Billy Beane’s Land of Missed Opportunities

Athletics GM Billy Beane is well known for making tough decisions, trading young players before or in their prime years when their value on the trade market is at its maximum.  It’s the very reason many naysayers scoff at the Athletics because of the created perception of a total lack of continuity.  Some believe he simply likes to tinker with his roster, but most believe Billy always has a plan.

Aug 18, 2012; Papillion, NE, USA; Omaha Storm Chasers center fielder Wil Myers (8) at bat in the third inning against the Nashville Sounds at Werner Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Ryerson-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason in particular has been unusual for the Athletics compared to recent years as Beane finds himself at the helm of a possible budding perennial contender, rather than in something of a rebuild mode.  Meanwhile money is being given away like it’s going out of style all round the league, creating a free agent market fit for the haves, and a trade market littered with teams whose GM’s are hell bent on pleasing their owner’s pocket books.  I can’t honestly recall an offseason as strange as this one.  We just saw the Los Angeles Dodgers open their pocket books and commit $189 million to 2 starting pitchers, one of whom has never thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues.  Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will more than likely help the Dodgers keep up with the magical San Francisco Giants, but it takes much more than assembling a roster of talent to win.

Of course the Greinke signing had reverberations all through the AL West, the gutting of the Angels starting rotation continued after the departures of Dan Haren, Ervin Santana (A definite A’s killer), and now Zack Greinke, and the Texas Rangers were thought to be the final competition for the Dodgers for Greinke’s services.  Greinke is now out of the American League altogether, and while I personally think he’s a little overrated, I’m not upset to see him not end up in the division.  So here we sit, Josh Hamilton remains out on the open market, no clear indication at this point as to where he’ll end up, and his ultimate destination could be back in Texas or he could possibly end up with their division rival Seattle Mariners.

Hamilton’s decision can either help keep the Rangers afloat, or possibly help the Mariners play catch up in a pretty balanced division.  There are a lot of variables still at play, and things could change greatly between now and Spring Training, but right now it looks like the division rivals of the Athletics are striking out in a big way.

This is why the A’s lack of activity is frustrating.  The recent surprising development that the Kansas City Royals were shopping super prospect Wil Myers in an effort to land a front line starting pitcher, ultimately acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays for Myers and other prospects, showed that GMs are willing to take drastic action to avoid dipping their toes into the free agent pool.  Yahoo’s Jeff Passan noted after the deal went down that the Royals had offered Myers to the Athletics straight up for Brett Anderson.  Surveying the “Twitterverse” after Passan said that, the most common reaction fell somewhere between “I don’t think so” to “OH HELL NO!!!!”  I disagree.

Brett Anderson is extremely talented, there’s no doubt about that.  But he seems like he could be another Rich Harden waiting to happen.  If I were Billy Beane I would’ve made that deal, and used that outfield surplus to fill the gaps in the rotation.  There’s no reason to think Billy Beane would be unable to swing a deal for a starter.

It may be unpopular with many fans, but replacing Josh Reddick in the outfield picture with Wil Myers would make the entire team better.

That leads me to Billy Beane’s second missed opportunity, and it came in a deal that just went down in the last couple days.  The Cincinatti Reds, Cleveland Indians, and Arizona Diamondbacks struck a 3 way deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds, Drew Stubbs and DBacks pitcher Trevor Bauer to the Tribe, and defensive wiz shortstop Didi Gregorius to Arizona.  It’s very disappointing to see a shortstop with Gregorius’s potential slip through the cracks from a team with a need for another outfielder, which the A’s are full of.  If Choo was able to be the primary piece going to Cincinatti, a right fielder who’ll be moved to center, don’t tell me Billy couldn’t have acquired Didi just about straight up for Coco Crisp.  He should have.

I know Billy said after acquiring Chris Young that he had no plans to move any of the 4 starting caliber outfielders in his possession.  But with players like Michael Bourn asking for massive paydays, and B.J. Upton already getting his, why is Billy Beane sticking to his guns on that statement?  Someone like Josh Reddick may be at his peak value at this moment, and there is no guarantee he can maintain that level of production.  His rough second half has to put some doubt in the minds of the A’s brass, but if anyone can sell another GM on a player it’s Billy Beane.

The A’s inactivity has left questions as to whether they really plan to work to upgrade the roster, or if they think the 2012 roster will be good enough to repeat its performance in 2013.  Complacency is not the answer, and if the A’s want to make it far they may need to take a risk and roll the dice.

Topics: Billy Beane, Didi Gregorius, Oakland Athletics, Wil Myers

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  • Questor

    I believe that Billy reached a good team level. Now he is “tweaking” that Team, to keep up with the competition. That said, there are three glaring “holes” in that makeup: First and foremost, the need for a SS, and we do not know what Billy’s thinking on the subject is. Signing Drew is a very iffy proposition, but we are not privy to those negotiations. The cheaper long-term solution for SS’s is to sign one from a country where there is a strong SS tradition, i.e., Venezuela. Regrettably, the top players there are either not developed, so they need intense scouting and training to be signed up and prepared, or they are already in the Majors. Given the A’s budget problems, signing a FA in the current market is out of the question – except that there are some mitigating circumstances in Drew’s case, leaving a small window of opportunity. All these considerations, plus the idea of signing up the Japanese Nakajima, are why Billy is hesitating – he hopes to “bottom-feed” by ST.

    Second, to make a run at the WS, the A’s probably need a “stopper-type” SP – someone like Verlander, capable of giving a couple of blank-out starts during a short series. Anderson is close to that, but everybody seems to “hold his breath” on his health, so he is not a reliable unit. However, it is unlikely that the A’s could sign up a pitcher of that level.

    Considering those premises, we end up with Billy’s scenario: he has a Team with excellent OF; a solid rotation; a fairly reliable relief corps; a solid, if not powerful C combination; and acceptable solutions for IF corners. It seems to me that any trading of these pieces would be detrimental at this point. that means that Billy is seeking to ADD pieces without losing any! With some luck and sagacity, by ST the A’s should come up with minimal or better solutions.

    The only improvement that appears to be a must on the long run is a top SP – I think that will make a difference between being competitive in the ALWest and vying for a WS ring. If worse comes to worst, at SS the A’s have a couple of in-house options in Andy Parrino and, possibly, the Venezuelan Darwin Perez – not brilliant solutions, but they might hold the bag for a while. Therefore, Billy is waiting for developments. That is why he wold not go for trading for Myers – at first, I also thought that was a mistake, until I put all these pieces in order. Both the needed SP and the optional improvement SS have to be SIGNED, not traded for – unless there might be a trade involving Minor leaguers for whom the A’s do not have long-range plans.
    This way, the A’s can remain competitive for a few foreseeable years. However, for those thinking short-term, yes, as things stand, the A’s have only a slim chance of going past winning the ALWest title in 2013, until and unless one of the A’s pitchers, besides Anderson, becomes a front-line SP.