By Tim Kawakami San Jose Mercury News
Quick thoughts on the Oakland Athletics’ monster, stunning, mind-blowing, typically-Beane-ian deal with the Cubs for potential ace Jeff Samardzija and solid starter Jason Hammel for several top prospects:
When I talked to Billy Beane in May, he emphasized how valuable it was to succeed today and stop worrying about uncertainty in the A’s future.
“The best part of baseball,” Beane said, “is when you deal with the present.”
Yeah, you could say that was a strong hint of things to come.
Back then, like now, Beane’s A’s were powering through the season with by far the best run-differential in baseball, were hitting on almost every cylinder, and were a clear World Series contender.
But still — you sensed that if Beane could jigger a few things around, he most definitely would.
My goodness, he found a way to do that Friday night.
He gave up a lot — shortstop Addison Russell could be a star for a long time, outfielder Billy McKinney was also a former first-round choice, and pitcher Dan Straily was key rotational depth.
(If you add in Michael Choice, Jemile Weeks and Grant Green, the A’s have now dealt their 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 No. 1 picks all in less than a year. Weeks was in 2008, Green in 2009, Choice in 2010, Russell in 2012 and McKinney in 2013.)
But again, Beane got Samardzija, one of the prizes of the developing trade market, and Hammel, who should slot right into the A’s projected playoff rotation.
The A’s GM is dealing with today, because today and tomorrow are more important than anything else-that’s the way the A’s baseball people are dealing with the stadium mess, the low-budget limitations (set by their owners) and by the whole setup of this oddball organization.
There is value in today. Win today. Win tomorrow. Deal with the future when the future comes.
That’s what Beane did with this deal. The A’s are appreciably better today than they were yesterday, there is no question about that.
You ask, my goodness, if Beane can pull this off, what could he do with a big budget and owners who cared about winning?
But I think Beane and his front office are better in this situation. They need to innovate and think differently than everybody else, so they are driven to do it. They’re not afraid of anything and in fact they love to do the stuff most other teams wouldn’t dare to do.
Because they’re the A’s, and they can’t do what the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox (or Giants) can do, they’re free to do it differently, and they’re better for it. I believe Billy thinks that too.
And oh yes, Beane wants to win a title now.
Enough of these first-round losses, especially to Detroit, especially after getting swept in Detroit recently.
Before this deal, the A’s playoff rotation was setting up to be: Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone/Drew Pomeranz.
That’s not terrible, but I don’t know that Chavez in Game 3 vs. Anibal Sanchez is something the A’s were highly enthusiastic about.
Now: Gray, Kazmir, Samardzjia, Hammel/Milone/Chavez.
Samardzija vs. Sanchez? Not bad. And if Chavez pitches lights-out the rest of the regular season, maybe he’s the Game 4 starter. Or maybe he’s a right-handed arm in the bullpen.
It just opens up a ton of options, and the A’s love options.
Beane always believes he can find valuable young players on the cheap from other organizations and that gives him the leeway to move his own valuable prospects because he figures he can always replace them.
That’s how the A’s got Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Chavez, Jed Lowrie, Derek Norris and John Jaso.
They went into the free agent market to get Kazmir and Coco Crisp, and the international market to get Yoenis Cespedes.
The A’s will need a shortstop of the future to replace Russell (unless they re-sign Lowrie). They will need to restock their farm system (as they’ve done several previous times).
They will need to decide what to do with Cespedes, who is set for free agency after the 2015 season.
But Beane isn’t afraid of those issues. He loves to zigzag through those issues, making the choices on his terms, not anybody else’s.
And yes, he’s going for it in 2014. Because there is value in the present, which is now.
If things happen to go all wrong, Beane can still switch it up. Maybe two or three more times.
I actually can’t wait until Billy takes a look at his new roster — and then trades for David Price, Kershaw, and maybe LeBron, too.