A tale of two Decembers for Coliseum-weary A’s owner

NOTFORSALE

On Dec. 24, 2011, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted that it looked like MLB would approve the Oakland A’s proposed move to San Jose soon. But on Dec. 7, 2013, Nathaniel Grow of Sports Law Blog broke the news that MLB rejected the A’s request in June. Just like that, it appeared that owner Lew Wolff‘s attempt to relocate the franchise to the South Bay was, at best, barely on life support. Quite a dramatic turnaround from one December to another.

BHC logoCLICK HERE to read the rest of “A tale of two Decembers for Coliseum-weary A’s owner” over at Baseball Hot Corner.

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Lew Wolff and the ‘evil’ owner Battle Royale

The notion of an "evil" owner is a silly one, but if such a thing really existed where would Oakland's much-maligned Lew Wolff rank?

The notion of an “evil” owner is a silly one, but if such a thing really existed where would Oakland’s much-maligned Lew Wolff rank?

In a refreshing change of pace, there’s recently been some interesting news about the Oakland A’s quest for a new ballpark. Yesterday news broke that there’s a new proposal for a stadium at Howard Terminal in Oakland which generated understandable enthusiasm among the fanbase. That was followed later in the day by a story from the Bay Area News Group in which maligned team owner Lew Wolff quickly shot down the idea. The whole thing sent a large number of A’s fans on Twitter into a tizzy with Wolff serving as a punching bag and the tiresome evil owner narrative playing out the way it always does when he opens his mouth.

If there really are “evil” sports owners out there I’m not sure Wolff truly ranks in that category. Here’s my quick, totally unscientific, look at how Wolff stacks up against some real and fictional “evil” sports owners …

BHC logoCLICK HERE to read the rest of “Lew Wolff and the ‘Evil’ owner Battle Royale” over at Baseball Hot Corner.

Knee-jerk reaction: The A’s finally trade Brett Anderson

There are special moments for thoughtful reflection about new developments with the Oakland A’s … and then there are moments like these where I only have time for a quick post.

In less than a year Brett Anderson went from Opening Day starter in Oakland to a sell-low salary dump after Tuesday's trade to the Rockies.

In less than a year Brett Anderson went from Opening Day starter in Oakland to a sell-low salary dump after Tuesday’s trade to the Rockies.

Well, we won’t have to read all those Brett Anderson trade rumors anymore will we? After weeks of speculation, the Oakland A’s finally cut a deal for their oft-injured, once-promising starting pitcher, sending the southpaw to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for minor league pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Chris JensenWant the knee-jerkiest of knee-jerk reactions to this trade? Here it is: Meh. Simple, eloquent and perfectly honest. How excited is a guy supposed to get over an obvious salary dump?

BHC logoCLICK HERE to read the rest of “Knee-jerk reaction: The A’s finally trade Brett Anderson” over at Baseball Hot Corner.

Thanking Khalil Greene, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden & Jason Giambi for Luke Gregerson

It took a lot more effort than you might have thought for Billy Beane to bring Luke Gregerson to Oakland.

It took a lot more effort than you might have thought for Billy Beane to bring Luke Gregerson to Oakland. This week’s Seth Smith-Gregerson trade was years in the making, about 21 years in the making to be exact.

Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson were the big names coming to Oakland last week and Michael Choice was the big name heading out of town which left the Seth Smith for Luke Gregerson trade a notable transaction but one unworthy of a ton of fanfare or examination.

If you want to know how Gregerson got to San Diego you have to look to Khalil Greene.

If you want to know how Gregerson got to San Diego you have to look to Khalil Greene.

But now that the dust has settled on general manager Billy Beane‘s hyperactive flurry of moves it looks like the A’s are in a holding pattern until he pulls the trigger on a rumored Brett Anderson trade. That leaves me with a little time on my hands and the luxury of taking a long look at the Smith-Gregerson deal. After a little work I have arrived at a logical conclusion: Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Jason Giambi and Khalil Greene made it all possible.

Sound insane? Just stick with me for a moment.

