The very first reaction to the events that took place today after the A’s walked off to a 1-0 victory in the 12th inning, when they decided to trade their 2012 (Addison Russel) and 2013 (Billy McKinney) first round draft picks, along with promising pitcher Dan Straily to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, two of the most coveted pitchers on this year’s trading block — WOW!
It’s actually easy to both love and hate this trade. It just depends how you look at it, and in the first hour or so after the deal was announced (as I am writing this), I have experienced both emotions to this deal.
Samardzija, 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 108 innings, is an ace quality pitcher that easily fits into the top 3 in Oakland’s rotation. He’s likely automatically the No.1 guy now, though you could make a case for Sonny Gray or Scott Kazmir, and really you aren’t going wrong with any of the three.
Hammel, 8-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 108.2 innings, is a tough as nails type pitcher that was asked to start games 1 & 5 of the ALDS in 2012 for the Baltimore Orioles against the New York Yankees. For his career, he is 50-27 when his team scores at least three runs for him (3-34 when his team scores two or less runs). Hammel should thrive with Oakland’s offense supporting him, good defense behind him and a solid closer in Sean Doolittle. A side note, that probably played zero percent into the consideration, he was teammates with Jim Johnson in 2012-2013 during Johnson’s best seasons as a closer. Perhaps he can provide some comfort level to the A’s $10 million bust of a closer.
Aside from the obvious that this gives Oakland a very solid 1-5 in the rotation, it provides some insurance as Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez approach new career highs in innings-pitched (previously 182.1 for Gray, and Chavez at 103 has already exceeded his previous high of 67.1 during his relieving days).
Hammel is only under contract for the remainder of this season, re-opening a rotation spot in 2015 one of the now deposed A’s starters that had been filling those roles (Tommy Milone, Brad Mills, Drew Pomeranz). Samardzija will remain under contract for 2015 in his final year of arbitration before reaching free agency.
The price was steep though.
Billy Beane had to part ways with 2012 first round draft pick Addison Russell and 2013 first round draft pick Billy McKinney, in addition to Dan Straily.
The inclusion of Russell, considered one of the elite prospects in all of minor league ball, and the first real home grown impact caliber position player the A’s could have had anchor their lineup is drawing some complaints around social media.
The only thing I can say regarding the inclusion of Russell is that prospects come and go. Some pan out and become stars, others are highly hyped only to burn out and earn the label of busts. I believe that Russell is destined to become a star in this league, but the A’s have a window to win right now and Beane is definitely going all-in for a World Series ring with this trade.
A few cliche sayings come to mind, but perhaps most closely related are two: “tomorrow is promised to no one,” and “flags fly forever.”
Oakland already has four flags flying in the Oakland Coliseum: 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989. This trade signals that they are aiming to add 2014 to those.
Looking at Beane’s track record as GM, one more thing stands out that perhaps explains his willingness to include the shortstop of the future and top outfield and pitching prospects in McKinney and Straily. There’s nothing keeping Beane from flipping one of his starters during the offseason to rebuild the farm.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that Sonny Gray stays, but Kazmir or Samardzija could be dealt in the offseason to rebuild some of the prospects that were just traded away. The A’s will have Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin back at some point in 2015, and could look to unload a little of the logjam at starting pitcher to restock their prospects.
Then again, as this year has proven, you can never have enough starting pitching.
The other thing that stands out to me, is that the A’s may not be done trading quite yet. With the return of Eric O’Flaherty, Jim Johnson certainly seems expendable if he can rebuild some trade value. Tommy Milone could be a trade piece in a deal for an upgrade at second base, ditto Brad Mills and Drew Pomeranz. I sort of expect the A’s to hold onto Milone and Pomeranz, but the inclusion of Russell in a deal reinforces that you never say never with Beane.
Joe Stiglich of Comcast tweeted a quote from Derek Norris: “Ultimately, this may take our team from being near the top, to the top.”
For 2014, I’d say it certainly does. The goal is clearly World Series or bust.
For 2015 and beyond, it gives the A’s some trade chips to rebuild the farm and stay competitive. With injured players coming back and the depth on the Major League level, it certainly appears the A’s will have all they need to retool and keep their window open for at least a few seasons beyond 2014 as well.
“In Billy we trust!” So, I am trusting that he knows what he is doing by trading away the best prospect we have had in a decade in an attempt to win it all now. I have learned Billy is always three steps ahead of everyone that is reporting his moves, so I believe there is a plan in place to recoup what was given up.
I’m certainly starting to set aside some of my paycheck from now through October for what I hope will be a long postseason culminating in the A’s reaching the World Series for the first time since 1990. World Series tickets are expensive after all.
After all, that is what this trade was all about.