A group weblog for Oakland A's fans

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I Fell on Black Days

I don't like winter. No baseball. Just when I was coming to grips with Hudson being gone, Mulder is traded. I have stuck with this team through thick and thin, through loss after loss of my favorite guys. When Hudson was traded, all the A's bobbleheads I had were gone. 1 Jason, 2 Miggys, 2 Hudsons. An imagination is needed to put a positive spin on this move. Here goes: I don't think the A's would have gotten Kendall if they weren't thinking about competing in 2005. I don't think they'd have bothered with Ginter either. This may not be the easiest way back to the playoffs, but certainly that's where the A's want to be. I have said repeatedly that this organization is filled with great baseball minds working hard on only 2 issues: maximize wins, minimize payroll. Don't let conventional wisdom get in your way. Let's go A's. Show me how these deals are going to work out. I've come this far with you, I am not jumping ship.

Mulder traded to Cardinals...

for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton.

What the hell is going on? This trade is awful. If they were going to trade Mulder to the Cardinals, they needed to get Rick Ankiel in return. I'm not at all sold on Haren's ability to be a decent starter, Calero is just another reliever, and Barton is young and plays a position of great organizational strength (namely catcher.)

I know Mulder's value is low because of his awful finish to 2004, but this deal is really disappointing.

More on the Hudson Trade

First, some links.

Dan Meyer, the left-handed pitching prospect recently acquired by the A's as the centerpiece in the Tim Hudson trade, was interviewed by Scout.com's Todd Morgan. It's a pretty interesting piece. Also, definitely check out John Sickels's take on Meyer. Sickels is very optimistic, which is an extremely positive sign. Finally, Billy Beane was interviewed by ESPN Radio about the trade.

Since I haven't yet chimed in on the Hudson trade, let me take this opportunity to do so. I think it's definitely a good trade for the Braves, and it's probably a good trade for the A's. The Braves have (well, at least had...) a wealth of high-level prospects and needed to rebuild their rotation; in Hudson, they've acquired a sure thing (to the extent that there are any sure things in pitching). He'll give them 220 innings with an ERA in the mid-threes as long as he's not bothered by that hip problem that shelved him for six weeks in 2004. And he's originally from Georgia, so there's a good chance that they'll be able to sign him to a long-term extension. So they've managed to turn prospects into a known superstar. That's pretty much always good.

From the Oakland perspective, I expect this trade to be a significant loss in 2005 and obviously a gain in 2006+. Meyer, Charles Thomas and Juan Cruz are all quite young and have a combined service time of about three years. Whether they will jointly be worth as much as an ace pitcher depends critically on Meyer's development. He's an outstanding prospect, no doubt about it. His numbers from the minor leagues are impeccable, especially when he made the jump to the high minors in 2004 without a hitch. I have no hesitation in labeling him a better prospect than Joe Blanton. He's not quite as tall as Mark Mulder, but his upside is definitely Mulder-ish: he throws pretty hard for a lefty (consistently low-90's heat), has good off-speed stuff, and hates the idea of walking a batter.

All that said, there's not much evidence that Meyer is ready for the majors. Unlike Blanton, who had a (very successful) taste of AA in 2003 and spent all of 2004 in AAA, Meyer didn't reach the high minors until this year. While he certainly had a great half-season in AA and was equally impressive after being promoted to AAA, that's still not a whole lot of experience. I think he's less major-league ready than Blanton is, even though he may well end up being the better pitcher. Interestingly, both were selected out of college (Blanton from Kentucky, Meyer from James Madison) in the 2002 "Moneyball" draft; Meyer wasn't as highly polished as a college senior, which is why he wasn't an Athletic already (and why he's not mentioned in the best-seller by Michael Lewis). At any rate, you'd have to expect both of them to win spots in the rotation in spring training, for lack of better internal options (Seth Etherton notwithstanding).

A slightly off-beat idea that nobody I know of has yet suggested is Justin Duchscherer sliding back into the rotation, and one of the young'uns or Etherton taking his spot in the bullpen. Duchscherer, let's not forget, had a better 2003 in Sacramento than Blanton's 2004, working exclusively as a starter. I have no doubt that with his curveball and command, he's capable of pitching effectively in a big-league rotation; meanwhile it might be nice for Meyer, perhaps, to cut his teeth in the bullpen, Earl Weaver-style. This is especially true since the team traded Arthur Rhodes and declined arbitration to Chris Hammond, there's only one lefty remaining in the pen, and that's Ricardo Rincon, who at this point is pretty much a one-batter lefty specialist.