Sure, you can look at the Smith-Gregerson trade and just see a couple of teams with modest budgets swapping arbitration-eligible spare parts and leave it at that. But I’m always entertained by the convoluted way a lot of things end up coming together in Oakland thanks to Beane’s endless wheeling and dealing.

All it takes is some curiosity, free time and the magic of Baseball Reference and Wikipedia and you have a winding, twisting path to a recent trade that reaches all the way back to 1992 when the A’s drafted Jason Giambi.

HOW IT ALL GETS BACK TO KHALIL GREENE

Back in 2008, the Padres traded Khalil Greene to the Cardinals for Mark Worrell and a player to be named later. The PTBNL was none other than Luke Gregerson, Oakland’s shiny new setup man who same over from San Diego in exchange for Seth Smith.

HOW IT ALL GETS BACK TO BLANTON, HARDEN and GIAMBI

This is where you may get a headache, at least I know I did.

In 2012, the A’s got Smith from the Rockies in exchange for Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso.

I think Rich Harden looks hurt in this photo? Does he look hurt to you? If anyone could get injured just taking a picture it seems like Hard Luck Harden would be the guy.

I think Rich Harden looks hurt in this photo? Does he look hurt to you? If anyone could get injured just taking a picture it seems like Hard Luck Harden would be the guy.

Moscoso takes us on a long journey through Beane’s endless string of suprisingly fruitful minor transactions. The A’s got Moscoso from the Rangers in 2011 for Ryan Kelly. Who the heck is Ryan Kelly? I have no idea but I do know that the A’s got him from the Pirates in 2010 for Corey Wimberly. Wimberly was caught up in this whole mess when Beane acquired him from the Rockies in 2009 for Matt Murton. Murton, who’s become a force to be reckoned with in Japan, was part of the loot Beane got from the Cubs in 2008 for none other than brittle Rich “I was Brett Anderson before Brett Anderson was Brett Anderson” Harden.

Josh Donaldson was part of that A’s-Cubs Harden deal too so your back-to-back AL West champs will head into next season armed with Gregerson and Donaldson playing key roles in a run at the third consecutive division title.

So we’ve managed to trace the Smith-Gregerson deal back to Rich Harden, now it’s time to take it back to Blanton and Giambi.

As I mentioned earlier in this meandering post Josh Outman was part of the trade that brought Smith from Colorado to Oakland. Outman, as you probably remember, was one of the key prospects in the 2008 trade that sent Joe Blanton to the Phillies. So that gets us to Blanton.

You may be buried in the Angels bullpen but you're still helping the A's win ... in a roundabout way.

You may be buried in the Angels bullpen but you’re still helping the A’s win … in a roundabout way.

Big Joe Blanton gets us all the way back to former AL MVP and A’s star Jason Giambi. What the heck do the two men have in common? Blanton was drafted by the A’s in 2002 with the compensatory pick they received when the Yankees signed Giambi as a free agent.

So there you have it. The Seth Smith-Luke Gregerson trade wouldn’t have been possible without Khalil Greene, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Jason Giambi and I guess the New York Yankees.

For the A’s, as unbelievable as it sounds, drafting Jason Giambi is still paying off. Same goes for letting him leave as a free agent even though it broke a lot of hearts in Oakland. And Rich Harden may not have provided the A’s much in the last few years of his career in green and gold but he did help set the team up with Gregerson and Donaldson.

There’s no way the A’s would have won the division two years in a row without Donaldson and I’m sure Gregerson is going to get his fair share of key outs this year as Oakland makes another run at the playoffs.

It all just goes to show that even Beane’s minor moves for players you’ve never heard of or can barely remember years later can end up paying off down the line.

It all gets back to Jason Giambi. If Giambi never played for the A's and then bolted to the Yankees for free-agent riches Gregerson wouldn't be with the A's right now.

It all gets back to Jason Giambi. If Giambi never played for the A’s and then bolted to the Yankees for free-agent riches Gregerson wouldn’t be with the A’s right now.

A little love for big Bartolo

Happy trails Bartolo Colon, I'm never gonna forget you big guy.

Happy trails Bartolo Colon, I’m never gonna forget you big guy.

