Over Spilled Milk: Harden to the Cubs

Earlier this week the Oakland Athletics announced that Scott Sizemore tore his ACL and would be out for the entire 2012 season. As the Athletics don’t have many other options, they stated that they are going to try converted catcher Josh Donaldson at third. The notion rose an eyebrow here as Donaldson’s has had experience at the hot corner, in the past, but overall it is pretty limited. Then again, they brought Scott Hatteburg out from behind the plate a decade ago, so “why not”? (They don’t have Ron Washington around anymore to tutor him though) Regardless, Donaldson’s name piqued my interest as he was involved in a trade a few seasons ago.

As we neared the trade deadline in 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers were in a division title race with the Chicago Cubs. In a bold move, the Brewers traded for ace starting pitcher CC Sabathia. With little on the trade market of Sabathia’s caliber, the Cubs took what they could get and acquired Rich Harden, a starting pitcher that had been known to possess the stuff to compete with Sabathia, but never put it all together for a completely healthy season. At the time I stated,

“Rich Harden is a game changing starter when healthy, when rarely healthy that is.  He has electric stuff, but he really hasn’t turned into a star because of his injuries.  Although he’s only pitched 77 innings so far, it’s the most since 2005.  But he’s also dominated this season as he has carried a 2.34 ERA with 92 strikeouts, while compiling a 5-1 record.”

That level of dominance was enough to draw the Cubs’ interest with the hope that he’d stay healthy the rest of the season. Then GM Jim Hendry traded Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher and the aforementioned Josh Donaldson for Harden and and reliever Chad Gaudin.

Harden would go on to post 12 more starts in a Cubs uniform, with even more dominant numbers (5-1, 1.77 ERA, 0.972 WHIP, and 89 K in 71.0 IP). The Cubs certainly got what they were looking for and it helped keep them in the lead in the NL Central, ending with a league-leading 97 wins. However, the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs that season. Harden came back the following season, but didn’t pitch as well. In 26 starts, Rich only gave up 122 hits in 141 innings, while striking out 171. But he also gave up 67 walks, pushing his WHIP up to 1.34 and his ERA to 4.09. Between the increased walks and the fact that Harden still couldn’t get close enough to the 200 inning plateau, it was being realized that Harden couldn’t become the dependable ace that the Cubs envisioned. He was granted his free agency in the winter of 2009 and posted two seasons of 5.00+ ERAs with the Rangers and the Athletics since.

Gaudin had bounced between starting and relief in Oakland and the Cubs were intent on keeping him in the pen. But things didn’t work out as Chad posted a 1.427 WHIP and a 6.26 ERA after the trade. He was released by the Cubs in the spring of 2009 and has bounced around to five other teams since.

The Cubs’ return on the trade was a post-season birth that they (would likely have gotten to anyway), a 4.0 WAR for 1.5 seasons of Harden and a -0.5 WAR from Gaudin.

Outfielder Matt Murton was the first player mentioned in the Athletics’ return for Harden. He showed some promise for the Cubs, producing good OBPs early on, but lacked the power to really be considered a starting corner outfielder. But in 2008 he fell apart and the Athletics must’ve thought they were buying low with the thought that Murton would bounce back. Yet he sank even lower, batting .100 with a .262 OPS (-0.2 WAR). In February of the following year he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for infielder Corey Wimberly. Like Murton, Wimberly had interesting OBPs in the minors, but never received a call-up. He recently signed a minor league contract with the Mets.

Eric Patterson rose through the Cubs system as a second baseman and put up some good OBPs along the way (see a trend here?). However some scouts questioned his defense and, although he has spent some time there in the majors, much of this time defensively has been in the outfield. Cast into a utility role, the Athletics kept him around for three seasons to see how well he fit into that role for them. Although he wasn’t hitting well when he was traded, Eric fell apart at the plate after the move to Oakland, batting .174 with a .269 OBP. He rose to a career-bast .287/.373/.394 line in 110 AB in 2009. Yet he hasn’t hit above .226 since and he’s shuffled around to Boston and San Diego as a result. The Athletics received Fabian Williamson from the Red Sox for Patterson in a December 2010 trade. The lefty hasn’t been able to post a WHIP below 1.70 since he was traded to the Athletics.