The downside of a move like this that if either Blanton or Meyer doesn't make the rotation out of spring training, by putting them in the bullpen the team is giving up the ability to start the clock on their service time (essentially the countdown until they become too expensive for the A's to afford to keep) later by optioning them back to AAA. You could also argue that neither one of them has really, definitively shown that they have nothing left to prove or learn in the minors, so it wouldn't even be a terrible idea from a developmental standpoint. A's fans have been treated--spoiled, really--recently by the ability of the A's impact pitching prospects to step in and really be solidly above-average (or in some cases, much better than that) major leaguers right out of the gate; it might be tough to watch a good prospect struggle through his first season in the big leagues.

Before I end this rambling post, I should say something about Cruz and Thomas. Cruz has tremendous stuff, most notably a nasty mid-90's sinker, and spent the early part of this decade as a highly-touted rotation prospect. But his attitude and control weren't quite there, and he seems to have been reborn as a reliever, probably to good effect. Leo Mazzone notwithstanding, it's hard to complain about a guy who strikes out a batter per inning and has an ERA of 2.75. So I think Cruz will contribute as a quality set-up man for Dotel; getting him probably means the A's can afford to be patient with Huston Street and Jairo Garcia (though I suspect Street will probably break camp with the team anyway). Thomas looks like a very useful fourth outfielder. It wouldn't surprise me to see Eric Byrnes's playing time against right-handed pitching drastically reduced in 2005, and that's probably a good thing. Thomas has a solid bat and he's apparently a top-notch baserunner and defender in a corner outfield spot.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hudson traded (serious this time)

Tim Hudson has been traded, seriously this time (the link is to an A's press release.) The haul:

LHP Dan Meyer -- awesome pitching prospect, possibly ready to step into the rotation. Meyer is 24 years old (all ages baseball ages for 2005) and has posted great numbers every step of the way. Over the past three years, while rising through the minors, he has posted an ERA of 2.73. In 350 innings, he has struck out 381 batters while walking just 87, allowing 24 homers (a pretty average number) and 304 hits. I am really excited about Meyer.

RHP Juan Cruz -- former Cubs top prospects whose stock seriously dipped with a 2003 where he struck out 65 batters in 61 innings but somehow got a 6.05 ERA and 2-7 record for the deal. His record is not outstanding (far too many walks in both the majors and minors) but he's always supposedly had good stuff. At 24, still potentially a useful player, possibly out of the bullpen.

OF-L Charles Thomas -- good fourth outfielder, possibly more, but probably not enough power to hold down a corner outfield spot, and stretched in center. Could make a decent backup plan as a platoon mate for Byrnes/Kielty/Swisher, all of whom are much better against lefties. Good fit for the A's. Thomas will be 26 next year.

I think this is a pretty good deal, mostly because of Meyer, who I am really excited about. Thumbs up. Again, it's really sad to see Hudson go, but we definitely got full value (especially considering this frees up $7M or so.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Keith Ginter, Athletic

The A's acquired Keith Ginter today for Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz. Ginter is a solid-hitting, mediocre-defending second baseman who would be a fine stopgap if Ellis isn't healthy and a great backup otherwise (he can also play 3B, though not really SS.) Considering that for this useful player we gave up two guys who aren't really very good (Cruz's out-of-nowhere last year in A-ball notwithstanding), thumbs up for another fine minor move by Billy.

Monday, December 13, 2004

For right now, Hudson still an Athletic

It could change any second but for right now, Hudson is still on the A's. A week ago I didn't like the idea of dealing Hudson, but right now, I have decided we gotta trust A's management. We can second-guess all we want, but Beane's track record is unassaible. If he makes this move, he thinks it will be good for the A's long term, or at least as good as he can get given budget restraints. Certainly Hudson's deadline for contract negotiations didn't help his chances of pitching in Oakland in 2005. My choice would be to keep Hudson in 2005 and let him walk. Do what you gotta do, but please Billy, don't trade 2 starters.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hudson to Dodgers

Reports indicate that Tim Hudson has been traded to the Dodgers. We get Edwin Jackson and Antonio Perez.

By the time anyone reads this in the morning, this will either be confirmed or I will look stupid. In any case, I guess this package is okay, but I'd have preferred Haren and Ankiel (which the article, which I suspect will be revised, says the Cards were offering.)

It's sad to see Timmy go. He had a great career as an A and I will always remember him fondly. The 2-hit, 8-inning shutout performance on the final day of 2000 is the best game I've been in the stands for and my favorite A's memory. Hudson was just nails that day, as he has been throughout his career. Good luck with LA, Tim, and stay out of the AL, I don't want the A's to have to face you.

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