The Artist Formerly Known as the Oakland Athletics

Billy Beane is up to something. This offseason, he has traded Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and at some point will likely ship off Andrew Bailey as well. These three were supposed to be the core of the Oakland Athletics for years to come, and were among the top 5 most talented players on the 2011 Oakland roster. In return for each of these players the A’s are stockpiling prospects. And to be fair, they have netted significant prospect returns for each of them.

The A’s have officially slapped the bumper sticker on their club that says “Rebuilding: work in progress”. Ever since he has been running the show in Oakland, Beane does this every few years – trades the team’s best players while they are still inexpensive and under team control, because that is when they are at their peak value. This helps the A’s keep payroll low because they can’t afford more, and gives them the best shot at being competitive by replenishing the farm system with more pre-arbitration, talented players.

During the 1990’s, a new trend in Major League Baseball developed among teams. In order to boost revenues, it became critical to have a new stadium with which to attract fans and increase ticket sales. In the 90s, new stadiums popped up in Texas, Atlanta, Colorado, Arizona, Seattle, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago (White Sox). Oakland missed that boat, but they’re betting they’ll have a second chance soon. There are still some hurdles to leap over to finalize the deal, but soon the Oakland Athletics will likely become the San Jose Athletics (Or, if they want to be like their counterparts to the south, the San Jose Athletics of Oakland).

There is a process to rebuilding a team. One of those first steps is to begin stockpiling the farm system and unload any albatross contracts. We saw the Rangers do this in 2007 by trading Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne, and Kenny Lofton. Those moves have been critical to putting the Rangers in the position they’re in today. After that step, however, a team needs to begin committing to winning, and not just stockpiling prospects. The Rangers made that jump when they traded for Cliff Lee, signed Adrian Beltre, and traded for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. The issue for Oakland, currently, is because of cash restrictions they can never move past rebuilding, and are forced to continue repeating those first steps.

The A’s aren’t a threat to the Rangers, or the Angels for 2012. Probably not in 2013 either. There is actually very little reason to believe they’ll surpass their 2011 win total of 74. But, if Oakland is able to move the club to a new stadium in San Jose, sign a TV deal like what the Angels and Rangers have, they’ll be in a position with their farm depth that they could be dangerous. For myself, I would embrace that. The AL West could become the new AL East, filled with great competition, well-run organizations, and regular season dogfights for the division crown.

Good luck, Billy.

I’ll close with two humorous tweets I’ve seen on Oakland recently –

“Day 1 of Spring Training is going to be a meet and greet party with all of us in name tags it seems.” – @BMcCarthy32 (Brandon McCarthy – Oakland A’s Starting Pitcher, after the Gio Gonzalez trade)

“A’s forfeit 2012 season.” (@MLBFakeRumors on 12/20)
“A’s forfeit 2013 season as well.” (@MLBFakeRumors on 12/22 after the Gio Gonzalez trade)

Peter Ellwood

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