I'm in the camp that thinks the A's did well at the deadline. Clearly, they were seeking to "improve now" if they could, getting serious in the talks for Hanley Ramirez and Chase Headley, then deciding -- correctly, I believe, given the information we think we have -- that the best move was to say no to the high prices being demanded in return.
I have no problem with that, and I think the A's got through the deadline having played it right given the options in front of them. And then they neglected to keep doing nothing. They traded Kurt Suzuki for catching prospect David Freitas, in a move that really doesn't make sense to me. Here's why...
After making the statement that they were trying to upgrade if they could, they decided to "roll with the guys we have". Perhaps that was a mild disappointment to players hoping for a spark plug to come in, but the team was winning, the status quo was working, the chemistry was good. OK.
The problem is that after not "buying," the A's turned around and traded Suzuki and it wasn't even in a "win now" move. Had they dealt him for a marginal upgrade, such as Mike Aviles, it would at least have been an upgrade for now. Same with a "good bullpen arm" -- maybe not a blockbuster move, maybe not a "Hanley Ramirez" potential impact player, but a chance to get better now, even a little. "Better" is better than "same" and any move designed to improve the team in August, no matter how marginally, might have justified the trade.
Instead, the A's traded Suzuki for a minor league catcher, one who happens to be from the same organization that spawned Derek Norris and was not rated as highly. So not a "shortstop or 3Bman for now," not a "hot shot prospect for later," but a "deepen our farm system a bit" prospect who most certainly does not make the team better now.
Meanwhile the A's, after not making the team "better now," turned around and traded away one of their veteran leaders. Not just any veteran leader, but the leader to the A's most important, and prolific, resource: Young pitchers. This isn't about whether Norris has called for a fastball when he should have called for a slider, or whether Suzuki would have called for the same pitch or a different one. This is about the fact that the single player most important to Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Ryan Cook, and so on, was shipped off in the middle of a playoff race and not in order to bolster the current team in any way. Does that make sense? Does it send the right message about this season?
My point is this: If you're going to "stand pat and roll with the guys you have," then don't turn around and trade one of your key leaders. Or if you do, you'd better be able to point to the SS, or relief pitcher, or someone you got back who might make you better now. Otherwise, it looks like you are not only ok with not getting better now, but you're also ok with shaking up what was working and possibly getting worse.
I don't know if the current pitching struggles have anything to do with Suzuki's absence, nor do I know to what extent "leadership" and "morale" translate to the on-field batting averages and ERAs. What I do know is that the anchor, and highly respected leader, of the A's pitching staff was shipped off in the heat of a pennant race, and I'm not sure how that trade helped in any way. I can just see how it might hurt. Weird message, poor strategy.