July 2004: Placido Polanco to the A’s for Ricardo Rincon
Talk about a deal that had lasting ramifications. With the A’s seeking to make their fifth straight postseason appearance in as many years, they discussed a deal to bring infielder Placido Polanco to Oakland in exchange for Ricardo Rincon. Polanco, though not necessarily a household name, was in the middle of a very productive season in Philadelphia providing punch at the plate and hitting to a .298/345/.441 split. Although the Phillies were challenging for the Wild Card at the time of the trade deadline, the emergence of Chase Utley simply made Polanco expendable. Looking to bolster their bullpen, GM Ed Wade and Billy Beane nearly matched up on the proposed Rincon-Polanco deal before the Phillies pulled out, and added Todd Jones for a much lower cost. Bummer. As it turns out Rincon stayed in Oakland, and was part of the heartbreaking bullpen collapse in Game 161 of that year against the Angels. With the A’s clinging to a 4-2 lead with two on and one out in the eight inning, Rincon’s first pitch fastball was crushed off the wall by Darin Erstad to tie the game. The A’s would never recover, going on to lose the game and the division to the Angels on the same day and miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 1999. To further curse Oakland, Polanco would eventually join the Tigers, and simply refuse to be an easy out during the 2006 ALCS. This on-base machine, would set the table hitting 529/.579/588 and being named the ALCS MVP. This is why we can’t have nice things.
August 2011: Lars Anderson to the A’s for Rich Harden
Rich Harden is baseball’s equivalent to kryptonite. You never know what type of effect he can have on your roster. When everything is clicking and he’s healthy he can resemble a dominant force on the mound capable of shutting down any offense. Other days he simply falls apart physically and misses large chunks of the season. He’s generally absent long enough that you begin to wonder about his well being. Is he cooped up somewhere in an infirmary? Is he endlessly rehabbing in Arizona? Or is he sitting on his couch with his prized right arm in a sling watching a Breaking Bad marathon? Regardless, Harden was brought back for a second tour in Oakland last season, as one of the low risk, high reward contracts Billy Beane is so fond of handing out. Predictably he injured himself and pitched only sporadically as the season went on. With the A’s well on the way to another sub par season, they exposed Harden to waivers in August of 2011 will the hopes of working out a deal with the team who claims him. Sure enough the Red Sox put out a claim, perhaps with visions of Harden mowing down the Rays and Yankees during the seasons crucial final month. Seeking a major league ready prospect, the A’s agreed to receive Triple-A first baseman, Lars Anderson. Before slowing down at the higher levels, Anderson had previously showcased the ability to hit for average, as well as a modicum of power that would earn him a promotion to Boston the year prior. At worst, he appeared to be a decent candidate to contend for the starting first base job in the near future, at best he had the chance to develop into a solid major league ballplayer. A fair return, for an older and still frail Rich Harden. All seem to be agreed upon, but the deal was quickly nixed when Harden’s medical reports caused enough concern to rescind the deal. A few months later, Harden would go under then knife and miss the 2012 season.
As you can see sometimes the deals that don’t get made, can be just as interesting and monumental as the deals that do. Whether to pull the trigger or stand pat, is the ultimate decision of one man and one man alone. But the choice can effect the organization for years.