Gallagher was a right-handed starting pitcher that was at one time highly regarded. Yet Sean gave up too many hits and had some control issues. After the trade to the A’s, Sean gave up 9.5 H/9 and 5.7 BB/9 that resulted in a 5.88 ERA. He was switched to relief the following season and his statistics didn’t show an improvement from at as he was pounded to a 1.953 WHIP. He was eventually shipped off to San Diego in a package with two others in a trade for Scott Hairston. Sean has since moved around and is now with the Cincinnati Reds on a minor league contract.

That brings us to the man of the hour, John Donaldson. Donaldson is a former first round draft pick (48th overall) of the Cubs. A catcher since he was drafted, Donaldson has been tried out in the infield and outfield corners since he was traded for by the A’s. He’s displayed some pop in the minors and seems to be progressing with the bat overall. So far, he’s played a total of 53 games at third base in the minors, so his defense is surely in question at this time.

As it sits, Donaldson is Billy Beane’s best chance at coming out ahead on this deal, and the chances are slim. Although moving back out from behind the plate may allow for Donaldson’s bat to improve, I’m not sure if he will hit enough to warrant regular playing time. So far Beane’s efforts have resulted in a -2.6 WAR from the four players, much of it from Gallagher’s struggles.

At the time of the trade I stated in a post:

“Although other writers are claiming this an even trade for the teams or even a win for the Athletics, I believe that the Cubs will come out the winners if Harden can stay healthy long enough to get the Cubs into the playoffs.”

For this trade I give Jim Hendry a hearty B+ due to the fact that Harden was instrumental to the Cubs reaching the playoffs that season and that he didn’t give up anyone that has moved on to produce even league average in the majors. The grade would’ve been higher if there was a decent impact beyond 2008. As for Beane, this trade gives him a D grade that could quickly drop to a D- if he’s unable to get anything out of Donaldson. The players he traded had a cumulative negative WAR impact on the ball club. His only saving grace is the fact that he likely wouldn’t have been able to keep Harden after the 2009 season, especially if Rich had stayed healthy.

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The GM of the Month Award – December 2011: Billy Beane

The GM of the Month Award has been on hiatus for a while, but it seems appropriate to start it up again.

December is always a busy month for GMs as the annual Winter Meetings take place and numerous trades and signings go down. With the flury of activity this winter, there are plenty of candidates for the Award. One could argue for Miami Marlins GM Michael Hill with all of that rejuvinated team’s signings. You could also point out Jerry DiPoto’s work in Los Angeles since taking over the reigns this fall.

However, the GM of the Month Award will be going to Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics. He has been tasked with the development of a team that would be able to compete in three years to coincide with a stadium that hasn’t even been approved of yet. Once again, the team must itself down and reconstruct itself for anotehr run. Considering how tough Texas and L.A. are going to be next season, it may be better to set the A’s up for contention as players on those teams start to show their age.

Also, trades carry a greater weight (good or bad) in my eyes when considering the winner of the award. Over the past month, Billy Beane has traded away pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey for 10 players. In Cahill, Beane received a potential rotation anchor in Jarrod Parker, a fringe starting outfielder (one of my favorites of this type though) in Collin Cowgill, and a decent relief prospect in Cook. With the Gonzalez trade, Beane picked up three solid pitchers including A.J. Cole who could front the A’s rotation with Parker in the future. They also receive Derek Norris, a former top catching prospect that many think (though I’m not one) will still develop into a viable hitter. Finally, Bailey brought the A’s another outfielder for the near term along with a couple lower level prospects with decent upsides.

For this masterful dealing of the month, Billy Beane wins the December 2011 GM of the Month Award.

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Trade Bait: Athletics gutting continues with Bailey to Boston

Billy Beane has continued his assault on the complete tear down of his roster. The team’s closer, Andrew Bailey, has been shopped around for a while and is now in the hands of the Boston Red Sox. The Sox also land outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the package that sends Josh Reddick, Miles Head, and Raul Alcantara to the Athletics.

Bailey brings the Red Sox a solid closer and pushes new acquisition Mark Melancon to a setup role, a good 1-2 punch late in the game. There is speculation that the Sox will now move Daniel Bard to the rotation, taking them out of the Matt Garza bidding. I guess Ben Cherington’s old boss is asking too much for the Cubs’ starter.

The Red Sox also obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the deal. Once a top prospect, Sweeney is now more of a fourth or fifth outfielder on a good team. He should passify as replacement for Josh Reddick‘s defense in Boston.

