Athletic’s GM Billy Beane is getting lots of praise today for the hauls he’s apparently gotten for young pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, two pitchers Beane hailed as the part of the sustainable winning run he predicted back in 2007 when he traded his team’s best players at the time; Nick Swisher and Dan Haren.
Now five years later, both players are gone and apparently the returns include a handful of players who were prominent on the top ten prospects lists for each team.
But I gotta tell you, we’ve seen this before from Beane and hopefully he fares much better than he did the last time he blew it all up and started over.
Dan Haren Trade
December 14, 2007 – A’s general manager Billy Beane deals ace right-hander Dan Haren, 26, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of six D-Backs’ top prospects that included LHP Brett Anderson, LHP Dana Eveland, LHP Greg Smith, infielder Chris Carter and outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham. Four of the players Arizona gave up were among their top ten prospects.
Billy Beane – “We need to get back to the point where we put together a club that has a chance at a long, sustained run. This trade was the first major step toward doing that.”
What Happened Next – The best name in that group, Carlos Gonzalez, was shipped along with LHP Greg Smith and A’s closer Huston Street to the Colorado Rockies for four months of Matt Holliday. This was like the Beltran for Wheeler trade squared in favor of the Rockies. The A’s traded Holliday to the Cards for Brett Wallace, Shane Peterson and Clayton Mortenson. Brett Anderson who finished 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.366 WHIP for the A’s last season, may become the A’s ace after Beane’s purging is complete. And you thought the Mets had problems… The promising Chris Carter has a .167/.226/.234 slash in 114 major league at-bats, but more troubling than that was his 41 strikeouts. He should start the season in Triple-A but given the A’s situation he could end up being rushed into an Opening Day job. Aaron Cunningham and Dana Eveland are both gone and were PTBNL’s in a couple of minor transactions.
Final Conclusion – None of the players acquired led to the successful run of championship baseball Beane predicted in 2007 when he blew up his team much as he’s doing now. Carter could still turn out to be a quality player, but so far the early results look bleak.
Nick Swisher Trade
January 8, 2008 – The A’s trade 27-year-old Nick Swisher, a switch-hitter and one of the team’s most popular players, to the Chicago White Sox for three of their top prospects; LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Fautino De Los Santos and highly regarded outfielder Ryan Sweeney.
Billy Beane – “Our status quo as we stood going into the season was mediocrity at best. That’s my opinion. If anything we’re taking a step back with the idea we have a chance to build something very good for a long time.”
What Happened Next – Fautino De Los Santos went 3-2 last season with a 4.32 ERA, and has gone from promising starter to middle reliever in the A’s bullpen. Ryan Sweeney had settled into a utility outfielder role last season and batted .267 with one homer and 25 RBI in 299 plate appearances for the A’s. With the losses of Coco Crisp and David DeJesus to free agency, he has a decent shot to win a regular spot in the 2012 outfield. Gio Gonzalez, the jewel of the trade, has already been traded for yet another haul as the cycle continues.
Final Conclusion – The conclusion here is that there doesn’t seem to be one. It’s simply a vicious cycle of drafting high and then trading those players after 2-3 years in the majors for more draft picks or top prospects. There’s nothing substantive happening here.
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So what does this mean? Not much, but it does show how volatile a strategy based solely on collecting draft picks and top prospects can be.
After the Swisher trade Keith Law of ESPN said, “By trading their best hitter and best pitcher for nine prospects, Beane and assistant GM David Forst have done an excellent job in replenishing a farm system with some of the best prospects in the game today. This will set them up for years to come.”
I think not.
The consensus among all the talking heads in 2007 was the same as it is today, “This was quite the haul for them.”
As it stands now, the A’s lost four excellent and productive seasons from Dan Haren in return for nothing yet
Last season for the Los Angeles Angels, Haren led the AL in starts with 34 and posted a 3.14 ERA a 1.02 WHIP and an MLB leading 5.82 K/BB.
During that same span, Nick Swisher has averaged 25 home runs and 80 RBI’s since the A’s traded him with an .843 OPS. He’s hit more home runs, 105, than the A’s starting outfield combined.
You tell me… who got the nicer hauls?
If this is the model for the New York Mets, I have some deep concerns.