Winter Meetings: It Could Be Worse

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Dec 8, 2014; San Deigo, CA, USA; A general view of the entrance to the Manchester Grand Hyatt the site of the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Call me a cynic, but the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox made poor choices during these winter meetings.

Fans, players, and team executives have all been quick to judge Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane for dismantling the team’s core in a span of five months. I’m here to argue he isn’t the one who has made the mistakes.

The White Sox and Blue Jays may have pushed themselves further from contention, despite each adding an all-star player.

The Blue Jays had an above-average catcher in Dioner Navarro, yet they decided to commit $82 million to Russell Martin who turns 32 before spring.

Let’s say you can argue adding Martin was a needed improvement. That gives them a potent core in Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and now Martin. However they still lack elite starting pitching as well as back-end guys.

Their two best starters, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, will be 40 and 36 years old, respectively, when the season starts. And while those two posted sub-4 ERAs in 2014, regression is likely.

Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez have talent and certainly are capable of providing great value, but don’t you think trading for Jeff Samardzija would have been a smart move?

Josh Donaldson is great, and may have another good year in 2015, but he can’t keep other teams from scoring runs. He makes an already great lineup better, but doesn’t improve an equally important part of the game.

When Beane asked for Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin Toronto GM, Alex Anthopoulos should have ended the talks. There is a reason the A’s have been to the playoffs the last three years and the Blue Jays haven’t. Beane knows what wins games.

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While their bullpen ERA ranked 28th in baseball last season, much of that can be attributed to Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom, who have both moved on. They have four relievers all 28-years old or younger who had sub-4 ERAs last season. Spending big on relief pitching wasn’t necessary.

Yes, they now have Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana to lead a strong rotation, but they have two established lineup threats, Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche, and both play the same position.

If they don’t trade for Samardzija they still would have two talented starters in Sale and Quintana, plus someone to play second base every day in Semien.

Had they not signed David Robertson or Zach Duke they could have easily signed Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy or another mid level starter.

Say what you will about Billy Beane, but one thing he does well is trade from a strength to improve a weakness. It could be worse.

In the case of his most recent trades he brought in six, maybe seven, major league-ready players to fill the obvious holes at middle infield, provide rotation depth, deepen our minor league talent pool, and create payroll space.

The Athletics are nearly $20 million dollars under budget so far this winter and have checked nearly everything off of their to-do list.

What is left to do? It is hard to say. But I bet whatever move Beane makes next will be the right one.

Next: Was Beane Expecting Regression from Donaldson?

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