COMMENTARY | Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has been an active man over the course of the last couple days.
He has acquired top-tier relievers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson in two different deals, both of which seem to be lopsided in favor of the defending AL West champions. He also went out and signed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to a solid two-year, $22 million contract.
With all these moves, some of which seem like highway robbery, my recommendation that opposing general managers ignore Beane's calls started to take on more traction. After all, he was named MLB Executive of the Year for the second consecutive season on Tuesday.
Then something odd happened. Reports started coming out that Oakland was working on a significant deal with the division rival Texas Rangers. When it was announced that Beane sent top prospect Michael Choice to the Rangers in four-player deal that was headlined by Craig Gentry coming to Northern California, most of us waited to see what other players were involved in the deal. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the extent of it.
Oakland had sent its No. 2 overall prospect to the Rangers in exchange for a 30-year-old outfielder whose claim to fame is as one of the best defensive players at his position in baseball. Gentry appeared in 106 games and hit .280 with two homers last season for Texas. Unless something else happens as it relates to shipping Gentry to another team, he is a lock to make the 25-man roster. In fact, his overall WAR of 3.6 last season was pretty good, per Baseball-Reference.
The A's also acquired veteran pitcher Josh Lindblom in the deal. The 26-year-old righty recorded a 5.46 ERA with the Rangers last season, but has had more success in the past. He posted a 3.55 ERA and struck out nearly one batter per inning with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in 2012. At the very least, he gives Oakland more depth in its farm system. Oakland also sent a marginal prospect to Texas in the deal.
It is becoming readily apparent that Beane is attempting to improve Oakland's pitching staff and defense. With that being said, this deal has to be questioned. It's nearly impossible to come to the conclusion that Oakland couldn't have acquired more than a backup outfielder and marginal veteran pitcher for one of the top overall prospects in the game. This doesn't even take into account the fact that it sent Choice, who hit .302 with AAA Sacramento last season, to the team that has finished in second place in the AL West in each of the last two years.
While Beane hasn't hesitated trading within the division in the past, as evidenced by the Jed Lowrie and Alberto Callaspo deals over the past calendar year, this deal suggests that Beane may have actually found himself on the losing end of a trade for the first time in a while.
Simply put, Oakland needs another power bat in the middle of the lineup. Instead of addressing that need with one of its biggest trade chips, it decided to send Choice to a bitter division rival for a player that has hit four homers in 323 career games. This runs contrary to the popular opinion that Oakland needs another slugger in order to get over the hump in the postseason.
For his part, Beane has indicated that he's looking solely at 2013 when making decisions this offseason, per Susan Slusser on Twitter.
"We've never really straddled the fence. We're either all in or all out."
The other thing to look at here is that it's unlikely the A's are done dealing. Brett Anderson continues hear his name mentioned in trade rumors and will likely be dealt at some point next week, per Jeff Passan on Twitter.
With the additions of Gregerson and Johnson to an already stacked bullpen, the A's also have some arms to move. The likes of Tommy Milone, Dan Otero and Jerry Blevins might be able to bring back something in a package. In addition, there remains a possibility that either Coco Crisp or Josh Reddick are dealt in order to make room for a more consistent power hitter. After all, Gentry has the ability, and then some, to play center.
This doesn't even take into account Oakland's reported interest in Nelson Cruz as a potential trade candidate. Despite spending large sums of money for a small-market team over the last two days, Oakland still possesses the financial capability to add a high-profile free agent.
In a vacuum, this deal makes little sense. The fortunate news here is that Beane is one of the best general managers in the business and should be given the benefit of the doubt. He also has a couple more months to make even more noise prior to the start of spring training.
If you think Beane was a dangerous executive before, just imagine how well he will do when it comes to acquiring players when he has both the financial capability and trade chips to work with. This seems to be the case right now, which is bad news for the rest of the American League.
Vincent Frank has been a follower of the Oakland Athletics since the late 1980s and has written about the team on multiple sites, including SB Nation and eDraft. He attends games on a consistent basis and talks about the team on his weekly radio show.
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