I've heard a lot lately about the A's had better contend in 2009, since they have potentially compromised the very seasons for which they have seemingly been rebuildling: 2010-2012. I'm not sure the A's see it that way and here's why...
Let's assume the A's do not keep Holliday beyond 2009, because if they do then clearly they have taken care of the 2010+ seasons by making the trade. I think Beane and Co. looked at 2009 and saw the potential for a third consecutive sub-.500 year, saw the chance to acquire a huge asset for 90 cents on the dollar, and decided that improving the team now would be better both for team and fan morale (which translates into improved performance and improved interest/revenue, respectively), and that it could be done without preventing the team from moving forward in 2010 and beyond.
In 2010, the A's believe their rotation can be anchored by two very special pitchers in Cahill and Anderson, plus Gallagher (who should really be hitting full stride if he's going to), plus the best of Eveland, Gio, Mazzaro, Braden, Simmons - in other words, the rotation figures to be very, very good from 2010-2012, and a stellar rotation is the backbone to a team's success.The bullpen, with Devine, Ziegler, and Blevins under contract control for years to come, and with a slew of promising relief prospects at every level, is going to be very solid and will not require the A's to pony up any money or talent in order to have an enviable pen.
Meanwhile, come 2010 the A's can, if they choose, still employ Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Sweeney, Travis Buck, Aaron Cunningham, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez, Jack Cust, Furcal if he is signed, the better or readier of Barton and Doolittle, and a Holliday-lite addition that the team will be able to afford, be it Jason Bay or an equivalent right-handed hitter with good power.
Then in 2011, a whole new set of prospects will be arriving as some veteran contracts, notably Ellis' and Chavez', expire - freeing up money, if needed, to address weaknesses or concerns. Those prospects include Chris Carter, Adrian Cardenas, Josh Donaldson, and Jemile Weeks.
In other words, armed with true talent and remarkable depth at the very most important positon - starting pitcher - and armed with a farm system that will be producing legitimate talent faster than the major league roster is losing players to free agency or age decline, with or without Holliday the A's are sitting pretty from 2010 on.
So if the A's are poised to ride the coattails of Cahill, Anderson, and an emerging veteran core of Suzuki, Sweeney, Buck, and Cunningham, starting in 2010, why not make 2009 as competitive as possible, take a shot at contending now, recreate the "culture of winning" the clubhouse knew from 2000-2003, and send the following message out to the rest of the American League: Look out folks, we're good again - and we're only going to get better.