There is a time for visceral gut-wrenching and wish-casting, and certainly the trades of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Samardzija have provided great fodder for a wide range of emotions (disgust to despair represents a range, right?).
Whether you love, like, dislike or hate one of the trades or all of the trades, there is also just the loss of players who were favorites amongst many fans. If you have passionately followed the A's for years, chances are the A's just traded at least one player that you really liked, as a fan, regardless of what the A's got back.
That all being said, there is also a time for straight up analysis: How did the A's do in regards to what they got back for the players with whom they parted? Having gone through all the classic stages (anger, bargaining, Sneezy, Dopey, sloth, looting), I now sit back with a peaceful combination of numbness, whiskey and intrigue and am ready to weigh in on my less emotional, more analytical, conclusions on the three transactions.
Donaldson for Lawrie, Nolin, Graveman, Barreto
I am open to the idea that perhaps the A's got more back for Donaldson than I initially acknowledged. Brett Lawrie was a big-time prospect who will be just 25 next season and who may benefit greatly from a change of scenery right down to the substance beneath my feet. (That's a Bette Midler song, right? "You are the substance beneath my feet...")
Sean Nolin may not be a front-end SP prospect but he could be quite solid and Kendall Graveman's new cutter, combined with his insanely low HR rates, make him awfully intriguing. And in Franklin Barreto, the A's got back exactly the kind of "exciting young talent" that helps to replenish a barren farm system.
With Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson, and Matt Olson, the A's had a "big 3" of prospects poised to come up together around 2017. With Barreto, the A's once again have a "big 3" from which you might hope to get 2 really good players on the field by 2017.
Perhaps I still feel that the haul Oakland got was more suitable for "3 years of Josh Donaldson" and I think that remains my prevailing opinion, but at the same time while I do not expect Donaldson to decline sharply I would not be stunned if Lawrie excelled, if the two SPs proved to be "typically shrewd A's targets," or if Barreto wound up making the deal look good down the road.
Ultimately, I thought 4 years of Donaldson should be worth a "king's ransom" but at least the A's may have gotten a "prince's ransom" for a player who was last seen hobbling on a knee that is about to play on turf half the season.
Moss for Wendle
If you're feeling optimistic, Joe Wendle fits the profile of an "A's target" rather than "some minor league guy" -- the A's have often zeroed in on a player whose skills and track record were dwarfed by Oakland's belief in them as overachievers, hard-nosed competitors who made a mockery of scouts' faint praise of their potential.
Examples of such players include Mark Ellis and on a higher profile scale, Mark Kotsay. Of course there are other, less successful examples like Collin Cowgill. In a perfect world Wendle is the ultimate "diamond in the rough" and in a nightmare world he is just another failed 24 year old AA prospect.
The hard part was not acquiring Wendle so much as it was giving up Brandon Moss to get him. Clearly the market for Moss was not what we assumed it would be. My ultimate take on this trade is that Moss' value appears to have been that of someone who might come back from his hip surgery batting .230 with 20 HRs on a steep fall from grace into obscurity.
If that's the case then I suppose the A's made a good call. But assuming it isn't -- assuming that Moss has left in him at least one really good season, perhaps two -- then if the peak value Oakland could get for Moss was Wendle I would have preferred that the A's keep Moss and gamble that while his trade value may have been "a .230, 20 HR guy" in fact his production for Oakland would have been more than that.
There's risk if you go that route. If Moss tanks the first half of 2015, his trade value plummets even further. But unless Wendle is truly some secret stud only the A's fully appreciate, I would rather have held onto Moss than to settle for what looks, on the surface, to be an awfully meager return.
Samardzija, Ynoa for Semien, Bassitt, Phegley, Ravelo
Finally, a trade I liked when I heard the news (it breaks a 4-trade streak for me, beginning with the trade that brought said Shark to Oakland). Just as I was surprised at how bearish the market was for Moss, I was pleased at how bullish the market was for one year of Samardzija.
It remains to be seen how much Semien fulfills his promise as a prospect, but he is a legitimate starting SS prospect and is really the first "young every day starter" acquisition the A's have made for the middle infield since ... when? For how many years have we hoped that the trade of a beloved player might bring back a starting MIF solution? Eric Sogard doesn't have enough upside to qualify in my book and it seems like time after time we have said, "Wait ... no MIF help? Again?"
Well this time the A's have acquired an every day starting SS and then some. Chris Bassitt has a chance to offer either SP depth or perhaps a Ryan Cook type of relief arm, Josh Phegley is an intriguing RH hitting catcher to replace Geovany Soto on the depth chart, and Rangel Ravelo sounds like a pure hitter who may or may not hit for power but will probably hit with authority.
So I guess when the dust clears, it's a trade in which I thought the A's should get more but I get the trade, a trade I think the A's could have walked away from and just kept the player they have for now, and a trade that helps Oakland now as well as later.
As for where that leaves the A's at the moment? I have no illusions about 2015: Right now the 2015 team looks to be decent but hardly as good as the 2012-14 teams. The rotation of Gray, Kazmir, Pomeranz, Chavez, Nolin, Graveman, and eventually Griffin is solid if not spectacular, the losses of Donaldson and Moss not fully replaced by the additions of Lawrie and Butler.
As for the farm system, similar to the 2015 outlook I would say the farm system looks a lot better than it did a couple weeks ago but still won't blow anyone away. Robertson, Olson, Barreto, and Ravelo should be interesting to follow and the AAA pitching depth is back -- and other organizations have a bit more.
In other words, in regards to 2015 and in regards to 2016-18, it's a start. And from what I understand Billy Beane is, as Al Pacino would say, "just getting warmed up!"