Billy Beane is a master. He takes what is clearly a mid-level closer in Billy Koch, one that will be well compensated for his overinflated numbers by the arbitration process this winter, and for him acquires a top-level closer in Keith Foulke whose team is too confused to realize is really that good. Oh, and he gets a quality backup catcher and a decent prospect and cash along with him.
The A's do take on Foulke's $6 M salary but given that Koch's salary will rise to that range after arbitration, it's a wash. The commitment to Foulke ends after 2003 and the in the deal the A's potentially picked up his heir apparent in Joe Valentine.
By the way, if you don't believe me that Foulke is a better pitcher despite Koch's 33 more saves in 2002, note the following:
1) Baseball Prospectus rates Foulke in the top 15 major-league relievers in adjusted runs prevented. Koch is not in the top 30.
2) Koch's 3.27 ERA was 42% better than the park-adjusted league average, but Foulke's 2.90 was 59% better. Koch has one season in his 4-year career with an ERA under 3.00. Foulke has had a sub-3.00 ERA for the past four seasons. (Thanks to Baseball-reference.com)
3) Foulke's ERA in 2001 was less than half of Koch's. It is far more likely that Koch will have a poor year and Foulke will have an improved year in 2003 than the reverse.
4) Koch's performance in the Division Series (9.00 ERA) including 3 runs in the ninth inning of the last game with the A's down by one run (they also scored three in the bottom of the inning) and his propensity to get rocked in Arlington probably helped Beane make the decision.
Mark Johnson replaces Greg Myers, who the A's seemed reluctant to use in 2002, as the left-handed hitting backup catcher. So the deal strengthens the A's in two positions and frees up cash in 2004. Pretty sneaky sis.