There’s been so much wheeling in dealing by the A’s this week that it’s been easy to get caught up in the excitement over all the new faces while glossing over the fact that some key contributors to Oakland‘s back-to-back AL West championship teams are moving on.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take some time to sit back and reflect on someone I’m really going to miss seeing in green and gold: Bartolo Colon.

I don’t know if Colon spends much time surfing the Web reading obscure baseball blogs written by fans. Smart money says “junkball.wordpress.com” is never going to see the light of day on his home computer, tablet device or smart phone. But if Colon does venture onto the Internet and he happens to wander across my little blog, this post is for you big guy:

Thanks for the memories Bartolo.

I’m going to miss seeing you out there in every fifth day for the A’s next summer. I had my doubts when general manager Billy Beane brought you to Oakland heading into the 2012 season, but as time on went it became a match made in heaven for this A’s fan.

You’re overweight, 40 years old, you were a cheap acquisition and you helped the A’s win a lot of games.  I’m overweight, I’m about to turn 40, I try to acquire everything on the cheap and I love watching the A’s win a lot of games. The pairing of A’s player and A’s fan was almost perfect.

Forget Jeremy Brown. If anyone ever personified Beane’s adage of, “We’re not selling jeans here” it’s you.

The silly kid trapped in this middle-aged baseball nut’s creaky old body looked at you and said, “Yeah, that’s the valuable A’s player I could be on a winning team in Oakland … if I had any talent whatsoever for the game of baseball.”

You’re old (at least in baseball terms), you’re chubby, you pretty much only have one pitch but you often managed to thrive on the mound with Oakland. It’s almost impossible for a die-hard sports fanatic with a beergut and absolutely no athletic ability to find inspiration in your contributions to the A’s. There were plenty of times when you silenced opposing lineups with ease, almost toying with them with fastball after fastball, strike after strike.

Baseball is running out of big middle-aged guys to root for like Colon and David Wells.

Baseball is running out of big middle-aged guys to root for like Colon and David Wells.

Sadly, the bad-body player is kind of a dying breed in baseball these days. It’s nice to see that you’re proudly carrying the torch for retired portly pitchers such as David Wells, Rich Garces, Sid Fernandez, Livan Hernandez and Rick Reuschel.  You’re arguably the best veteran bad-body starting pitcher in baseball right now considering the fact that New York’s C.C. Sabathia is coming off a 0.3 WAR in 2013 compared to your 5.0 WAR with Oakland last season.

Couch potato sports fans need at least a few players who look just a slovenly as they do to cheer for when they’re watching a game.  Seeing you strike out a young stud like Anaheim’s Mike Trout is a victory for every aging male sports fan carrying a few too many pounds around their midsection. Who cares if Trout hit .571 off you last season? You struck him out once and it was a glorious triumph for all the old fat guys out there who look kind of silly attending ballgames in official MLB jerseys with the buttons straining at the gut.

I’ll freely admit that when Beane first signed you I didn’t see much potential for a notable contribution to Oakland’s future. He had just traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey to rebuild the franchise and I figured you’d simply keep a spot in the rotation warm for a prospect.

I assumed that you’d just pitch a lot of mediocre innings until your arm fell off while providing a veteran presence and making sure the post-game spread didn’t go to waste.  It appeared that having you in the rotation would also buy the A’s a little more time to let their prospects develop without rushing anyone to the big leagues and squandering valuable service time.

But everything clicked for that magical 2012 club and you were a significant part of an exhilarating, unpredictable  run to the playoffs while posting a 2.7 WAR with 10 wins and a 3.43 ERA. Sure, there was the ugly PED suspension that came along at the worst possible time for the A’s toward the end of the season, but this is a franchise that has arguably served as Ground Zero for steroid abuse in baseball so I guess that’s just par for the course.

And the PED use just shows how much you want to pitch, how committed you are to winning, right? I mean, a few years ago you had your own fat injected into your arm and shoulder in an effort to revive your flagging career. That shows some crazy love for the game and probably explains why you never show up to spring training looking slim and trim. Smart move big guy. Who knows when you’re going to need some more of that fat to lube up your arm and shoulder again?  That’s not worthless flab around your midsection, it’s a big, jiggly Fountain of Youth spewing forth a steady stream of blessed arm-invigorating lard. Your soft midsection is solid gold as far as I’m concerned. I wish my gut had some kind of supernatural value to it but it’s just dead weight.

