Billy The Bean Counter Builds A New Beanstalk
How much is an all-star RHSP, a solid switch-hitting corner OF, and a
gimpy CF who is on the better side of thirty worth in today’s market.
Well, if you consider wunderkind GM Billy Beane the Alan Greenspan
of baseball, the answer is 11 prospects. To be more accurate, that
would add up to 3 Gold Star prospects, 3 Blue Chip prospects, 3 Above
Average prospects, and 2 Average prospects.
In the space of one month, Billy the bean counter has not only
rebuilt the A’s farm system with legitimate prospects, he has acquired
one of the toughest things to acquire in baseball—lefthanded starting
pitching. Of the 11 players acquired in these three deft deals, 4 of
them are LHSP, 2 of which are Gold Star, top of the line prospects.
Breakdown of Trades
Dan Haren Deal
Twins GM Bill Smith might want to study this deal when negotiating
the bounty he is seeking in return for Johan Santana. If we simply go
by Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list, Beane traded his ace pitcher for the Diamondbacks’ # 1 (outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez), #3 (left handed starting pitcher, Brett Anderson), # 7 (outfielder, Aaron Cunningham), and # 8 (first baseman, Chris Carter) prospects, plus two average left handed starting pitcher prospects (Greg Smith and Dana Eveland).
way to look at it is that Beane traded an all-star RHSP, who has three
financially controllable years left on his contract before he hits
free-agency, for what will likely be the A’s starting RF in 2009
(Gonzalez); a LHSP (Anderson) that should be a member of the A’s
rotation by 2010; their possible fourth OF (Cunningham) by 2009; their
possible 1B or DH (Carter) by 2010; and two LH pitchers (Smith and
Eveland) who could compete in 2008 either as back-end starters or long
This trade by Beane is another feather in his cap when you consider
that by the time the A’s are good again, Haren will be a free-agent, a
free-agent that the A’s would never have been able to afford.
Nick Swisher Deal
This deal might end up even better for the A’s than the Haren deal.
While Swisher is a solid, young switch-hitting OF/1B with good power,
what the A’s received fromm the White Sox for him is astonishing. In a
three-for-one steal, the A’s received the White Sox’ three
top-prospects. Though this trade occurred before Baseball America’s
2008 Top Prospect compilation, OF Ryan Sweeney (Baseball America’s # 1 White Sox prospect in 2007), LHSP Gio Gonzalez, and RHSP Fautino De Los Santos almost assuredly would have topped the list.
Gonzalez (the Sox’ 2004 # 1 pick) might be ready to contribute as soon
as 2008. After having been dealt to the Phillies for Jim Thome in 2005,
he was traded back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia in 2007. Only 21 years
of age, Gio dominated the Southern league last year in his second
season at Double-A. If he continues to improve, he should join fellow southpaw Brett
Anderson in the A’s rotation by 2009.
While almost every scout who has seen them agrees that Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los
Santos were the White Sox’ top two pitching prospects, some feel De Los
Santos could be even better than Gonzalez. De Los Santos dominated
A-ball opponents in 2007 and though not as experienced as Gonzalez,
many scouts feel he could arrive in the majors in a hurry, possibly as
a member of the A’s rotation in 2009.
The caveat to this trade could be OF Ryan Sweeney. The left handed
hitting 23-year old could end up being a better overall player than
Swisher, albeit less power. In 2007 Sweeney probably possessed the best
throwing arm in the entire White Sox system, and is a far superior
defensive outfielder to Swisher. In his last two seasons in the
minors, he finally started to show some power and because of his short
compact swing, his .289 career minor league average should translate
well in the majors. Sweeney has a good chance at being the A’s fourth
outfielder in 2008 and could contend for the starting CF or LF job in
Mark Kotsay Deal
At the rate Billy Beane is going, he could pass Ricky Henderson on the
all-time “steals” list sometime soon. After letting Andruw Jones walk,
the Braves needed a CF so badly that they decided to part with their
2005 # 1 pick, relief pitcher Joey Devine,
for a 32-year old left fielder whose best days are behind him. Just to
make sure the trade was lopsided enough, the Braves threw in A-ball
prospect, RHP Jamie Richmond.
Kotsay’s bum back has been so bad the past two years that he’s missed a
total of 139 games in that span. Besides grabbing a young power
throwing right handed reliever who could turn out to be the perfect
set-up man to Houston Street, Beane saves a nice chunk of change,
$3-million, for the 2008 season.
While Devine struggled with his confidence through a rough 2006, he
was absolutely dazzling in 2007 in Double and Triple-A. Don’t be
surprised if the 24-year old Devine ends up as one of the best set-up
men in the AL when 2008 is all said and done.
By the time 2010 or 2011 rolls around, when Dan Haren is looking for
the highest bidder on the free-agent market, and Nick Swisher is
spittng sunflower seeds on the bench as the White Sox DH, and Mark
Kotsay is looking into his first coaching job, the A’s should be ready
to contend again.
With probable deals for Joe Blanton and Eric Chavez on the way, the
A’s farm system will be bulging with top prospects. In three years, if
things work out for Beane and his scouts, the A’s could be the giant
once again looking down at the rest of the AL West. And we can all look
back at the winter of 2007-2008, and say that was the year Billy the bean counter
built a new beanstalk.
Amount Billy The Bean Counter Saved A’s For 2008
Mark Kotsay- $3-Million (A’s pick up $5-million of his salary)
Dan Haren- $4-Million
Nick Swisher- $3.5-Million
*Subtract approximately $2-Million for the 11 prospects
Approximate Total Savings For 2008- $8.5-Million