Remember those woebegone days when Billy Beane had that Midas touch. Every deal he made turned to gold or at least gold and lime green, especially the midseason ones. And every year seemingly the A's would turn in a stellar second half and storm into the playoffs in which they would lose in the first round. Just look at how he revamped the team with a series of deals on May 22, 2002.
And now in 2005, he brings the Oakland faithful .Joe Kennedy AND Jay Witasick, wow! What, was John Wasdin unavailable?
In a series of trades, the A's swapped, essentially, multi-position outfielder Eric Byrnes for multi-position outfielder Jay Payton, rehabbing sinkerballing Chad Bradford for long-time stiff reliever Jay Witasick, and starting pitcher Joe Kennedy for former hot prospect Omar Quintanilla.
In arguably Witasick's best season (2002 with the Giants), he showed his true colors by continually crumpling in the playoffs and World Series. Kennedy is young (26) and left-handed but aside from what is looking more and more like a fluke season, last year, has never had an ERA under 4.44.
On paper Payton for Byrnes looks like a pretty good swap. Byrnes was out the door after 2005 anyway and has enjoyed only one full season as a starter (2004). Payton, though three years older, has averaged about the same numbers as Byrnes over a longer haul. Sounds like an OK swap, right? Well, consider that Payton has spent a good percentage of his career in hitter's parks and owns an OPS that is exactly the same as the park-adjusted league average. Byrnes, who has always played in a pitcher's park, has adjusted OPS that's 9% better than the league average. Besides, Payton was no more happy on the bench, where he'll seemingly spend a good deal of time in Oakland, when he was on the Red Sox than Byrnes was on the A's.
Kennedy could turn into the pitcher he was last year or he could continue to stunk up the joint. Again, he is young and left-handed. If Bruce Chen can do it, so could Kennedy. But after owning one of the better rotations in the game for a number of years and then dismantling it for youth, gambling Kennedy seems an act of desperation. Besides, Quintanilla is also young and may come back to bite them.
The shame of it was that Payton-for-Bradford seemed a decent move given Bradford's woes on the mound last year, his injury status, and the Red Sox desperation to a) shore up their pen and b) divest themselves of Payton (he was designated for reassignment, so Crazy Theo had to let him go somehow). It was the springboard for moving Byrnes, but then Beane became the desperate one.
That appears to be the difference in Beane this season: he may have acted out of desperation before but you could never see it. The Mulder and Hudson deals changed that and this midseason deal, that is dwarfed by previous years' similar moves, seals it.