Josh Reddick had a very nice debut in Boston last season, but I’m not too fond of his minor league statistics. His offense may struggle in the spacious ballpark in Oakland. Josh is still young though and can develop into a reliable offensive cog, but don’t look for stardom out of him. Defensively, Reddick will fit in fine for the Athletics, some scouts say he has the range for center but his arm is perfect for right field.

Miles Head is a 20-year-old first base prospect that hit .299/.372/.515 between A and High-A ball last season. He was drafted as a third baseman and some dream that he could return there with his good arm strength, but the reality of his range, or lack thereof, forces him to stay at first rather than third or a corner outfield spot. Right-handed 1B/DHs with limited range seem to be a dime a dozen, Beane has collected more than his share alone in his tenure. But he will have to excel in the upper levels to remain a viable prospect.

If he develops as hoped, pitcher Raul Alcantara could be the catch of this deal. At 6′-3″ and 180 pounds, the young hurled has some projectabilty to his body. He already throws in the low to mid 90s, but it he has been unable to sustain high velocities, something that should be resolved as he fills out. He has two mediocre off-speed offerings, but he’s also plenty young and could improve on those relatively fast. He could turn into a starter, but I see him as more of a two-pitch reliever down the road.

In addition to the prospects brought back, the Athletics will clear out nearly $5 million in salary with this deal. Bailey’s projected $3.5 million and Sweeney’s projected $1.6 million post-arbitration figures will be coming off the books, with only Reddick’s currently on the major league roster.

With concerns over Bailey’s elbow and the reliever market overflowing, Beane wasn’t going to get top dollar in return for his closer. But he did marginally improve his outfield while taking a gamble on a couple risky low-level young prospects with upside. All that while shedding some salary as well. If Bailey’s arm holds up, Boston made out really well too. They now have a very strong back end to their bullpen. I’m just not sold on Daniel Bard possibly moving into the rotation.

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Trade Bait: National GIOgraphic

The Gio Gonzalez sweepstakes are over and the Washington Nationals have won. With their bid of Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Derek Norris, and Tom Milone, the Nats were able to add the valued lefty and minor league righty Robert Gilliam. The Blue Jays, Mariners, Marlins, Rangers, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees were all rumored to be interested in Gonzalez before he was dealt.

Gio is under team control through 2015 and has pitched over 200 innings each of his last two seasons. But it is likely that his high walk rates will catch up to him sooner or later. He will be relying on Ryan Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals infield to turn plenty of double plays to keep his ERA down. But if he makes progress with his walks, Gio could vault the Nationals’ rotation towards the top of a tough pitching-centric NL East.

Gilliam is more of a throw-in on this deal. Although he has decent strikeout rates in the minors, his peripherals aren’t that great. He may be decent for the Nats in a relief role. Sure, his stats this season were from a very hitter-friendly ballpark in Stockton, but still, I’m not sold on him becoming a significant contributor.

The return for Gonzalez isn’t completely Latos’-esque, but it is still very good.  Peacock and especially A.J. Cole are the top finds of this deal for the A’s. Peacock has a four-seam fastball in the 92-95 mph range, a 2-seamer, and a change-up that has shown signs of improvement. But his best pitch is a nasty plus knuckle-curve.

It is Cole that I really like about this trade. The young 6′-5″ starter still needs to finish growing into his body and refining his change, but A.J. has the potential to be much better than Peacock, though he’ll reach the majors much later. Along with the change, Cole possesses a hard-cutting curve and a mid-90s fastball that could get faster as he fills out. A.J.’s ceiling is the tops amongst the players in this transaction. But he’s so young, its still certainly possible that he gets injured or fizzles out before reaching the Majors.

Derek Norris has been a top catching prospect of the Nats for a while. But he’s had two very down seasons the last two years and his stock has dropped significantly. Analysts still love his walk rates and power, but I’m not sold on his ability to hit above the Mendoza Line in the big show.

Milone is the wildcard for me. He might not have the blazing fastball of the other top pitching prospects, but just just knows how to pitch. For his entire minor league career, Milone has carried a BB/9 of 1.5, unlike Gio he keeps away from the free passes. As a Greg Maddux fan, I’m always rooting for those who know how to pitch beyond blowing hitters away with their heat. He may not be a future #2 starter, but Milone should log some quality innings for the A’s while the rest of the top young pitching prospects in the Athletics minor leagues develop.

