Friday, December 17, 2004

The end of an era ? NONSENSE ! Why the Hudson trade to Atlanta made sense.

If you check the official A's website messageboards, you will find a lot of hurt and bitter fans. For that matter go to Athletics Nation or any other A's website with a messageboard, or simply turn on sports radio and you will hear a lot of upset fans.

However, there are is a small group of us die-hard A's fans who, despite the pain and mourning of losing this team's heart and soul of pitching, are seeing the bigger picture and can see why this trade made sense.

Make no mistake : Tim Hudson WAS the heart and soul of the Oakland A's, the de-facto team captain, the bulldog of our pitching staff. He will be sorely missed and even those of us that see the wisdom in this trade are also very hurt by his departure. However, given the time to look at this in a more objective light, the trade begins to make sense.....

First Off : Why in the world would Billy Beane trade his best starting pitcher for relatively unheard of prospects ? For the answer, go to and click on the Billy Beane interview. In his own words :

Why was now the right time?. . .
When it became crystal clear that we needed to do something was when this
free agent market -- some of these players that are out there now started
signing -- some very good pitchers, but I'm not sure this side of
Pedro Martinez, I don't think any of them were of Tim Hudson's caliber. Seeing
what the going rate for what some of these guys were, it became clear that we
probably would never ever have a chance to sign Tim Hudson.
that really kind of sealed the deal. (emphasis added by Oakland

Get it ? Basically, Billy Beane saw what people were willing to pay somebody like Pedro Martinez or Carl Pavano in the free trade market, neither of which were, in my mind (and I think Billy Beane's) of the same caliber as Tim Hudson, and immediately realized the kind of money that somebody like Tim Hudson would command in the free agent market after 2005. Faced with that reality, the decision was simple : trade Hudson now for the best prospects you could get, or give him up after 2005 for draft picks. Billy Beane made the best choice he could : get the best young prospects he could get who are or would be major league ready come 2005.

Peter Gammons of ESPN adds his opinion that this deal was a great one for Atlanta and a good one for the A's, adding strong depth to the A's roster :

Start with this: Oakland got three good players with fewer than three years
of major-league service time. They love Thomas, who had an .813 OPS in Atlanta
in '04 (after posting a .951 OPS at Triple-A Richmond in 2003), has defensive
numbers in left field that are off the charts, and brings -- with Kendall --
energy to a team that needs a spark. The Oakland organization believes Meyer is
one of the five best pitching prospects coming out of Triple-A (he was 9-6 in
Double-A and Triple-A combined); he has a 381-87 career strikeout-walk ratio in
352 career innings pitched. Cruz gives the A's a third power arm out of the
bullpen with Huston Street and Jairo
in front of closer Octavio

Charles Thomas is Eric Byrnes with better defense. A guy that came out of nowhere in 2004 to become a fan favorite in Atlanta who will be missed by the fans there. I have heard nothing but good things about this guy's hustle, attitude, and professionalism in the game. Oh, and supposedly his defense is top notch, something that many scouts have been concerned about with Byrnes in LF. From what I have read, it sounds like Charles Thomas is a Byrnes clone, albeit with better defense. If he is received in Oakland the way he was received in Atlanta, he too could become a fan favorite like Byrnes.

Dan Meyer is one of the top pitching prospects in all the minor leagues. John Sickles from ESPN's "Down on the Farm" gushes :

Meyer has plus velocity for a southpaw, throwing his fastball a consistent
90-93 mph. His heater has unusually good sinking action from a lefty, and he
mixes it well with a tight slider, a curveball, a splitter, and a standard
changeup. His biggest need coming into '04 was to improve the changeup, which
always has been promising but was erratic in the past. He met this goal, giving
him a complete arsenal. Meyer has good command and is an efficient pitcher with
little wasted effort in his delivery. He isn't afraid to throw inside but also
can paint a corner when needed. His overall level of athleticism is good, which
helps him with fielding and holding runners. He also is intelligent and
competitive. The bottom line is that Meyer has few flaws as a pitcher and has
worked hard to correct those he has.

You can't find anything wrong with Meyer's statistical set. His K/BB, K/IP,
and H/IP ratios are all strong, and showed very little deterioration as he faced
better competition up the professional ladder. His home run allowed rate is also
low, another positive sign. His 19-19 career record in the minor leagues might
not be great, but his 2.71 ERA and 381-87 K/BB in 352 minor league innings are
much better indicators of his talent level.

His numbers are off the charts. Just to give you an idea, let's compare Dan Meyer's minor league stats to A's phenom Rich Harden :

Innings Pitched : 333 (Harden) 352 (Meyer)
Minor League ERA : 3.27 (Harden) 2.71 (Meyer)
K/BB : 401-152 (Harden) 381-87 (Meyer)
WHIP : 1.18 (Harden) 1.12 (Meyer)
K/9 : 10.84 (Harden) 9.79 (Meyer)
BB/9 : 4.11 (Harden) 2.24 (Meyer)
H/9 : 6.51 (Harden) 7.81 (Meyer)

In all categories except K/9 and H/9, Meyer was better in the minor leagues than Harden. And we all know how well Harden has turned out, and he is still young. Both pitchers are basically the same age, with Harden being a few months younger than Meyer. This means both pitchers probably will get better as time goes on and they progress. Barring a total meltdown in Spring Training, I don't see why Meyer would not be in our starting rotation.

Speaking of our rotation, take a look :
Mulder, Harden, Zito, Blanton, Meyer. Ok, so 2 of those names are unknowns and Harden is not well known outside of the A's fan base, but I feel very confident going into 2005 with this rotation. Would I be happier if Hudson's name was in there ? Of course, but I also can't complain with the rotation above. I think the Big 3 of Mulder, Zito, and Harden are fully capable of producing similar numbers to the previous Big 3's pasts. Blanton and Meyer simply have to hold their own, as long as they can produce numbers better than Redman, then we will still have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.

Last, but definitely not least : Juan Cruz.

3.99 275 134 255 8.15 4.39 8.35 1.39 Major League Totals
2.54 432 196 445 8.47 4.08 9.26 1.39 Minor League Totals

While his WHIP is of some concern, he has excellent K/9 and BB/9 numbers, an above average ERA, and a strong number of strikeouts compared to his innings pitched. He is an excellent addition to an Oakland bullpen that was nothing but troubled last season. But what really gets me excited is seeing what will happen to our bullpen once Jairo Garcia and Huston Street join the mix mid-season 2005 or starting in 2006. Check out their respective numbers and tell me you wouldn't be excited about a bullpen that included Cruz, Garcia, and Street.

The main thing to get out of all this is that the A's got 3 very good long term prospects that will continue to keep the A's competitive for years to come. I hate to see Hudson go and it will hurt to not see him in an A's uniform next year, but in the free agent market we would have lost him anyways, and for what ? Simply a draft pick.

I'll close with Peter Gammons, who summons up this trade nicely :

Beane has made the A's a better team than they were on Oct.
and now has, with one of the five deepest farm systems in
the game
, positioned his team to contend for another five
. That's a remarkable accomplishment, doing so on a shoestring
budget. (emphasis by Oakland Pride).


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