefties in Byrnes and a prospect who may still develop into a top flight ML infielder. Or he could go the way of Jose Ortiz, another A's "infielder of the future" who never quite made the jump to the bigs.

What do they get in return? I'll get to Joe Kennedy in a second. The A's get Gerald Alphonse "Jay" Witasick back for a second tour of duty by way of the Royals, Padres, Yankees, Padres (again), Giants, Padres (again) and now the Rockies. Ignore Witasick's lifetime 4.60 ERA for a minute and realize that this guy's stats have been climbing the last couple of years. He is striking out righties and lefties and neither is hitting him well. And get this, at home in the thin Coors Field air, Witasick has a 2.11 ERA this year and a 4:1 K/BB rate. This is a high-quality reliever. A strikeout pitcher who deepens the A's pen, and the best part is that he's versatile and can be used against righties and lefties, unlike Chad Bradford who was markedly worse against lefties (left-handed batters hit almost .298 against Bradford the last three seasons).

Getting Witasick signals to me that the A's are still thinking 2005, and not 2006.

As for Kennedy, the A's essentially swapped $2.2 million one-year contracts with the Rockies, attempting to get a deeper pitching staff. And possibly an extra LOOGY. Even though he's been battered around by lefties this year, Kennedy excelled against lefties last year who hit only .184 against him and had an OPS against of .594. That smells of classic LOOGY to me. The question is, can he get it back this season? I imagine the A's front office thinks so, otherwise they wouldn't have dealt for him.

Overall, these deals collectively look much better to me tonight than they did this morning. They probably wouldn't have if Witasick wasn't included in the deal, but that sends a clear message to me that the A's are going to try and win this year. Payton can hit righties who Kielty struggles against and he is now a solid backup centerfielder who can give Kotsay a day off here and there. I wouldn't rule out another deal for a power bat at some point too...it just depends on what is available.

Finally, I want to say something about Eric Byrnes. Byrnes always gave everything he had to the Oakland A's and it took everything he had to finally get on a major league roster. He's an example of what hard work and dedication can get you. His heart and hustle will be missed and I want to wish him the best in Colorado. He's going to a fastball league and playing in Colorado and I believe he will flourish. Best of luck, Byrnsie.