Sunday, December 26, 2004

And then there was one.....

The Mulder trade is already old news and I am only now posting on the subject. Part of the reason for the delay is because I was still in Los Angeles last week and didn't have access to a computer for a few days. But the major reason was simply shock. I fully expected one of the Big 3 to be traded during the off-season, but if you had told me that not 1, but 2 of the Big 3 would be gone within a matter of days AND the 2 gone would be Mulder and Hudson, I would have said you were insane.

In retrospect, I am glad I was not close to a computer when I heard about the Mulder trade, as my first post in response to the news probably would not have been very prudent. Now that I have had a week to digest the news and also check out what others are saying about it, I can honestly say I feel much better about it.

Losing - arguably - the 2 best starters on the A's staff is a big blow to the A's starting pitching in 2005 and could cost them the post season next year. However, I feel very confident in the prospects that the A's got in return. Billy Beane traded 2 great players and got 6 very good prospects in return, some of whom could possibly develop from very good to great in a short period of time. Let's take a look at some of the commentary regarding the A's trades :

First off, Athletics Nation comments on the A's bell curve of wins over the past seasons from 1999-2004. From the mouth of Blez :

Realize that the A's winning curve has gone this way over the past six
1999 - 87 wins
2000 - 91 wins
2001 - 102 wins
2002 - 103 wins
2003 - 96 wins
2004 - 91 wins
Beane could see the writing on the wall. That's a
bell curve right there. And it was with the Big Three in the fold.

There's a lot that can be said from looking at the above numbers and plenty of room for disagreement on whether 2005 would have shown a continuing decline, but it is an interesting phenomenon to consider. Further adding substance to this theory is Aaron Gleeman of the Hardball Times. In his article, he theorizes that the A's had already gone through their "success cycle" that started back in 1999 and now Billy Beane was "blowing up the A's" in order to begin a new "success cycle".

After two straight 100-win seasons, the A's dropped to 96 wins in 2003 and
then won just 91 games this season, failing to make the postseason for the first
time since that 1999 team. It appeared, for the most part, that the A's had gone
through the success cycle -- starting with a young, inexperienced team in the
late 90s, improving until they peaked in 2001 and 2002, and then gradually
declining as defections left the roster depleted. With Hudson, Mulder, and Zito
getting expensive and free agency right around the corner, the window of
opportunity to win with this core was closing.

The A's could have continued to patch holes with veterans, introduced a
couple prospects to the mix each year, and continued to compete for the next
several seasons. Maybe they'd win 91 games again in 2005 and another 90 in 2006,
perhaps sneaking into the playoffs another time or two. But at some point, the
three stud pitchers would be gone, just like Giambi and Tejada before them, and
the A's would be left with a shell of a roster. Instead of going through that,
Beane decided to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch.

Read the whole thing.

Athletics Nation also comments on the fact that the bullpen of the A's has suddenly gone from a position of weakness to one of great strength. There's a great discussion on the Mulder & Hudson trades over at (hat tip to The Hardball Times) which is a must read. In it, one of the writers - Will Carroll - also mentions the bullpen :

The pen could be FILTHY, giving Huston Street some time to develop into the

And further down in the discussion :

The rotation goes six and then they get smashed with Bradford, Cruz, Dotel,
Street, and Rincon. It limits the exposure of a very young staff and limits the
exposure of a defense that could be spotty.

Richard Lederer in the same discussion also comments :

The A’s bullpen has the potential of being better than the Angels’ in 2002. I
would argue that it could end up being one of the deepest ever.

There's plenty of criticism for the trades within the same discussion, but more than a few people have commented on how suddenly the A's bullpen is starting to look awfully deep and strong.

Mychael Urban does a Q&A with Blez over at Athletics Nation and answers some questions about the trades. He goes through the reasons for the trades and comments on the prospects we got, noting that the A's now have the top 3 pitching prospects from 3 different organizations.

For you statheads, Elephants in Oakland does the best stats comparisons for Haren, Calero, and Barton, the 3 prospects we received from St Louis in the Mulder trade.'s Down on the Farm heaps tons of praise for Daric Barton, which they claim is the real prize of the Mulder trade.

He has no real weakness as a hitter. One Midwest League pitcher told me
this summer that Barton was basically impossible to pitch to; he could hit
anything you threw at him, and never reached for a pitch outside the strike
zone. His plate discipline is excellent, and his strikeout rate is very low for
a young power hitter.

There are, literally, no flaws in Barton's hitting performance. He hits for
average and power, draws lots of walks, and doesn't strike out very much. In 144
career games, he has drawn 106 walks with only 92 strikeouts. Plate discipline
like that is rare in a major leaguer, let alone a minor league guy. Given a
normal growth curve, Barton projects as a .290-plus hitter with more than 20
homers a season, gobs of walks, and an excellent on-base percentage. That is a
conservative estimate.

That analysis alone should reassure A's fans quite a bit. There are huge question marks about his defense, but a simple position adjustment could fix that. At the very worst, he simply becomes the A's future DH.

Last, but not least, Skip Bayless says Beane will have the last laugh.

Take the time to read all the links and analysis and you will come away feeling, as I did, much better about the trades and excited for the future of the A's. Oh, and by the way - the 6 players we received in the Hudson & Mulder trades will make a combined $2 million next year. Once again, Billy Beane has made dramatic decisions to take the ball club to a position of greater strength on a shoe-string budget.


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