You followed up a surprisingly productive 2012 in Oakland with a fantastic 2013. 5.0 WAR, 18 wins, a 2.65 ERA, 117 strikeouts vs. just 29 walks and an All-Star berth all for just $3 million. That lively fastball of yours was back in the high 90s when you really needed it and the A’s had a veteran ace at the front of their division-winning rotation.

It was an amazing, unexpected run of late-career glory for you in Oakland. But now it’s all over.

Scott Kazmir‘s taking your place in the rotation and you’re following in the footsteps of far too many former Athletics as you seek free-agent fortune elsewhere. And you know what? Good for you. You’ve earned it.

Go out and sign that final big-money contract before you ride off into the sunset with around 200 career wins, a Cy Young Award and three All-Star selections under your belt.

Thanks for being part of one big, fantastic green and gold party the past two seasons. If you couldn’t tell from the wild playoff crowds, die-hard A’s fans have been longing for a winning team for a long time. Thanks for helping breathe life into a struggling franchise that desperately needed it after the dark days of the Bob Geren Era.

Most of all, thanks for giving a chubby middle-aged A’s fan like me one player I could kind of relate to on a roster largely dominated by fun, baby-faced kids in the prime of their athletic careers.

I wouldn’t say that your brief, memorable stay with the A’s gave me any extra motivation to get off my lazy butt and lose some weight, but you left behind some great memories and certainly proved that age and a few extra pounds don’t have to slow a man down.

You made a lot of Oakland A's fans smile over the past 2 seasons Bartolo. Go get that big free-agent contract and end your career in style over the next few years.

You made a lot of Oakland A’s fans smile over the past 2 seasons Bartolo. Go get that big free-agent contract and end your career in style over the next few years.

Wheeling and dealing A’s have no Choice after trade for Gentry

The A's needed a backup center fielder and they got one in Mr. Craig Gentry.

The A’s needed a backup center fielder and they got one in Mr. Craig Gentry.

As a die-hard A’s fan who has sometimes been derisively labeled by friends as a Billy Beane apologist during Oakland‘s lean years, I’m inclined to like the moves general manager Billy Beane makes. I’m certainly always open to being open minded about the many ways every little move could possibly benefit the franchise.

But dealing Michael Choice to the Rangers today for Craig Gentry made my stomach sink when I first saw the news break on Twitter. A lot of the good vibes I was feeling after the A’s signed Scott Kazmir and traded for Jim Johnson on Monday seemed to vanish into thin air.

Note to self: Take deep breaths, remain calm and remember that there’s more to come. Everything will make perfect sense once the season starts and we see how all the pieces acquired by the A’s over the winter actually fit together in reality.

A big part of my initial disappointment over this trade is obviously my own fault for getting a little too excited every time the A’s select a player in the first round of the draft. I’ve been looking forward to Choice’s arrival in Oakland ever since they selected him in 2010.

The idea of a young, cheap, homegrown right-handed power hitter in the middle of the A’s lineup for several years was intoxicating. But now that dream is dead and buried.

Choice is gone and he’s heading to his native Texas. Good for him, he should be a great fit for the Rangers and I can easily see him blossoming into the second coming of Nelson Cruz.

Speaking of Nelson Cruz, didn’t the A’s trade him for Keith Ginter many moons ago? Oh yeah, that’s not some kind of bad joke they actually did that. But hindsight is 20/20 right?. It hurts every single time I wrap my brain around how that trade worked out. The thought of Choice coming back to haunt Oakland the way Cruz has for the past several years is agonizing.

Then again, Choice may never make enough contact or consistently hit for enough power to be much more than a glorified 4A hitter with the Rangers. We’ll just have to wait and see. And while we’re waiting to see what Choice will become it’s a chance to find out what Craig Gentry is right now since he’s the guy Beane just had to add to the roster.

