There was no shortage of hot takes after Saturday's trade sending John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell to the Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar.
Local writer beat
The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser goes through her sources to see where the A's stand:
One big-league exec recently described Oakland's revamped roster as "younger, cheaper and deeper." If you go around the diamond replacing like for like, that's certainly true in many instances, and even more so in the rotation; plus the A's added depth in the minor leagues in their many offseason trades. They're particularly high on second baseman Joe Wendle and shortstop Franklin Barreto.
Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee notes that this offseason addresses Oakland's deficiencies against left-handed pitching:
Beane said he envisions the A's using the right-handed Semien at multiple positions to spell regulars and "create matchup issues." The A's in recent seasons have been heavy on left-handed hitters, but one effect of this winter's turnover has been an influx of right-handed bats. Facing left-handed pitching was a weakness last season for the A's, who ranked last in the A.L. against left-handers with a .239 batting average.
And it may even serve to chap Larry Baer's already reddened mood, after the United States Olympic Committee selected Boston rather than the Bay Area as its candidate for the 2024 Summer Games. I mean, it's one thing to be told no by a bunch of suits in Colorado Springs, but to be rejected by a bunch of suits in Tampa is an entirely different matter.
John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group has a guess on how much more the A's could spend for 2015:
#Athletics GM Billy Beane still has $5+ million available should he feel need to make another move, but this has been busiest winter yet.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) January 10, 2015
The word from Tampa
Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times runs down Zobrist's accomplishments as a Ray:
Zobrist is the first player on record to spend 200 games at second base, shortstop and rightfield. No switch-hitter has had more extra-base hits (236) over the past four seasons, and his 5.03 wins above replacement led the team last year. He leaves as the club's all-time leader in walks and doubles, and only Carl Crawford had more hits or played in more games in a Rays uniform.
TB Times Tom Jones' column almost reads like an obituary for Zobrist:
No matter where he played or where he batted, the switch-hitting Zobrist was a key cog in the Rays' starting nine. He was so dependable, so consistent that you overlooked his contributions daily. Only when he was out with an injury, given a day off or in a bit of a slump did you realize how valuable he was to the Rays.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says Billy Beane's offseason moves make "more sense now. He never intended to concede":
The Athletics' offseason didn't proceed in linear fashion; offseasons rarely do. Beane took a run at free-agent third baseman Chase Headley, offering him four years and about $60 million, according to major-league sources. The A's plan was to play Headley at third and move Lawrie to second. But Headley chose to sign with the Yankees for four years, $52 million.
So, Beane kept working.
Richard Justice of mlb.com believes Billy Beane is "absolutely fearless":
He also has the ability to ignore the noise. He's been doing this stuff long enough that he trusts his judgment and that of his assistants. That's the lesson of this offseason in which Beane has taken the A's apart and put them back together again.
You never want to trade a Ben Zobrist, but the Rays knew they were going to, and they found appropriate value. As for the A's, they're enthusiastic about receiving a Ben Zobrist, and now a completely different Oakland team will look to have a very similar kind of Oakland regular season. Maybe not down to the last detail. But as confusing as Oakland's winter has been, it all makes more sense now on the other side.
The A's may eventually turn Zobrist into another draft pick, writes Sports Illustrated's Cliff Corcoran:
Zobrist and Escobar in no way compensate for the amount of talent and production the A's have parted with this offseason, but there does appear to be some method behind this madness. Zobrist may leave as a free agent next winter, but if he has a representative season, the A's can extend a qualifying offer to him and net a draft pick.
Around the SB Nation network
Over at DRaysBay, Daniel Russell is underwhelmed:
There's two very different ways to look at this trade, and both depend on how you consider the players the Rays gave up. On the one hand, the team is shipping out one of the most valuable second basemen in all of baseball with one year left on an affordable contract, along with the only true short stop on the roster who was likewise signed to a very reasonable multi-year deal.
On the other hand, the Rays are shipping out an 34 year old utility player who's known nothing but astroturf for most of his career, and a short stop coming off an uninspiring season who's stuck to a contract at rates the Rays might rather not consider affordable. Either way, the new real is the pieces they gathered.
Ian Malinowski thinks the Rays come out losers when he calculates the surplus value of the players exchanged:
As these numbers stand, though, the Rays sent $33.8 million in surplus value to Oakland and received back $25.9 million in surplus value. That's approximately an $8 million loss for the Rays.
You can be happy to see Jaso back in Tampa Bay, and be happy about having Daniel Robertson, a high-quality prospect. But without a better-than-projected performance from Jaso, or some surprising development from Powell, I have yet to see a strong reason to be happy about this deal.