The more I look at this trade, the more I like it from the Athletics’ side. In my eyes, Cole has the most upside of all the players involved in the Latos and Gonzalez trades. But he also has significant risk as a young arm. The Nationals are certainly in a win-now type of mode with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and that Bryce Harper guy all on the cusp of breaking out with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.

Pretty nice trade for both sides considering their situations, but I like the long-term return for the Athletics better.

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Over Spilled Milk: Huddy to Georgia

Over Spilled Milk is a feature where we will look back on previous drafts and trades to see how well the teams involved fared.  Essentially, we will rehash issues like the Scott Kazmir trade to the Devil Rays that are still making Mets fans ‘cry over spilled milk’.

The break up of Oakland’s Big 3 was one of the major story lines of the 2004-2005 off-season.  The Oakland A’s sent Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving Barry Zito in Oakland until he left via free agency.  It was hard for the A’s to deal the pitcher with the second-best record of the decade in Tim Hudson, but it was highly doubtful that the team would be able to retain him long-term.  So Billy Beane traded Huddy to the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospect Dan Meyer, reliever Juan Cruz, and outfielder Charles Thomas.

The season before, the Braves were relying on Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton for the top two spots in their rotation.  Although they racked up the wins, they weren’t true aces.  So the team moved John Smoltz back to the rotation and decided they needed to trade for a surefire ace-type pitcher to help shore up the top of the rotation.  The move was ideal for the Braves as it gave the team a rotation of Smoltz, Hudson, Hampton, John Thompson, and Horacio Ramirez, a relatively solid looking rotation on paper.  It also brought them a player that was born in Georgia and raised in nearby Alabama, increasing the odds that they could work out a long-term contract with him.  Tim settled in and signed a four-year, $46 million contract in March of 2005, the deal also included an option for 2010 at $12 million .

Hudson would go on to win 54 games for the Braves from 2005 to 2008 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The recovery sat him out for most of 2009, but he did come back and pitch 42.1 innings for the Braves in 2009.  It was  a very quick recovery for a Tommy John surgery patient.  The Braves extended his contract once again after the 2009 season, giving him $28 million over three years, with a 9 million option for a fourth year.

The only prospect Oakland acquired in the deal, Dan Meyer was considered by some scouts to be one of the top five starting pitching prospects that were ready for the majors at the time of the deal.  Meyer was in the running with Yeiichi Yabu for a rotation spot in Oakland at one point, but a shoulder injury that was finally exposed in Triple-A early that season derailed his career.  He never had success in the majors as a starter after that injury and the Marlins claimed him off of waivers after the 2008 season.  The Marlins moved him to relief where the lefty has seemed to thrive.   Meyer went 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA out of the pen in 2009, allowing 47 hits in 58.1 innings while striking out 56. 

Outfielder Charles Thomas had a very nice rookie season for the Braves in 2004, but he fell on his face in 55 plate appearances for the Athletics the following season.  After hitting .288 with 7 home runs, 4 triples, and 8 doubles in 236 at-bats in 2004, Thomas hit only .109 in limited duty and never saw the majors again after that season.

The Braves also sent reliever Juan Cruz to the Athletics.  Cruz had electric stuff and was emerging as a solid setup man for the Braves at the time of the trade.  But after posting a very nice 2.75 ERA with the Braves in 2004, he put together a horrid 7.44 ERA for the Athletics in 2005.  He was then traded in March 2006 to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Brad Halsey.  Halsey was used extensively in relief that season, with mixed results.  But he never made it back to the majors after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2007.  Cruz, on the other hand, flourished in the Diamondbacks’ rotation and signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals once he hit free agency.

This trade will make any devout A’s fan cry over spilled milk.  But looking back on it, Meyer was highly touted and Cruz had great stuff and was becoming a good reliever under Leo Mazzone’s tutelage.  It should have been at least half way decent for Beane, even then ESPN correspondent Peter Gammons felt that it was a win-win trade.   But it turned into a horrible disaster for Beane and the A’s.  Although the Braves likely paid heavily for his off-year in 2009 (doubt insurance covered a significant chunk of the salary), Huddy has paid big dividends for the Braves so far and looks like he’ll continue to pitch well for them in the near future.

