As I wrote late last month the A’s have had a history of early offseason trades. GM Billy Beane doesn’t need the single day of Black Friday to make deals. Instead he takes the entire month of December to make the best deals. And this December has not only followed the path of history for the month’s transactions, but also exceeded it. With three different transactions happening within 24 hours of each other one could get lost in all the transactional goodness to feast on. That is why I am writing a quick piece, or a road map, on what the deals were and what they mean for the A’s and others affected by them.
1. Let’s start with the Scott Kazmir deal. Kazmir, coming off a good season with the Cleveland Indians in which he saw his first consistent production in over 5 years, and first Major League action since 2011, signed a relatively big deal for the A’s at 2 years and $22 million. It is a straight up signing meaning there are no player/club/vesting options, trade clauses, or incentives. What does this signing mean for the A’s?
It takes them out of the running for Bartolo Colon. According to SF Chronicle’s A’s beat writer Susan Slusser, Colon was looking for at least $14 million a season over a multi-year deal. For an already righty-heavy rotation (Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily) Colon didn’t really fit in, especially including the price.
This also inevitably means the end of Brett Anderson’s tenure in Green and Gold. With trade speculation running rampant Anderson may not make it through the end of me writing this post. The Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins all have interest in Anderson presumably in that order. Anderson was due to make $8 million this year including an option for $12+ million in 2015. Therefore, the A’s signed Kazmir for $2 million if you take the $3 million he costs extra this season and couple it with the $1 million less he’ll cost for next season. A’s fans have looked at the price tag for a player coming off one good season in over 5 years, but it comes down too whether or not Tommy Milone could compete, and the A’s front office showed with this signing they are not convinced with Milone yet.
2. The second was the trade of Jemile Weeks for Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson. There will be a player to be named later or cash considerations going to the Orioles as well. Johnson is MLB’s combined saves leader over the last two seasons with over 100. He has a nasty fastball that moves all over the place mixed in with a couple off-speed pitches. Johnson costs $10 million this season, $2 million more than Free Agent closer Grant Balfour cost last season. However, with $25 million in TV revenue being added to each team the cost is worth the reward in this instance.
For the A’s, they no longer believed in Jemile Weeks a la Grant Green (this is a trend you’ll see again in this post). They felt they had the depth in the organization and at the Major League level to let Weeks go. The second baseman of the future is Daniel Robertson (though he is currently playing shortstop as Oakland Clubhouse’s Melissa Lockard mentioned). The A’s needed a closer. The closer by committee does not work for some reason at the Major League level. Johnson fits the mold perfectly and is a huge addition for the A’s going into 2014.
3. The A’s acquired fourth outfielder Craig Gentry and starting pitcher/reliever Josh Lindblom from the Texas Rangers in exchange for top prospect Michael Choice and infield prospect Chris Bostick. This trade was a medium on the hot stove scale to the MLB on a national level. However, locally this trade made waves due to the caliber of prospect that Choice is/was supposed to be.
Gentry had a huge year for a fourth outfielder hitting over .280 and having 24 stolen bases in a little over 200 at bats. Gentry is a strong defender, possibly equal to or better than the outfielders already in place in the A’s lineup. He presumably will platoon with Josh Reddick in right field while also spelling Coco Crisp and Yoenis Céspedes on off days. The platoon formed with Reddick will combine to be one of the strongest right fields in baseball in 2014 if Reddick can return to some form against right-handed pitching. Gentry kills left-handed pitching and is used to not playing everyday so a platoon with Reddick will fit perfectly in the A’s lineup.
Choice somewhat fit into the A’s plans, but they seemed to cringe at seeing Choice’s usual strong average being to dip the higher in the system he got. His speed was diminishing and never really developed to the level the A’s had hoped. His development would’ve been further blocked by being on the Major League roster as an extra outfielder and didn’t make sense to continue to play him at AAA Sacramento if he is ready to be in the big leagues.
4. Lastly, the A’s still have money to spend. If you incorporate their Free Agents with the signings and trades, and if Brett Anderson does indeed get traded the A’s will have over $12 million left to spend this offseason. All these signings and trades will help the A’s. It remains to be seen if they will also hurt them, especially in the case of Jemile Weeks and Michael Choice. The A’s still need to bolster the bullpen, the bench, and/or second base this offseason. With money to spend and reigning two time MLB Executive of the Year Billy Beane on their side don’t think Oakland is done making moves.