Last week, the Oakland Athletics followed up their trade of Josh Donaldson with two more deals to ship out fellow fan favorites Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija. It's entirely possible that these moves left you sick to your stomach, and we'll just have to wait until the 2015 season to see if that reaction was warranted. I'm not disgusted by the trades, but I found myself sick to my stomach anyway last week.
I haven't said a lot about the A's since the trades went down, but it's not because I didn't want to. Last Wednesday, the pain in my gut was caused not by anything Billy Beane did, but rather by an appendix that had apparently been angry for years and wanted out of our partnership. I obliged and chose not to tender the organ a contract for 2015 due to its poor performance this season, so it's a free agent -- but it's entering its 30s and its career is likely over, so the market will be tough. I was fortunate to be out of the hospital in three days given that the ol' bugger was ruptured, and in the end it was an extreme case that played out like a routine one -- the exact opposite of how I view the A's current offseason, which is a routine periodic re-tooling that looks to the untrained eye like a shocking and extreme purging of talent.
I figured that posting articles from my hospital bed while hopped up on painkillers was probably not the wisest move in the world, so I let everyone else do the talking for a while. Now I'm here with only the coldest of takes, to give you news (olds?) about some things that happened over a week ago. To ease back into things, I'm going to start by letting the rest of the Internet pick up some of the load for me. Here are some links from around the tubes that should help shed some light on what the A's are up to and what they got in return for their All-Stars.
- Eno Sarris of Fangraphs interviewed assistant GM David Forst and got the inside scoop on a wide range of topics. If you read one story on the entire Internet about the A's this winter, it should be this one.
Forst: I think Billy [Beane, General Manager] has articulated in a couple of places that we knew that just bringing back the current team, assuming the losses of [Jon] Lester, and [Luke] Gregerson, and [Jed] Lowrie and some of those guys that we didn't have an opportunity to sign - bringing back that team wasn't going to work. The Angels were obviously 11 games better than us and the Mariners were right on our tail, and poised to get better. Just bringing back our group and just supplementing it with little pieces, wasn't going to give us a chance to compete, and was also going to leave us further down the path of having an older, more injury-prone club, frankly.
We decided very early on that we needed to take a similar route that we did in 2011, in November in December, and work hard on increasing our depth, getting younger and getting healthier.
For all the head-scratching, for all the mainstream talking heads claiming to be perplexed about what the A's are up to, the front office is awfully upfront about precisely what is going on. If you're willing to listen, that is.
- Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle explains that Billy Beane trades players like stocks: sell high, buy low.
Here's a simple way to view what Billy Beane does: The A's general manager sells high and buys low. That's considered a smart strategy in the business world, but in sports, it can lead to trades that look, in the short-term, lopsided.
Case in point: Beane moves the A's best player, third baseman Josh Donaldson, whose career is peaking, for four players, including a younger third baseman (Brett Lawrie) who has been limited by some injuries in recent years. Sell high, buy low.
- Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs looks beyond the quality of any particular move to see the greater purpose of what the A's are doing.
I'd like to focus less on the specific moves. Maybe you think they should've gotten more from the Indians for Moss. Plenty of people think they should've gotten more from the Blue Jays for Donaldson. I don't want to concern myself with whether the A's are maximizing their returns and winning their deals. The truth of it is, we don't know. We don't know who's winning a trade; we don't know if anyone is winning a trade, at the time. With the A's, I think the plan is pretty obvious. The execution? That's questionable. But the plan is the only one that's sensible.
- Jane Lee of MLB.com looks back to recent history to provide hope for 2015, with the example that this has been done before and the implication that Beane isn't finished constructing his roster yet.
The dollars accrued from those trades (Cahill, Gio, Bailey) allowed the A's to reallocate funds elsewhere. They extended Coco Crisp and reeled in Bartolo Colon and Yoenis Cespedes, making a trade for Seth Smith, too.
A similar blueprint appears to be in place this winter.
- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times shows us the alternate reality, the one in which a team hangs on to its stars too long in an attempt to cling to past glory. The Phillies sure wish they'd sold off some stars a while ago.