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Trade Bait: Oakland deals away Rajai Davis

The Oakland Athletics have been nearly as busy as the Florida Marlins early in this off-season. After trading for David DeJesus, they picked up Edwin Encarnacion off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. They are now going back to the Blue Jays to trade away outfielder Rajai Davis. Davis will go to the A’s for relievers Trystan Magnuson and Danny Farquhar.

The trade frees up space in the already crowded A’s outfield and settles the starting three outfielders down to DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Ryan Sweeney. It also almost ensures that Connor Jackson will be tendered a contract and frees up a little salary for their rumored chaseof Adrian Beltre.  With nice collection of arms that they already have for the bullpen, one or both of the two pitchers that were traded for could fill in if Beane decides to trade a relief arm down the stretch next season.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Jays do with Rajai Davis.  Whether they slot him into right field and entrench Jose Bautista at third, or if they’ll use him as an alternative to Dewayne Wise and/or Fred Lewis, it remains to be seen.  But Alex is far from over with his roster moves this winter and we might see something else come down the pipe that’s related to this.

This is a relatively even trade for both sides, but I’d give the edge to Billy Beane.  He freed up space in his outfield, relieved the team of some salary, and brought on a couple cheap arms for the pen while giving up a fourth outfielder.  Sure, in Toronto’s more hitter-friendly environment Rajai could boost his average and his OBP.  But it’d only be worthwhile if Davis’ OBP gets back into the .360 range.

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Trade Bait: DeJesus Finally Traded

For at least the last two seasons there has been plenty of speculation as to when the Kansas City Royals would trade David DeJesus.  The versatile outfielder has been rumored to go to just about every team that has been in contention.  He has finally been traded, with the Oakland Athletics receiving him in exchange for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks.

The A’s must have an affinity for Kansas City Royals outfielders.  Coco Crisp recently roamed center field in Kansas City.  They’ve also brought in Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye in the past.  Now with DeJesus, they have an ideal #2 hitter.  David will hit for a good average and gets on-base at a rate appropriate for that spot in the order.  Although he has gap power, it’s unlikely that he’ll hit more than 10 home runs in a season.  Also, even though he has good speed, DeJesus is not a good base stealer.  In 2009 he hit a low with only four steals in 13 tries.

The A’s outfield picture gets a little cloudier though.  The team has already picked up Coco Crisp‘s option for next season and also have Rajai Davis, Ryan Sweeney, Conor Jackson, Jack Cust and to some extent Chris Carter.  At least one of Cust and Jackson will probably not be offered contracts for next season though and Carter may be used primarily at DH.

Dealing from their surplus of starting pitching after winning the bid for Japanese right-hander , the A’s sent over to the Royals.  Mazzaro will take over the recently released ‘s spot in the rotation and should provide some solid innings.  He’s been known to keep the hits down in the minors, but the walks get to him occasionally.  If he refines his control, Mazzaro could become a decent mid-rotation starter (at least the middle of the Royals’ rotation).

Marks slings a low 90s fastball, a slider, a curve and a changeup.  He gives up his share of hits and walks.  Although he hasn’t posted good numbers in the lower minors, it is a small sampling and Justin could improve as he moves through the system.  With his high strikeout rate though, if he doesn’t survive as a starter, Marks could become a decent situational lefty out of the pen.

At first when I looked at this I felt that Dayton could’ve gotten a much better deal.  But when you look at DeJesus’ numbers, it’s nothing to get really excited about.  Yes, he hits for average and gets on base well.  He’s also provided very good defense in left field.  But he’s mediocre in the other outfield spots and left field is typically where you hide your poor-fielding power hitter.  David also doesn’t hit double-digits much in home runs, can’t steal bases, and gets hurt often.  Essentially, he’s only a few notches above fourth outfielder status.

This is a better trade for Moore than I thought.  Mazzaro could decline next season outside of Oakland’s spacious ballpark and away from a good defense behind him.  But he should eat innings better than Bannister and Marks is a wild card that may turn into something useful.  Moore also saves $6 million to spend elsewhere.  Beane gets a number two hitter with decent left field defense, but doesn’t address the glaring need for more power in the lineup.  The trade looks to be somewhat of a wash to me.

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A’s Need Offense

The Oakland A’s are in need of a healthy dose of offense.  They have been for more than just this season and the need has become far more noticeable when the team’s pitching staff is first in the AL in ERA.  As MLB.com’s Peter Gammons so eloquently notes, with the young pitching this team has just needs a few veteran hitters to push them over the top.