Along with minor league pitcher Josh Lindblom (who could be an interesting little acquisition), they’re getting a speedy, slick-fielding, 30-year-old center fielder with strong on-base skills and some difficulties handling right-handed pitching. So he’s basically a platoon outfielder with a low ceiling coming to a team that loves to employ platoons and needs an outfielder who can handle center field.

It’s a match made in heaven … and it kind of bores the life out of me. But hey, that’s my fault for not being big on speedy outfielders like Gentry. I’m a sucker for power hitters like Choice which colors my entire reaction to this move by the A’s.

Native Texan Michael Choice is homeward bound after being traded from the A's to the Rangers.

Native Texan Michael Choice is homeward bound after being traded from the A’s to the Rangers.

I won’t argue the fact that the A’s needed someone to back up Coco crisp in center field in 2014. And Josh Reddick could use a platoon partner in right field so he can dodge left-handed pitchers. Gentry looks like he can more than adequately fill that role in Oakland which is great and it defintely helps the A’s win now which is obviously the front office’s goal. I just don’t think the price to fill that kind of marginal role on a team should be a prospect with Choice’s pedigree and ceiling.

But what do I know? I’m just a middle-aged guy who spends most of what little free time I have chasing his two little kids around. Beane and Co. can throw scouting reports and advanced stats around all day long to make this trade seem like a master stroke for the A’s and maybe it is.

Personally, I don’t think the Choice-for-Gentry trade will ever stand out as one of Beane’s greatest hits once everything is said and done, but it could be a decent transaction if Gentry makes some nice little contributions all over the diamond for an A’s team that marches into the World Series. Gentry obviously won’t be the guy who leads them there but he can definitely be a vital role player over the long haul of the season, especially the way manager Bob Melvin mixes and matches from game to game.

I may not be in love with this trade but I’ll hand it to Beane, he’s going all in with the 2014 A’s. If there’s a move he can make to give Oakland an extra edge heading into next season with the resources he has available he’s pulling the trigger. $22 million for a starting pitcher who was out a baseball a couple of years ago? No problem. $10 million for the oft-criticized “proven closer?” Let’s do this. A trade with a division rival that could bite the A’s in the butt later? Don’t bother me, I’m Billy Freakin’ Beane and I’m too busy trying to win the AL West three years in a row to deal with that now.

So am I going to complain a lot about the A’s trying to win right now at the cost of what Michael Choice could be for the next 4 or 5 years? No, I don’t think so because winning now is obviously nothing to complain about.

If the biggest problem any A’s fan has right now is that the team is spending what appears to be too much money on veterans while jettisoning former No. 1 draft picks in an all-out effort to make a run at a World Series title then there’s really nothing to complain about. As the old saying goes, flags fly forever. If the price of a championship in 2014 is Michael Choice’s career that’s a chance you have to take if you really think you’re a few moves away from have a real shot at winning it all.

Of course, if the A’s don’t win big now and they end up losing a lot over the next few years with Choice doing a ton of damage for the Rangers I will be complaing a lot. But for now I’ll just grouse a little bit about losing Choice’s power potential in exchange for a platoon outfielder speeding toward the wrong side of 30.

Billy Beane is on fire right now. Meet the newest member of the A's: Luke Gregerson.

Billy Beane is on fire right now. Meet the newest member of the A’s: Luke Gregerson.

UPDATE: Right when I was in the middle of writing this, Beane pulled the trigger again and acquired Luke Gregerson from the Padres for Seth Smith which I absolutely love. This 2014 A’s bullpen is shaping up to be on of the nastiest in the league depending on who Beane trades next. With bullpen depth like that, Oakland won’t have to tax the young arms in their starting rotation. All Melvin needs is about 5 good innings out of his starters and then he can pull them before the heart of the opposing team’s order comes up for the third time.

Knee-jerk reaction: The A’s trade for Jim Johnson

 

Meet your new A's closer, Jim Johnson.

Meet your new A’s closer, Jim Johnson.

There are special moments for thoughtful reflection about new developments with the Oakland A’s … and then there are moments like these where I only have time for a quick post.

Wow.

