On Friday, Billy Beane made what is so far and will probably remain the biggest, most unexpected blockbuster trade of the summer that brought sought after pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics and sent two of the Athletics most prized prospects Addison Russell and Brian McKinney along with pitcher Dan Straily to the Chicago Cubs.
Some critics believe that the Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s gave up too much and overpaid for two of the most coveted pitchers of the summer trade market. I disagree. The A’s did sacrifice a lot. It surprised a lot of people that Beane would part with Russell after he had been adamant about not doing so.
Here’s the thing though, Billy could have tried making a trade like this many times over the past 15 years – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2013. Did he part with his prized prospects then? No. Billy Beane is probably the best general manager in all of baseball. I mean, you’ve all seen the movie “Moneyball’ with Brad Pitt right? Well the genius “who changed the way the game was played” that Brad Pitt played in the movie – that was based on a real man, Mr. Billy Beane.
In the movie as well as in real life, anyone who has ever met Beane thinks of him not only as a genius but as a competitor who wants more than anything to take his team to all the way to the World Series and to have that championship under his belt. He has been working towards that goal since he first became the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics Organization in 1997. The closest he has come was in 2006 but the A’s were defeated in the American League Championship series by the Detroit Tigers. In their two playoff appearances since (2012, 2013) the A’s teams have been very good, very, very good. So why didn’t he put all his cards on the table and go all in as he done for the 2014 Athletics team?
He may have wanted to win and win very badly but he had to know he could succeed. This year Beane has already gone all in to support a team he believes has a very legitimate chance to win the whole thing and be Champions! Going through with this big trade has empowered the players who were according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee were first “shocked” at the news and then “giddy” about what it could mean.
It means that the organization has their backs. It means that Billy Beane believes that this team, this 2014 team, really can see this thing through until November. I can only speculate but I believe that Beane has another surprise for the Athletics and their fans on the horizon in the form of a second baseman/shortstop. The rumors are that he is looking into the Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist but I am expecting him to go bigger. He is one of the smartest men I have ever had the pleasure to meet (with the sole exception of President Barack Obama) and he would not have gone for it with Samardzija and Hammel if he did not truly feel like this is his big opportunity which is why I am expecting something a little more sensational than Zobrist when Billy makes the last move necessary to all but ensure an A’s victory.
But back to my original point. Beane did NOT over pay the Cubs by giving them Russell, McKinney and Straily.
First of all if he did in-fact overpay, is there really a such thing as overpaying when you have the best team you have had in over 15 seasons to make them not just good but virtually unstoppable? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Avoiding another ALDS loss (the only time since 2000 that the A’s have made it past the ALDS was in 2006 and yes, they lost to Detroit, as usual) – so taking the best team you’ve seen in over a decade and making them better? Is it even possible to overpay for that? Personally and especially as an A’s fan I do not. I feel like my team has finally been given the missing pieces that will allow them to continue winning all the way until November. The players and fans have never witnessed this kind of support before – or well in a very long time at least. It is one crazy calm and yet terrifying feeling all at once but it sure is an exciting one. You can’t overpay to make people feel that way. I am very grateful to Beane for that alone.
Here are some more, more practical reasons why I can say Beane did not overpay the Cubs. Addison Russell is not a guarantee. The truly talented shortstop had an injury that shortened his spring training and then was out for the first two months of the season with a hamstring issue. I am not saying he is injury prone, but it is certainly something to think about isn’t it? The A’s could spend tons of money to develop him, only to lose him to injury. This is pure speculation but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is similar to some of the logic Beane used when deciding to part with his most prized prospect.
In the case of McKinney, he was the A’s first pick in the 2013 draft and it will be a couple years before he is even ready for the major leagues. In that time the A’s will be able to have traded for prospects or started to develop more. And regarding Straily, he’s a decent starter but not consistent enough to be a major league star.
With the futures of all three members involved in the A’s side of the trade potentially bright but also potentially dark, while acquiring two top pitchers who already have proven to be successful in the majors in order for the A’s to take the best team they have had in almost two decades and go for it all … honestly, I do not think that there is anything more priceless in waiting patiently for the perfect combination of players to come together, who with a few additions could be the best the baseball world has seen in a long time – and still on a small market budget? Well that is history in the making and that is priceless … you cannot overpay for something that is completely priceless – priceless to Beane, to the organization and the fans. Not to mention the priceless fact that come November this band of put together “nobodies” could possibly win the World Series almost exactly 25 years since they last did so – sweeping their worst enemies the San Francisco Giants, to become World Series Championship.
Win or lose in the end. Beane did the right thing. He gave his support to the players that have believed in him, showing them that he believes in them …. there’s no other real word for that but priceless …. meaning there is no possible way Beane could have overpaid!
LET’S GO OAKLAND!!! IN BILLY WE TRUST!!!