In a recent review on MLBTR, Tim Dierkes reviewed the Athletics’ 2011 offense.  He relayed a quote A’s assistant GM David Forst to ESPN’s Jayson Stark that the team is considering “bringing back the same 25 guys next year.”  This is a relatively eyebrow raising statement for a team that is 10th in batting average, 11th in the AL in runs scored, and second to last place in slugging percentage, and last in home runs.  A team once reliant on the prodding power hitter, is now lacking offensive punch.  But where can they improve?

Catcher is probably the most sure-thing out of this entire lineup.  Kurt Suzuki is locked in through at least 2013 and hits above average for a catcher.  But that’s where sure-things come to a grinding halt.

It seems as if the A’s are pleased with Daric Barton at first base, despite of lack of offensive firepower.  Sure he’s leading the league in walks, but doing it with a sub-.400 slugging percentage.  Beane must be viewing him as a younger Scott Hatteberg, but back when Scott was around he also had Miguel Tejada at short and a healthy Eric Chavez at third picking up the slack in the power department.  This is also only Barton’s first successful season.  But at least they have Chris Carter waiting in the wings….or left field/DH….if they need him.

Although Mark Ellis‘ defensive abilities are worth noting, his offense is not.  Additionally, once you remove the injury ladden Eric Chavez and Ben Sheets, Ellis is the highest paid player on the team this season.  For the $6 million option, the team could invest elsewhere to improve offensively.  A lower priced option could be found on the open market to hold the spot until Adrian Cardenas or Jemile Weeks is ready.  They could also try out the high-OBP Eric Sogard in the position until either Cardenas or Weeks is ready to take over.

Like Barton, Cliff Pennington‘s slugging percentage is at a sub-.400 level and not expected to rise next season.  But unlike Barton, he can steal a base or two.  But there aren’t that many options out there to replace him.  They have recently started taking a look at Steven Tolleson at the major league level after he broke out this season at Sacramento to the tune of .332/.412/.503.  But Tolleson wasn’t even on John Sickels’ top-20 prospect list for the A’s going into the season, so he may come back down to earth next season.  Either player is just a hold-off until prospect Grant Green is ready in a year or two.

You’d think third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff would be on the chopping block this off-season after his paltry offense at the hot corner.  Beane did chase after Adrian Beltre last off-season, but will likely bow out after this one as Beltre’s stock has soared after leaving Seattle.  There’s rumors that Aramis Ramirez or Mark Reynolds may be available via trade. But either one may be too costly of a contract to pick up.  The A’s may want to go for a cheaper route, but someone with potential like the Royals’ Josh Fields as he may be displaced by Mike Moustakas in spring training.  Or they could try out Cincinnati’s Juan Francisco.  But probably the most interesting suggestion would be; why not bring Miguel Tejada back for one last season in an A’s uniform?

The outfield is a bit of a hodge-podge.  The team was really hoping that prospect Michael Taylor would emerge as a decent five-tool player in right field, but that hasn’t happened.  He seemed to be coming out of his funk in July, but has sunk down into it again.  Unless Taylor rediscovers his stroke, Rajai Davis will once again man right.  Coco Crisp will likely return to center field as reports abound that he will.  As for left field, the team may go with prospect Chris Carter.  The slugger has been moved from third, to first, and now to left as the team looks to find a spot for his bat in the lineup. 

It would almost seem odd not to see Jack Cust in the DH spot in Oakland.  But if Beane to make a splash and bring in a Manny Ramirez or a Magglio Ordonez to add some power to the lineup in left, Chris Carter could move to DH.  The A’s could also go cheap and put Brad Hawpe in left field to see if he can rebound with a different organization.

There’s a few options out there, even on Billy Beane’s tight budget.  However, Eric Chavez and Ben Sheets combined to make $22.5 million this season, neither will likely be on the Athletics’ payroll next season, so we may see the team make a splash in the free agent market.  I just don’t think standing pat with their current 25-man roster is the right move.  With a pitching staff this good, you need to add at least a little more offense.

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Over Spilled Milk: Mark Mulder to the Cardinals

Over Spilled Milk is a feature where we will look back on previous drafts and trades to see how well the teams involved fared.  Essentially, we will rehash issues like the Scott Kazmir trade to the Devil Rays that are still making Mets fans ‘cry over spilled milk’.