This afternoon the A’s shelled out $22 million for Scott Kazmir and by the end of the night they followed that up by trading for Orioles closer Jim Johnson and his $10.8 million salary.  And all it cost them was former-top-prospect-turned-forgotten-man Jemile Weeks.

Do I love this deal?  Yeah, I kinda love this deal right now. I may only like it in a few weeks and I may hate it in a few months. But right now, for the sake of a knee-jerk reaction I love it.

Jemile Weeks is getting a fresh start in Baltimore.

Jemile Weeks is getting a fresh start in Baltimore.

Oakland filled its hole at closer without shelling out around $20 million for a free agent over the next couple of years and all they had to give up was Weeks.  I was definitely a Weeks fan but for some reason his stock seemed to crash within the A’s organization and swapping him out for a proven closer won’t have any meaningful impact on Oakland’s infield next year.  The Sacramento River Cats may have a hard time without him, but the big club will be just fine.

There was a time when the thought of general manager Billy Beane shelling out $10 million for a closer would have seemed insane.  But these days there’s an insane amount of national TV revenue flowing through every franchise and $10 million isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be.

Just sit back and see what free agent closers Joe Nathan, Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour get this offseason.  By the time it’s all said and done, $10.8 million for one year of Jim Johnson will look perfectly reasonable.  It may even look like a savvy move by Beane.

Is Johnson the second coming of Mariano Rivera in his prime?  Will he make die-hard A’s fans forget Dennis Eckersley? Uh, no.  Not even close.  This is a guy who suffered through some nasty rough patches last year and was arguably on the verge of losing his closing gig in Baltimore at times.  I see Johnson more in the mold of Keith Foulke and Billy Koch, closers who fell out of favor with their former teams only to find a fresh start with winning teams in Oakland.

At a bare minimum, taking on Johnson’s $10.8 million contract gets you out of the free agent feeding frenzy and buys you time to relax and let Sean Doolittle develop a second pitch and find a way to iron out Ryan Cook’s mechanics over the next year.  After 2014 you can cut Johnson loose, have an extra $10 million in payroll flexibility and hopefully Doolittle or Cook are ready to take over the ninth inning duties in 2015 for next to nothing in salary.

The best-case scenario is that Johnson regains his 2012 form and the A’s ride his power sinker deep into the 2014 playoffs with Dan Otero, Cook and Doolittle combining to give Oakland one of the game’s best bullpens.

Of course, Johnson’s elbow or shoulder could spontaneously combust at some point next season because he’s a pitcher and that’s what happens to guys who make their living throwing a baseball really hard over and over and over. Or Johnson could lose his mojo as he creeps toward the wrong side of 30 and simply pitch his way out of the ninth inning.  That would leave Beane with $10 million in dead weight on his roster and if Jemile Weeks figures out how to hit again while leading the American League in steals for the first-place Baltimore Orioles I guess that’s right around the time I start to hate this trade.

But for now, I couldn’t be happier with the A’s throwing some money around to plug a glaring hole on their roster without sacrificing any major contributors from their back-to-back AL West championship teams.

Oakland’s payroll took a steep downturn after they traded away Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill and this is how they reap the rewards of having a good, young, cheap winning team.  There’s plenty of payroll flexibility to add a Jim Johnson without sacrificing anything of value that can help you win right now.

A's general manager Billy Beane is sitting pretty as the winter meetings roll around.

A’s general manager Billy Beane is sitting pretty as the winter meetings roll around.

Beane’s heading into this month’s winter meetings with his biggest offseason problems solved.  Bartolo Colon’s been replaced with Kazmir and Balfour’s been replaced with Johnson and by the end of 2014 I think those moves will stand out as upgrades over whatever Colon and Balfour do with their new teams.  Just about everyone else from last season’s club is coming back and Beane still has Brett Anderson as a potential trade chip if an offer he can’t refuse comes along.

It’s been so long since the A’s shelled out this much cash in such a short period of time that I won’t sit here and complain about them spending $10 million for a luxury item like a proven closer.   Every team in MLB is so filthy rich right now that it’s gotten to the point that $10 million is just $10 million … even in Oakland.