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Have the A's thrown in the towell? Part II.
It wasn't too long ago that I was talking about the A's throwing in the towell. Turns out, they were. Go figure.
After rescinding on the reported trade of Tim Hudson to the Dodgers, the A's turned around and got what they must have thought of as a better deal from the Braves. On Thursday, the A's flipped Hudson to Atlanta for OF Charles Thomas, pitching prospect Dan Meyer, and the long forgotten Juan Cruz.
I'll agree, the A's got more in this deal than basically netting only Edwin Jackson from the Dodgers. So for one year of Hudson (and the draft picks they would have received when he left in free agency) the A's got an excellent pitching prospect who may be ready next year (Meyer), a competent 4th outfielder (Thomas), and a solid arm in the pen, who could possibly make it as a starter (Cruz). Three very useful parts, all will help the A's stay competitive.
If they had stopped there, I would have been okay with it. The A's have enough depth in the rotation to still win, even after losing Hudson, and there would be at least a decent shot that Meyer is as good as Hudson in a few years. Unfortunately, the A's didn't stop there.
Just three days later, the A's traded Mark Mulder to the Cardinals for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and catching prospect Daric Barton. Take a step back for a minute. Without question, the success of the Oakland A's (91, 102, 103, 96, 91 wins) has centered exclusively around the big three of Zito, Mulder, and Hudson. Now, within a span of three days, two-thirds of that success has been jettisoned.
For what? That's the big question. It almost looks like the A's got discouraged watching the Angels jump on and off the gravy train in an insane attempt to become Yankees-West. Did they give up?
It's not as bad as it may seem, because the A's got a considerable amount of talent in return for the two big names, but they also netted a hell of a lot more uncertainty. Rather than give it one more shot with the big three still in place, the A's have committed to being competitive in 2005, but not a contender.
Although the names might not be household yet, Dan Haren and Dan Meyer have a chance to be as good as Mulder and Hudson. A chance.
Its a chance you take with a team out of contention. In that case, with a star eyeing free agency, your best bet is to recount as much as you can, and at least try an net a player with the potential to be as good as the one you are giving up. In some cases (c.f. Randy Johnson, more on that later) this isn't possible, but you at least try. The A's tried, and succeeded, in netting enough potential to replace their two departed stars.
The problem I see is that the A's aren't a "team out of contention". The A's are a couple of breaks away from winning a World Series. Let's not forget so fast that this A's team missed the playoffs by ONLY ONE GAME last season. One break and they are in. Their staff gets hot in the playoffs, and they've just won the World Series.
I would have rode out the season and let Mulder and Hudson walk. The A's chose to go another route, and I can't fault them for the trades they made, which both make sense. I do, however, fault them for misunderstanding the position their team was in. I'm not sure they understand how close they are/were. Letting Hudson and Mulder play out the season would have given them the best chance for taking the next step. This trade seems to suggest the A's have more interest in remaining a 90 win team for eternity, rather than taking a shot at winning the big one.
Still, the 2005 A's are in no way out of the race. This is still a very good team. Their weakest area, the bullpen, is a lot better today. I think Dan Haren is going to be very good. I don't know so much about Meyer, but he's got a chance. Zito could rebound, Harden could learn some control, and Joe Blanton could be as good as advertised.
No matter how many of those magical 'ifs' come true, the A's will be a competitive ballclub next year. If most of them come true, the A's will be no worse in 2005, but I don't see them getting any better. They were in a position of stability, with a decent shot to win it all and they just took the biggest risk of any team this offseason.
Lets just say that before Thursday, the A's were a 93 win team, +/- 4 wins. Today they are an 85 win team +/- 8 wins. They could do better, but they could do a lot worse. Personally, I would like to be in the first situation, but the second isn't all that bad a place to be. It all depends on the performance metrics of an organization. The A's value 90 wins, the Angels want the rings.