July 5th, 2014
The last thing any analyst should do is criticize a front office or ownership group for not spending the money to put his team over the top. Opportunity knocks infrequently for some clubs. Teams have to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.
I think of the 2013 seasons of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians and can’t help but wonder. Why didn’t they finish the job? Why didn’t the Pirates go out and find that additional pitcher or do whatever it took to sign A.J. Burnett? Why didn’t the Indians strike quickly to keep Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez? Then I remind myself that I’m not in those meetings. I didn’t hear the conversations. Maybe they both did try. Maybe the players just wanted to pitch elsewhere. So I give them a pass. Reluctantly.
This past winter Oakland General Manager Billy Beane struck quickly and took Kazmir off the board as a free agent. It was a swift move and it left the Indians reeling. I was told he was their first priority in the off-season. But they waited too long. Kazmir is now pitching for the Athletics. And doing well, thank you. There will be hiccups along the way, but he has helped a starting rotation that is without A. J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Drew Pomeranz. Actually, he’s done more than helped. He’s saved the bacon.
And now Mr. Beane has struck again. The man is fearless. And his timing is usually impeccable. Why wait until the trade deadline to pluck one of the two best starting pitchers from this year’s trading block? And, oh, by the way, why not get another outstanding arm in the same deal? Two starting pitchers were added to the Athletics rotation in one striking, swift and savvy deal. But once again, that’s Billy Beane. He must have ice water in his veins. He traded away one of the most athletic players I have scouted in quite some time. Addison Russell has it all. Size, strength, speed, great hands, quick feet and a wonderful temperament. He has the tools and demeanor of a winner.
Billy Beane lives for the moment to win. He sees the opportunity to win a World Championship this season-not two or three years down the road. Billy Beane buys bananas when they are ripe. He’s not waiting for green to become yellow. Actually, he wanted Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in yellow and green. And he got them. Just where he wants them. I believe they will be one and two in the new Athletics rotation, followed by Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. And then some configuration from among Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez. And maybe even Brad Mills. That, my friends, is pitching depth.
Oakland now has a chance to get past the Tigers in the postseason. That’s something they haven’t been able to do. In a short series, they will need all the pitching they now have. This trade had “beat the Tigers” written all over it. Who can blame them?
For their part, the Cubs get another fantastic piece to their ever growing prospect puzzle. At some point, at least one of the shortstops from among Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, or even middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara will have to be moved in a trade for starting pitching or they will have to change positions. But the adage is true-a team can’t have enough good prospects. And man, do they have prospects. Billy McKinney came over in the recent deal with Oakland. He’s a former number one draft choice. And he’s a center fielder. Not to mention guys like Kris Bryant (who I feel is their best overall prospect), Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. They also have starting pitching prospect C J Edwards. And don’t forget that the Cubs got Dan Straily in the deal. He’s got starting pitching experience-but for me, he’s doesn’t have quite the same type upside the Cubs need long term. But if needed, he’s an option.
The winner in this deal? Fans of both the Athletics and the Cubs.
Oakland has shown again that they will do whatever it takes to win. Top prospect Russell? But—unproven at the big league level. Great upside. Great makeup. A physical presence. Jeff Samardzija? A proven, experienced top of the rotation pitcher to get the team through the playoffs and give them a chance to win a World Championship. Now. This year. Not later. Now. And Jason Hammel is right behind him.
The Cubs buy more time to find the right starter. They have a perfect group of chips to throw in the pot when the stars align. Could it be David Price? Why not? Could they hold the prospects and go head first in the pitching market next year? Why not?
And now the rest of the AL West reacts once again to Billy Beane. So must the Tigers react. They need bullpen help.
No tomorrow for the Oakland Athletics. They want their run now. Before opportunity stops knocking at the door. Before their core players get too expensive or lose skill or drop in value. Not tomorrow or next year. Now. The Cubs? Tomorrow may have come a bit sooner. Take another great prospect and turn water into wine. Maybe. We’ll see. The proof will come when the prospects are promoted. But this deal gives them even more hope.
I loved this deal. Just loved it.
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That’s it. I’m done.