The Oakland Athletics have agreed in principle to acquiring Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday, according to a source familiar with those discussions, the trade pending an exchange of medical records.
A's general manager Billy Beane, who gathered more than a dozen prospects during recent sell-offs of Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher, refused to comment Monday morning. But it appears he is ready to cash in on some of those hauls with Holliday, a great offensive player who could be a free agent after next season. Holliday also could be traded to a third team for more prospects.
Holliday spoke in the morning with Beane and assistant GM David Forst, according to a source, signaling the trade is all but done. Holliday is scheduled to take a physical Tuesday.
The Rockies' 2007 World Series appearance apparently did little for the overall health of the organization. They have determined they could not afford Holliday, represented by agent Scott Boras, after they could not agree on a contract extension. Holliday, who batted .321 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs last season, will be a free agent after the 2009 season. Third baseman Garrett Atkins and center fielder Willy Taveras also have been shopped this offseason.
The A's sold off several veterans over the past year, mostly from the pitching staff. Despite that, they finished 24½ games behind the American League West champion Los Angeles Angels not because of their pitching, but because of an anemic offense.
For the moment, it seems Beane believes the A's turnaround could come fast. Holliday will be 29 in January. He was a National League MVP runner-up in 2007, when he won the batting title. He finished third in NL batting in 2008, yet he has been less productive away from high-altitude Coors Field.
Beane, who generally clears salary from his roster, is taking on Holliday's $13.5 million for 2009, or more than a quarter of the A's payroll in 2008. It is possible Beane will trade Holliday before the next trading deadline, and maybe as soon as this offseason.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies were known to be interested trading partners with the Rockies in recent weeks, although Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said Sunday talks with the Rockies had ceased.
Another option for Beane is to make additional moves designed to haul down the Angels in the West next season. Holliday alone would not dramatically turn the fortunes of the A's, who finished last in the AL in runs.
Smith and Gonzalez were part of the deal that sent Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason. Neither player flourished as a rookie in 2008, but both showed flashes of potential.
Smith, a left-hander, was 7-16 with a 4.14 ERA. Opposing batters hit .243 against him and he went at least six innings in 19 of 32 starts.
Gonzalez, a highly regarded left-handed hitter from Venezuela who turned 23 in October, batted only .242 with four homers in 302 at-bats. He was hitting .270 in mid-August before falling off, and had trouble with pitch selection – drawing only 13 walks while striking out 81 times.
Street has 94 saves in four seasons, but he lost the closer role to Brad Ziegler at midseason. Street, a former All-Star, was paid $3.3 million 2008, his first year of arbitration eligibility.
- Billy Beane