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After sacrificing two top prospects, the A’s are now all in for 2014

Jul 4, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT

Billy Beane AP

A’s general manager Billy Beane was famously quoted in Moneyball saying “my #@!% doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs.”

He couldn’t possibly have made it any more clear Friday that he no longer feels that way.

In trading his preseason No. 1 and No. 2 prospects to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, Beane was trying to give a team that’s been baseball’s best for three months a better chance of being its best in October.

It was easily the boldest move Beane had pulled off since he traded Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith to the Rockies for Matt Holliday following the 2008 season. That deal proved to be one of Beane’s worst, as Holliday was traded again for a disappointing haul at midseason and the 2009 A’s floundered to a 75-87 record.

This time, the A’s cashed in one of the game’s 10 best prospects in 2012 first-round pick Addison Russell, plus 2013 first-round pick Billy McKinney. It’s a huge blow to a minor league system that hasn’t been churning out a lot of talent. In fact, the only A’s draft picks to suit up for the team this year are Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle (a first baseman-turned-closer) and Dan Straily. Straily was also sent to the Cubs as part of the deal.

In return, the A’s acquired half of their upcoming postseason rotation, bumping Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone to also-ran roles, if everything goes according to plan. Chavez will most likely stay in the rotation for now, but given that his career high for innings is 130 (and he’s at 103 right now), the A’s might have been surmising that he’d wear down. Milone, who has a fine 3.55 ERA this year, is likely to get bumped to the pen or to Triple-A.

It’s curious that the A’s didn’t instead target an ace like David Price or Cole Hamels if they were willing to part with Russell. But there’s no denying how effective Samardzija and Hammel have been this year. They both had ERAs a bit under 3.00 for the Cubs, with practically identical strikeout rates (103 strikeouts in 108 innings for Samardzija, 104 in 108 2/3 innings for Hammel). But neither have the October track record another GM might have preferred. Samardzija, a career Cub, has never pitched in the postseason. Hammel has made three postseason starts with a 4.80 ERA. One concern with him is that he’s never topped 180 innings. Right now, he’s on pace to pitch 200 in the regular season alone.

So, the A’s are certainly a better team now. But they were almost certainly October-bound whether or not they made the trade. Perhaps they were worried that the Angels, who look like the AL’s second best team, could overtake them in the AL West, putting them in a wild card game. Clearly, their chances in October are much better if they avoid that fate. Still, Samardzija and Hammel only move the needle so much in the postseasson, and the long-term future doesn’t look so healthy.

As terrific of a job that Beane has done finding bargains like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Chavez, John Jaso and others, the price to keep all of those players in arbitration is about to go through the roof in the coming years, and Beane is going to have to pull off more miracles to supplement his core talent if the farm system isn’t up to the task. Now not only are they going to pay Samardzija about $10 million next year (Hammel is a free agent at season’s end, Samardzija has one year of arbitration left), but they lost the chance to save about $5 million at shortstop by replacing Jed Lowrie with Russell.

If it were anyone except Beane in charge, I’d say the A’s window is now this year and next, with a bleak period to follow. But maybe he’ll keep it going. And if he can bring a world championship to Oakland before then, then that long-term price hardly matters.

  1. chill1184 - Jul 4, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Beane is one of those guy that even that he’s not running your team you want to see him get a ring in his lifetime.

    • mmeyer3387 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      Yes, he has been great for the sport.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:27 AM

      He had a very good chance just over a decade ago and he chose not to become the Red Sox GM.

      • 18thstreet - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:03 PM

        According to Moneyball, among the first things he was going to do was trade Varitek. I’m not so sure he would have won with the Red Sox.

  2. rivermaya99 - Jul 4, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Stupid move, should not trade good rookie player, Rusel is awesome guy, Samardja good but should not trade Russel in that move

    • trucker2020 - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      Ya gotta trade talent to get talent. Rusel may turn into the best player since Mike Trout or he could be the next Mike Aviles.That will be determined….years from now.Oakland has gone all in on winning THIS year. The A’s made a fantastic deal here.I know the prize is Simardzija here, but Hammel should put up better numbers in Oakland than Baltimore or Wrigley.
      rivermaya99—–If it winds up being a “Stupid move”maybe they’ll fire Beane & hire you instead.
      By the way I’m not an A’s fan,but I think this trade puts them over the top in the AL.

  3. girlsknowsportstoo - Jul 4, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    That would not be enough for Hamels. Cliff Lee, yes, not Cole Hamels.

    • rivermaya99 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:01 AM

      Stupid overated players, should not give money because team Philys suck

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 7, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        Everything can’t be “stupid” maya.

    • paperlions - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:14 AM

      Their contracts actually make them less valuable in trade. Lee is overpaid, the Phillies would have to pay a lot to get anything at all in return. Hamels isn’t worth any more than his contract.

  4. rawdog2013 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    I love it! Now, what will the Angels and Mariners do?? If Mariners pick up another ace that would not be good.

  5. doctorofsmuganomics - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    maybe now they’ll get to the SECOND round before getting knocked out by the tigers

    • rawdog2013 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:42 AM

      Can always rely on a smug comment from the Dr aka male nurse, who’s team has been the “anchor” of the AL West for decades.

      • doctorofsmuganomics - Jul 5, 2014 at 1:06 AM

        Truth hurts, doesn’t it pumpkin?

      • doctorofsmuganomics - Jul 5, 2014 at 1:38 AM

        also, last I looked the royals weren’t in the al west, so how exactly is my team the anchor

  6. mlbfan8898 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Pitching wins World Series. Good move.

    • thatsnuckinfuts - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      Except for the Braves in the 90’s

    • dphins4me - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      Great pitching wins WS. These guys are just decent.

  7. clydeserra - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    I think 2016-17 are gonna look a lot like 07-11.

    I just hope 18 and 19 won’t

    • rivermaya99 - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:14 AM

      A’s very good, Rusel is good rookie, Beane is stupid trading Rusel, Samardja is Ace he will be good in uniform

      • daveitsgood - Jul 5, 2014 at 12:52 AM

        umm… #analysis?

      • rivermaya99 - Jul 5, 2014 at 1:22 AM

        Beane is stupid, analysis stupid, wins is good, very good

        Go to bed

  8. APBA Guy - Jul 5, 2014 at 1:10 AM

    Wow! I commented the other day that I thought Chavez was running out of gas, and I’m sure that with Gray being so young, and Straily not developing, the need for two pitchers this year was apparent.

    And Beane knows something else: major league proven beats prospect every time.

    I can’t wait to see these guys pitch in the big ball park. The team has to love this move. I know I do.

    • rawdog2013 - Jul 5, 2014 at 1:17 AM

      Very exciting news for sure! We need to go for it.

  9. indaburg - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Not the usual modus operandi for your team, but the formula for winning in the post-season–a sprint–is different than the formula for winning the marathon of a long season. I’m excited to see what this does.

  10. philswfc08 - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Not to mention Ruben isn’t trading Hamels…he thinks the phillies can compete next year with a few minor tweaks. Fire that moron already!

  11. jlovenotjlo - Jul 5, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Cubs pushing back year to compete to 2016?

    • 18thstreet - Jul 5, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      Were you under the impression that they were one or two free agents away from competing in 2015, until this trade happened?

      • jlovenotjlo - Jul 5, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        Yes. A -12 run differential with a young and improving team, with a couple of minor league players ready to burst on the scene. Samardzija locked up for next season, with a couple of acquisitions 2015 *could* have been an exciting, playoff contending year for the cubs. Instead it’s already wait til next year, next year.

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