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.

3 Comments

To my fellow A’s fans: be patient. Billy Beane himself has said “Its not the name on the back that matters, its the name on the front”. Its tough to see these guys go but Beane recognizes that this team isn’t going anywhere in 2008. Beane is setting this team up to contend in 2009 and beyond by dealing Haren and Swisher. If you accept that the A’s have little talent in our farm system, then what position are the A’s going to be in once the contracts of Swisher, Haren, Blanton, Street and Chavez run out? We certainly don’t have the money to resign them and there aren’t any guys coming up in the minors to take their place. As a small market club, Beane doesn’t have the luxury of throwing 40, 60, 80 million dollar contracts at free agents. Just be patient everybody, what Billy Beane and Lew Wolff do for this team has only the best interests in mind for this franchise, just wait and see. Write the nine names down of the nine prospects we received in the past 3 weeks, put it in an envelope and open it in 2011. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I totally agree with eastbayguy22. They basically got a baseball team for 2 guys. Haren was OK, but his best pitch was a splitter in the dirt. In the 2nd half, batters just stopped swinging at it. I also think that Swisher was a little over-rated, and they have plenty of decent outfielders and first basemen to keep the team competetive. I notice a lot of moaning and complaining from A’s fans after several of Beane’s moves, but the A’s simply cannot run their team like Red Sox or Yankees. We’re a small market team, and the A’s have to live within that: the way to win is to try to get a jump on young, cheap talent, and repeat again and again. Averaging 95 wins a year from 2000-2006 with the past era of players was pretty darn good considering. Maybe with this next wave, will pick off a championship or two.

I hate to say it, because I hate losing popular and productive players as much as anybody, but these last 2 trades make great long-term financial and baseball sense.
Haren will be a perennial All-Star and Swisher is of the best young studs in the game.

I’ve been an A’s fan since 1970, and this is just part of the game. Gotta give Billy his just dues– the guy is simply a genius. He has one of the smallest market teams in all of sports, yet manages nearly every year to make the most out of what he has to work with.

We all want to be like BOS and NYY and spend a fortune on big name players, but we gotta have the gate receipts (i.e. richy rich fan base) and ownership to offset that kind of cost.

To all A’s fans: be patient and let the smoke clear. If history tells us anything, it’s that Billy Bean knows what the heck he’s doing, so just sit back and wait…

Here’s to the 2010 season– and beyond.

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