At Lookout Landing, Scott Weber laments the Mariners standing pat on the foundation they've already built:
There's not much to do but roll our collective eyes. It's no secret how badly we lobbied for Ben Zobrist on this site, and surely other sites did the same. Come on. Who doesn't need a Ben Zobrist? He's the exact kind of player Billy Beane would acquire. So he did. Since this A's only subtracted Jaso from their 2015 roster, this move will give them a large boost in the projected standings, certainly closing in on the lead the Mariners had, if you bought that they had one in the first place.
South Side Sox's Jim Margalus notes that the haul from the Jeff Samardzija trade gets a big boost from sending John Jaso to Tampa. Specifically, they would like to remind us they don't think Josh Phegley is that good:
And boy, the change of scenery is doing wonders for Phegley so far. At the moment, Beane has carved out the backup role for him after trading Derek Norris and Jaso. Our familiarity with Phegley's flaws makes it looks like Oakland's asking for trouble there, especially [given] a foot injury limited Vogt's time behind the plate last year. That might be reason enough for the A's to acquire another backup catcher -- somebody like Geovany Soto. That result would be a more sensible arrangement from our perspective.
If they roll with Phegley, though ... well, Athletics Nation is sold on the idea of Phegley as "reportedly a plus defender," so one blog should have the opportunity to laugh at the other this year.
Grant Brisbee is "a touch disappointed" over at McCovey Chronicles:
Still, I wanted Ben Zobrist. I've wanted Zobrist for about seven years now. Forgive me if I'm just a touch disappointed. I don't think the Giants could have beat the A's offer, not considering the Rays were looking for young position players. Maybe Andrew Susac has more value than Robertson right now, but I don't know if the Giants had anything the Rays would have wanted more than Jaso and Powell. Jaso helps them win now; Powell is a nice player for later.
Bryan Grosnick of Beyond the Box Score reminds readers "Yunel Escobar isn't exactly chopped liver, either":
If Escobar bounces back defensively (or if this past season's sample is mostly noise), he probably represents another couple of wins of upgrade for the A's at shortstop. All in all, we're looking at a possible addition of about six wins (4.2 for Zobrist, 1.8 for Escobar) in 2015, according to the Steamer projection system at FanGraphs. Not only that, but Zobrist provides a shocking amount of flexibility for a team that prides itself on taking the platoon advantage at as many positions as possible. Zobrist's acquisition will allow the Athletics to get the most out of their roster when injuries strike, or when they need to move Zo from the infield to the outfield in order to take advantage of matchups.
Jason Wojciechowski has come out of his book editing cave to offer his state of the A's remarks:
I didn't not pay attention to the team while all this movement was going on, but, with the aforementioned book taking up the vast majority of my spare time, thinking deeply about the A's was backgrounded. This had the downside of you not getting to wonder at the joy of my thoughts; it has the upside of those thoughts not truly forming until the team appears to be basically complete.
That doesn't mean I'm right and anybody who's been thinking and writing all along (like my friends at Athletics Nation and elsewhere on the blogosphere) is wrong; it just gives me a different perspective, a different headspace in which to operate, and from that perspective, this team, full of unfamiliar names, hopes and dreams of upside, etc. etc., doesn't really look half bad.
The players on the move
Ben Zobrist ignored his phone all day Saturday after the trade before speaking to the Tampa Bay Times' Matt Baker:
Zobrist thanked the fans and community for their support since he joined the franchise in 2006. He made his major-league debut later that year and was a key part of the club's transformation from the doormat Devil Rays to the playoff-contending Rays.
"I think it'll be fun to get to know new teammates and new fans and a new situation in Oakland. It'll be exciting," Zobrist said. "But part of my heart is still stuck in Tampa Bay right now. It'll take a little bit for me to move on."
John Jaso told John Hickey he was excited to return to Tampa, but will miss the A's:
John Jaso tells me he's "exited he'll be going back to my roots" in Tampa, but "sorry to be leaving my guys with" #Athletics— John Hickey (@JHickey3) January 10, 2015
Daniel Robertson didn't have his phone on him, it seems, as the deal went through:
The one week I don't have a phone... Is the one time I really really need it haha.— Daniel Robertson (@D_Robertson28) January 10, 2015
He was ultimately able to tap out a gracious message of thanks to the A's:
Boog Powell spent the day tweeting messages of thanks to now former teammates:
@JSport7 thanks J.P! You too! Kill it— Boog Powell (@Boogpowell15) January 10, 2015
@RMath13 thanks ryan! I am beyond happy that i got to be your roommate and listen to all your wise words, good luck with everything!— Boog Powell (@Boogpowell15) January 11, 2015
"I think it's fantastic what Billy is doing, especially after how the offseason started," Reddick said. "Everybody thought we were giving up. Then Billy does what Billy does and turns it right back around and surprises everyone. It's awesome. I can't wait for the season to start."
2015 Face of the Athletics Sean Doolittle will need some help pairing the names and faces at spring camp:
A's FanFest will just be A's players with name tags going from table to table getting to know each other and making awkward small talk— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) January 10, 2015