Recently, pitcher Mark Mulder announced his retirement from baseball.  Telling Jeff Fletcher of AOL FanHouse that he has decided to devote himself to becoming a better golfer, a pretty nice change in focus for the 32-year-old.  He should be able to afford it with his approximate $33 million in career earnings.  But his retirement announcement reminded me of the trade in 2004 that showcased him as the centerpiece.

The break up of Oakland’s Big 3 was one of the major story lines of the 2004-2005 off-season.  The Oakland A’s sent Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving Barry Zito in Oakland until he left via free agency. 

In Mark Mulder the Cardinals received a pitcher that had won 81 games over five seasons.  With Woody Williams leaving for free agency, Mulder was seen as an obvious improvement and further deepened an already good rotation.  His first season as a Cardinal, Mulder won 16 games and helped propel the team to a 100-win season and a playoff berth.  But then Mulder’s injuries kicked in and after 17 starts in 2006 he had a 7.14 ERA.  He would attempt to make come backs in 2007 and 2008, but they didn’t go well and injuries flared up again. 

Eventually the Cardinals gave up on the reclamation project and let him go.  The Cardinals invested $25, 300,000 in him for 22 wins and 311 innings of 5.04 ERA ball.

Oakland GM Billy Beane snatched up three prospects as part of the deal.  Pitchers Dan Haren and Kiko Calero, and first baseman Daric Barton.  Haren was the top prospect in a mediocre Cardinals farm system, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t good.  After the trade, Haren would quickly emerge as one of the A’s top pitchers, winning 43 games in three years.  But as Haren started to get expensive, Beane and the A’s realized they couldn’t keep him.  Billy traded him with Connor Robertson to Diamondbacks for Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Carter.  A pretty nice haul would you look back on it.

Kiko Calero has had a pretty decent career as a middle-reliever for a few different clubs.  During his major league career, Calero has a 14-12 record with a 3.24 ERA in 302.2 innings.  Shoulder issues have sidelined him, but the Dodgers have recently signed him to a minor league contract.   

Daric Barton was a notable prospect from 2005 to 2008 as his named graced Baseball America’s top prospect lists for the team he played for and the majors as a whole.  But he hasn’t impressed much in the majors.  Although he’s adjusting well, his power statistics are far from what you expect from a first baseman.

It’s pretty clear that Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s won this trade.  As stated earlier, the Cardinals spent over $25 million on Mulder with only 22 wins to show for it.  As for Beane, he received 42 wins from Haren, as well as Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter and Aaron Cunningham.  Anderson is emerging an ace for the staff, when healthy.  Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez helped the team get Matt Holliday, then Brett Wallace, and finally Michael Taylor.  Although both Taylor and Carter are struggling at Triple-A this season, they both still have plenty of potential.  Cunningham was involved in a trade package that netted the team’s current third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and infielder Eric Sogard.  The benefits of the Haren trade just keep coming.

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Trade Bait: Conor Jackson to the A’s

And so it starts…..

The much anticipated breakup of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ roster has begun.  The D’Backs have sent outfielder Conor Jackson to the Oakland Athletics for pitching prospect Sam Demel.  It is a deal that has implications beyond just Jackson’s future impact on the A’s, it’s more of a harbringer of things to come…soon.

Conor Jackson has been hampered by sickness in 2009 and hamstring problems this season, but he’s a decent source of line drive power and on-base ability.  The Diamondbacks will cover about $400k of his remaining salary for the season.  Once his injury problems subside, he could turn into a decent pick up for the offensively stagnant Athletics.

Demel looks like a decent relief prospect.  He has a 94 mph fastball with very good movement, a biting slider that is good when he can control it, and a good straight change-up that actually has decent split-finger-like sink to it.  On the season, Demel has a 1.26 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 28.2 innings at Triple-A.

I like this deal more from Arizona’s standpoint than Oakland’s.  The likelihood that Conor Jackson will bounce back this season to his 2008 form is limited.  The A’s are already four games back in the division and in third place.  Additionally, the Angels are just starting to hit their stride, they could pull away fast.  The D’Backs, on the other hand, have dumped some cash and possibly improved their pen. 

Although this is just a trickle of a move, it gives us a warning that the floodgates are probably about to open.  Who’s next, Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, or even Dan Haren?

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