Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beane Gets All "A's" for Holliday Deal

By now you’ve all heard about the Athletics’ acquisition of Matt Holliday from the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, starter Greg Smith and reliever Huston Street. Chalk this up as yet another heist for Oakland’s diabolical genius, GM Billy Beane.

It’s obvious that the A’s gave up some legitimate talent to procure the services of Holliday, a two-time All Star. However, each of the three players Beane surrendered had his warts and will be easily replaced from within the Oakland organization. Gonzalez was by far the most talented of the bunch. For years, the 23-year-old Venezuelan has been lauded for his plus-plus throwing arm, as well as above average power and speed, but he’s also been labeled as an enigma who only rarely has been able to translate his tools into performance. Furthermore, in Ryan Sweeney and Travis Buck, the latter’s injury-marred 2008 notwithstanding, the A’s have a pair of young outfielders with enough talent to compensate for the loss of Gonzalez. Smith is a finesse lefty who will never amount to more than a fourth starter. Although he did provide the A’s with nearly 200 replacement level innings at the big league minimum salary in 2008, the emergence of hotshot prospects Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and James Simmons would have rendered Smith redundant by the middle of 2009 anyway. Finally, there’s Street, who, despite his early major league success, has suffered a variety of physical ailments the past two seasons and was on the verge of being passed on Oakland’s depth chart by Joey Devine. Devine had 49 strikeouts and a microscopic ERA of 0.59 in 45 innings in 2008 and will earn slightly more than the big league minimum next season.

Much has been made about the discrepancy between Holliday’s home/road splits (1.099/.856 OPS from 2006-08), yet over the past three years the Oklahoma native has paced all National League outfielders with .329/32/113 seasonal averages while playing an excellent left field. There’s no question that Holliday’s arrival brings much-needed muscle to Oakland’s offense, which ranked last in average, slugging and on-base percentage, at a crucial time with as many as three rookies cracking the starting rotation by the middle of next season. There are plenty of questions, however, as to what Oakland’s next move (or moves) will be. With a reported $30 million to play with this offseason, Beane could go all Cashman on us by inking Rafael Furcal and Jason Giambi before the turkey’s even in the oven and try to make a run at the A.L. West next year. If the A’s do end up in contention, then Beane looks like the genius that he is. And if they falter, all he has to do is turn around and spin off Holliday at the July 31st trading deadline to the highest bidder, essentially turning Holliday into next year’s version of Mark Teixeira. Regardless, the trade for Holliday was a win-win for Oakland and has further cemented Beane’s status as the best GM in the game.

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