Oakland goes shopping again
The A’s got six players in return for Dan Haren before the holidays, aclear sign that a rebuilding effort was underway. It continued just
three days into the new year when they sent Nick Swisher to the White
Sox for a trio of prospects, all of whom could have an impact in
Oakland in the future.
The A’s may be starting over, but they’re doing it the right way. While
perhaps Oakland fans may not be thrilled with what’s going on, you
should feel good that the organization is getting top value in return.
A once fairly weak system is now chock full o’ talent. Here’s a closer
look at the three players the A’s got from Chicago for Swisher:
LHP Gio Gonzalez: The White Sox just don’t want to hang onto this guy and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. The southpaw is No. 24 on MLB.com’s Top 50 list prospects list, yet he’s been traded three times in three years. The first was back in December 2005 when the White Sox sent him to Philadelphia in the Jim Thome trade. After one year away, he came back to Chicago as part of the Freddy Garcia deal. In 2007, Gonzalez led all of the Minors with 185 K’s in just 150 innings. Southern League hitters managed just a .216 average against the hurler, who didn’t turn 22 until the middle of September. The White Sox’s supplemental first-round pick back in 2004, Gonzalez has always had the ability to make hitters swing and miss, with 577 strikeouts in 492 1/3 career Minor League innings. Over the course of his career, opponents have managed just a .221 batting average against. He put it all together in 2007, with vastly improved command to go along with plus stuff. He can throw three pitches for strikes with a pretty good fastball that tops out around 93 mph to go along with a pretty good feel for a changeup. But his bread and butter is his breaking ball. Gonzalez has one of the best curves in the Minors and there’s a chance A’s fans could see it in Oakland’s rotation right from the get-go this season. I could see him competing with newly acquired Greg Smith for a spot.
RHP Fautino De Los Santos: The 21-year-old righty made his U.S. debut a memorable one in 2007. He spent most of the year with Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League and made hitters there look silly all year. The South Atlantic League All-Star finished ninth in the league with 121 K’s (against just 36 walks), despite throwing just 97 2/3 innings there. His 2.40 ERA in the circuit would have placed him fourth had he stuck around long enough to qualify. The league hit just .148 against him before he moved up a level and posted a 3.65 ERA over five Carolina League starts (racking up 32 more K’s in 24 2/3 IP). He has the kind of stuff that could eventually play at the top of a rotation with four pitches — fastball, curve, slider and changeup — that all work. He did some relief work with Kannapolis and if for some reason his development as a starter stalls, he’s definitely got a future as a short reliever, with a fastball he can crank into the upper 90s and a plus slider to go along with it. He gave up a run on a homer to Justin Upton in the Futures Game, but he also blew away two hitters (one of them Red Sox postseason hero Jacoby Ellsbury) in an inning of work, perhaps a sign of things to come.
OF Ryan Sweeney: Perhaps a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered. It may seem like Sweeney has been around forever, but the truth of the matter is he’ll play the 2008 season at the ripe old age of 23. For all of the talk about how he hasn’t developed power, there’s still plenty of time for that. The White Sox pushed him aggressively from the get-go, moving him to the Class A Advanced Carolina League in his first full season at age 19. That put him in Double-A at 20 and put him in position to spend two years in Triple-A to give the appearance of being stuck. He’s gotten a couple of tastes of the big leagues, but never truly long enough to get into any kind of rhythm. He still has a sweet swing from the left side of the plate with a pretty good approach. He’s probably best suited for right field, but he’s shown the ability to handle center if needed. He should be given every opportunity to win an outfield job this spring and could blossom into the kind of player people have been waiting for ever since he made a splash in big league camp as a teenager back in 2004.
I know the White Sox got a pretty good — and fairly young — hitter in Nick Swisher, but I in my opinion the A’s easily got the better end of this deal. What’s most amazing to me, though, is that it wasn’t that long ago that Chicago GM Ken Williams threw his then-senior director of amateur scouting Duane Shaffer under the bus for not overseeing more successful drafts. It led to Shaffer’s leaving the Sox after 35 years of service (fortunately, he’s now with the Mariners). Miraculously, though, there were three top-notch players, two from Shaffer’s drafts, to trade for Swisher. Who is Williams going to blame this year when he looks at his farm system and doesn’t see anything there? He’ll have to look in the mirror for that one. — Jonathan
In case anyone is interested, I went on Fantasy 411 with Mike Siano and Cory Schwartz on Thursday to break down the trade. You can watch it right here.