December 27, 2011
That followed another trade which sent Trevor Cahill to the Arizona Diamondbacks and presumably prefaces a possible future move in which closer Andrew Bailey is traded to a contender looking for bullpen help.
But the days of watching good players develop and investing emotions in their success, only to see them eventually shipped elsewhere when they become too expensive, may soon be over.
That's because, as the storyline goes, salvation may await GM Billy Beane and the A's in San Jose.
Over the holiday weekend, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported via Twitter that the A's will be granted permission to move to San Jose by February. That would seem to run contrary to Ken Rosenthal's report that the San Francisco Giants still refuse to give up their territorial rights to San Jose. Yet A's owner Lew Wolff remains "very confident" that MLB will allow the team to move, presumably based on discussions he's had with commissioner Bud Selig.
Without a move, the A's will continue to lose money (reports had the team losing at least $1 million, despite receiving upwards of $30 million in revenue sharing), leaving them unable to compete with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
That gives Beane no other choice than to keep selling off the team's established young players in exchange for low-cost, high-ceiling prospects. (Or, in the case of outfielder Josh Willingham, simply let him go because there's no money to pay him.) While those players could develop into talents that help the A's contend, Beane would eventually have to repeat the process and sell them off, too.
It's a soul-crushing cycle, one that might make Beane wonder in his more contemplative moments if he should've taken the GM job with the Boston Red Sox when he had the chance in 2002.
At the time, Beane said, "I love Oakland, I love this franchise, I love the people I work with" when turning down the Red Sox. (Being 3,000 miles away from his daughter also factored heavily into the decision.)
But when were the Oakland A's going to love Beane back? Not from a financial standpoint. Beane has a contract through 2014, along with a small ownership stake in the team. But when would this grind of constant rebuilding — watching players develop, only to let them go — finally yield some reward?
As "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis said in a September New York Times profile of Beane, maintaining the status quo would eventually force Beane to make a difficult choice.
"There are two avenues of escape, once you recognize the predicament that you're basically doomed if you're Oakland," Lewis says. "One is to become the San Jose A's — to try and go from a small-market team to a big-market team. The second avenue of escape is to find another industry where those kind of inefficiencies still exist."
Moving to San Jose, and the revenue generated by a new ballpark, would allow the A's to compete with their division rivals (or rejoin the major leagues, if you want to be snarky about it) and likely prevent Beane from scratching the soccer itch he's developed in recent years.
We know what Beane can do with a small payroll. But what could he accomplish with a larger payroll backed by the revenue streams of a new ballpark in a wealthier area? We almost found out nine years ago when the Red Sox GM job was his if he wanted it.
Now, Beane could find that prosperity on his own terms, which is seemingly what he's always wanted.