The first week of December has been a busy one for Billy Beane and the rest of the Oakland A’s organization when it comes to trades and acquisitions. In 24 hours, Beane was able to acquired five players in four very strategic moves. Let’s recap what has happened and why the Athletics might be making these trades.
Monday was a day for pitching. The A’s traded infielder Jemile Weeks for Baltimore Orioles reliever Jim Johnson. Since the A’s lost Grant Balfour to free agency, they were looking for a quality closer. Johnson led the AL in saves in 2013 with 50 and posted a 2.94 ERA. And even though he also lead the MLB in saves in 2012 with 51 saves, he does demonstrates some inconsistency. Even though he was successful in 2013 and 2012, he also led the MLB in blown saves this past season with nine.
This trade was quite an investment for the A’s – especially for a team who does not usually spend much money on relievers. Balfour made $4.5 million this past season while Johnson made $6.5 million with the Orioles and was looking at up to $10 million for the 2014 season. Even though Johnson is not as sharp as he has been in the past, hopefully this was a good investment for the Athletics.
The Oakland A’s also acquired left-handed starter Scott Kazmir on Monday for a two-year $22 million dollar deal. This is another large investment for the Athletics. Even though Kazmir was successful in the early and mid-2000s with the Tampa Bay Rays, back and shoulder injuries plagued him between 2009 and 2012. But when he went to the Cleveland Indians in 2013, he seemed to bring more control, velocity, and variety to his pitching. He ended 2013 with 10-9 record and a 4.04 ERA. By signing this former All-Star player, the A’s will probably not resign Bartolo Colon.
The A’s are hoping that this is the resurrection of Kazmir’s previous success just like Bartolo Colon found success again later in his career. There is speculation that Kazmir’s potential success in 2014 could top Colon’s 2013 success since Kazmir’s second wind is coming at 30 years old unlike Colon, who was 40.
While Monday was solely focused on pitching, Tuesday brought up the need for an outfielder, which was subsequently filled. The Athletics made a surprising trade when they sent top prospect Michael Choice and minor league infielder Chris Bostick down to the Texas Rangers in exchange for right-handed outfielder Craig Gentry and pitcher Josh Lindblom.
While trading Choice confused many, Susan Slusser from the San Francisco Chronicle believes that this trade signals that the Athletics are going to push hard for the World Series win in 2014. Gentry is a quick outfielder with great defensive skills, which fills a specific need for the A’s. In 106 games, Gentry batted .240 with 22 RBI and two home runs. So even though Choice was their top prospect, he did not fit the bill as the Athletics fourth outfielder quite as well as Gentry – at least for 2014. This trade shows that the Athletics want great players both on the field and in the dugout.
Now, right-hander Lindblom had five starts and three relief appearances in 2013. He had a 5.46 ERA and a 1-3 record. Even though Lindblom’s numbers are not impressive, the A’s are looking to build up their bullpen both in quality and in number of relievers since they struggled last year when it came to their middle relievers.
Another pitcher brought to Oakland on Tuesday was San Diego Padres reliever Luke Gregerson. The Athletics acquired him through a trade that sent outfielder and sometimes designated hitter Seth Smith to San Diego. Gregerson has been a very reliable setup man for the Padres and probably has been one of the best in the MLB over the past couple years. In 2013, he pitched 66 ⅓ innings and acquired a 2.71 ERA. Over his five years in the MLB, he has a 2.88 ERA, which demonstrates his consistency and overall talent.
This final trade is setting up Oakland to have one of the best bullpens in the MLB next year. With Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Dan Otero, Jesse Chavez, and Jerry Blevins already lined up for 2014, these four new additions will give the Athletics a solid, reliable and hopefully successful bullpen. Beane told MLB.com that these recent moves have filled the A’s pitching needs and even upgraded the bullpen as a whole.
It is clear that Beane has been planning out these moves for awhile now since a couple of these trades and acquisitions required the Athletics to stretch their usually small budget. So what prompted these trades?
After getting to the postseason and winning the AL West two years in a row, some believe that Beane thinks that 2014 is the year for the Athletics to win it all. Many Athletics whom are signed on for 2014 are only on one or two year contracts including slugger Yoenis Cespedes and outfielder Coco Crisp. By spending more dollars on some star pitchers, Beane seems to be readying his team for the 2014 World Series.
I believe that the Athletics’ bullpen held back the team from beating the Detroit Tigers in 2013. But with these recent changes, the pitching roster has changed drastically. Time will only tell if these moves were worth it, but I think that they are. If the A’s keep their infield and outfield the same, they should find success in 2014.
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