The fans who cheered for those players in better days stayed away because of the losing. The Phillies' attendance dipped by almost 600,000 last season, the biggest decline in the majors. Fans support productive players, not familiar ones gone stale.
"You identify, and fans identify, with players like Rollins, Utley and Howard, who are arguably the best players at their positions in the history of our franchise," Amaro said. "It's hard to cut them loose. And yet, sometimes, you have to have that mentality like, you know what, maybe we were a little too loyal, maybe we were thinking that we could squeeze some more blood out of the stone.
"But that's also a good learning experience for me. Maybe we've got to do things a little differently, and think about doing that shift a little earlier."
- Nathaniel Stoltz, who sometimes contributes here at AN, wrote a report on Rangel Ravelo for Fangraphs in March. He liked a lot of things about Ravelo back then, and that was before posting an .859 OPS in Double-A at age 22. As always with Nathaniel, there are videos.
So, while Ravelo's statistical profile makes him look like a powerless first baseman, there's a fairly large base of evidence to suggest that he may end up neither underpowered nor a first baseman. That's not to say he's a lock to hit 20 homers and play an adequate third base in the majors, but there's definitely a higher likelihood of his becoming an offensive force and defensive non-liability than he's given credit for. In the end, Ravelo's ultimate fate does somewhat return to the fundamental nature of bat-first prospects-if they hit, they stay interesting (thus prompting either their organization or another one to try to find MLB playing time for them), and if they don't, they fall off the radar quickly.
- Chris Bassitt was wonderful in the Arizona Fall League this year, explains Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Although he was shut down with an injury, it was just discomfort in his foot and it wasn't expected to be serious.
Bassitt experienced discomfort in his left foot that is not believed to be serious. Bassitt, 25, stands a strong chance to earn a spot in the Sox's rotation, and he validated his credentials by posting an 0.69 ERA with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings in the AFL.
- Baseball America speaks its piece on the players acquired for Samardzija.
Phegley, who'll turn 27 before the start of next season, is not a particularly polished receiver, but does have solid arm strength. He can be somewhat stiff behind the plate as well, leading to passed balls. At the plate, Phegley has power and drives mistakes, but lacks patience and real bat speed. He profiles as a backup.
- Baseball America again, on Joe Wendle.
His hit tool might be the only one that's plus, but that could be enough to get him to the majors. He has a short, compact swing, an advanced feel for hitting and solid control of the strike zone. While his numbers don't stand out, scouts say he uses the whole field and makes good contact. One scout likened Wendle to former Cardinals star Tommie Herr.
- Our own Spencer Silva tells us why he's excited about Marcus Semien.
If Marcus Semien compares favorably to (Tony Phillips), who was worth 46.6 fWAR over the course of his career and led the major leagues in walks on multiple occasions, the A's may just look back upon this trade with the type of s***-eating grin that says, "I told you so." Count me among those pre-ordering their "Semien" shirseys when pitchers and catchers report in February.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes his stab at answering the question: What is Billy Beane doing?
Oakland is trying always to have rosters with as much flexibility as possible and as many players as possible between the ages of 22-29 because a) those are usually the least-expensive players and b) those are players likely to have their best seasons in front of them rather than behind them.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs weighs in on the evolving realities of the trade market in the wake of the Samardzija deal.
Marcus Semien and some stuff feels like a light return for Jeff Samardzija, just like Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin felt like a light return for David Price, and Martin Prado and stuff felt like a light return for Justin Upton. At some point, we need to stop expecting the market value of very good players on short-term deals to be elite talents who could turn into superstars. Instead, it appears that the market value of these kinds of players is lower-ceiling, big league ready players who look like they could perform at roughly a league average level for multiple low cost years.
- Three Athletics prospects made the Arizona Fall League All-Star team: Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson, and Chris Bassitt. Baseball America has the run-down.
Traded to Oakland this week in the deal for Jeff Samardzija, Bassitt flashed excellent velocity in his AFL stint, striking out 22 in 13 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-93 mph and reached 96 regularly, even as a starter. Bassitt works more off his sinker and hard slider, which has more of a cutter shape.
If you have any more A's links to share, then dump away in the comments!