Initially I had this titled "I hate the Oakland A's", but I realized that was too harsh. It's more that I'm cross with the A's due to their current situation--dirt poor, selling all their shiny things for breadcrumbs. Also, while hating people for being poor may feel as comfortable as slipping into a warm bath for some, it would definitely horrify other readers....and you know, probably me too.
The A's are still stuck in Oakland Alameda County Stadium, which combined with a poor location, is apparently an unprofitable dreck of a facility. Their plan to bolt for a new stadium in less recession and woe-stricken San Jose is suffering through its umpteenth delay, so it's no surprise that the A's are sellers in the meantime.
Well, actually it is, because they have nothing to sell. Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui all walked in free agency. Brian Fuentes and Kurt Suzuki would figure to be on the move if they were, like, actually coveted, and Grant Balfour would figure to be a trade chip, but jeez, we're not even discussing players who are making $5 million next season anymore.
But instead of ditching fungible assets like normal people, the A's are trading productive, above-average pitchers, before they even hit arbitration. In other words, they're trading the type of players that low-budget teams hope to luck into in order to enjoy at least a fleeting competitive window.
Starters Trevor Cahill (24 by Opening Day), Gio Gonzalez (26), and now closer Andrew Bailey (27), have all been bailed on while plenty of surplus value awaits them. If I trust this spreadsheet, that means that after these deals, the A's have a good chance of a sub-$40M payroll for next season. Alex Rios is owed $37 million for the next three years....just thought I'd throw that in there.
Sure, maybe none of those three hurlers are ever going to win the Cy Young, but such an aggressive razing of an already really cheap and young major league roster offers questions; like how long the next batch of extremely affordable youngsters will be given before they're shipped off too? Or if the A's are even trying to pretend to be competitive until the move to San Jose?
I don't really care about either of these questions out of context. The point is that the A's are now flooding the pitching trade market with cheap, long-term solutions. Why would any team bid value for a short-term rental (like, say, everything the White Sox have) when mid-rotation cornerstones are available? It's unfair to blame a larger trend of this off-season entirely on the A's, but they were the largest participants.
For example, the Nationals were considered to have Danks as their backup target to Gonzalez, and Bailey's deal to Boston closed up yet another one of the needs of a big-budget team looking for a late-inning reliever, swallowing up one of the last conceivable spots for Matt Thornton.
Of course, setting the relief market toward young, cost-controlled hurlers is kind of the White Sox fault, since they dealt Sergio Santos for a single potential mid-rotation starter. At this rate, with long-term building blocks available for the bullpen, and with them not likely to be worth draft pick compensation again under the new CBA, pricey veteran relievers like Thornton might be worth more mid-season when competitors declare their bullpens an emergency situation.
Perhaps a White Sox rebuild was never really going to work out this year anyway. Their primary export is pitching, and Danks, Floyd, and Thornton's salaries were always going to appeal to teams of a bit richer blood. With the Red Sox and Yankees suddenly buckling to concerns about luxury tax, and the other two top-spending teams not wanting for pitching in the least, the A's deciding to host an impromptu dispersal draft may have only been the poison in the cake full of razorblades that was the trade market for the White Sox.
And things still could just be hopelessly Boras'd. Scotty B has dragged out the negotiations for the primary remaining bat (Fielder), starter (EJax), and reliever (Madson) on the market to damn near the new year with no significant action taking place, which may have futzed the market a bit, or at least dragged things out past where the Sox wanted to go without deciding what to do with their de-facto ace.
This is all conjecturing now, as the Sox are risking groin tears with the amount of fence-straddling between rebuilding and trying to compete they're currently doing, but for certain the A's did not help. Their intrusive, depressing sale of slightly burnt Sears activewear came at totally the wrong time.
Tags: andrew bailey, baseball, boston red sox, brian fuentes, coco crisp, cy young, david dejesus, Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, gio gonzalez, hideki matsui, John Danks, josh willingham, Kenny Williams, kurt suzuki, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Thornton, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, oakland alameda county stadium, Philadelphia Phillies, Prince Fielder, ryan madson, scott boras, Trevor Cahill, Washington Nationals, White Sox