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Show Me the Moneyball
2004-12-19 23:46
by Mike Carminati

"Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."

óJack Nicholson, in the wildly inappropriately named "As Good As It Gets" (unless they are referring to a few classic Jack lines and Helen Hunts' one-woman wet T-shirt contest.)

I think no matter how much we are jaded by baseball's 21st-century pragmatism, the A's traded two great pitchers. Yes, Hudson was a free agent after this season but Mulder had two years left, which is an eternity when you consider that a new CBA will be in place when he starts his next contract. Haren does not impress me one bit--he couldn't crack the crappy Cardinals rotation. Calero isn't bad as a role pitcher, but he's not much more. I doubt he could develop into a closer at 30 with just two years of major-league experience. Barton looks like a great hitter, but they are already saying he isn't much defensively. Besides the A's have a ton of minor-league prospects who are catchers. As for the pickups from the Braves, Thomas looks like a decent fourth outfielder, a neo-Gerald Williams. He took five years to get to the majors, didn't do much of anything until 2004, and only stuck in the lineup because of the failure of the Chipper-in-left experiment. How high are the Braves on the guy if they would trade him while potentially losing Drew? Juan Cruz got ridden out of town on rail in Chicago. He could fulfill his "potential" tag but two organizations have given up on him. Meyer looks pretty solid but may not be ready yet for the majors.
And if you chalk both trades up to shrinking the A's payroll, then why pick up Jason Kendall's bloated contract? Kendall's signed for four years and even though the Pirates ate a good deal of the backend of that contract, he'll be 34 in his final, which is ancient for a catcher. He also stands in the way of the large stockpile of catching talent they now have. At least he dumped Rhodes. Then there's the Ginter trade. They pick up Mark Ellis insurance and Lehr as a throw-in is fine, but they also gave up Nelson Cruz who looks like a better prospect than Thomas: more power and is a year younger.
So what the net result of what the A's done? They have traded three-fifths of their rotation for a single-A catcher, one unproven starter, one proven to be not that great, an overpriced 30-year-old catcher who's good but not great, a swingman, and a backup infielder. Thomas for Cruz is a push. Calero's a decent upgrade over Lehr. Rhodes for Cruz may even be an even-up trade.
I think Beane is just getting a free ride from the sabermetrically minded. I think of the four postseason transactions he's made each is worse than the last. I see now justification for the Mulder one when he has two years left. The only question I have is if it's worse than the one the two teams made to bring McGwire to the Cards. It's all especially bad when you consider how close they were to contending in 2005. I guess he could turn it all around with a few more key pickups but it seems that he is still strapped for cash, so he'll have to get creative.
My verdict is that Beane has jumped the shark, at least that's how it looks so far.

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