Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane’s Year Of Miscalculated Trades And Acquisitions

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It has been almost one year now since Billy Beane started off the 2014 trade season with a bang. The Oakland Athletics’ general manager traded away two top prospects and right-handed pitcher Dan Straily for starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. This blockbuster deal seemed great at the time, but ultimately began a downward spiral of misjudged trades and acquisitions throughout the remainder of 2014 and into the 2015 season.

Even though Beane made the Samardzija trade in order to boost the team’s starting pitching, Samardzija only ended up being a mediocre starter for the Athletics since Jon Lester, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir were either better or equally as good as Samardzija. Additionally, Jason Hammel completely imploded while with Oakland and had a 2-6 losing record by the end of the season.

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In the Samardzija trade, the Athletics lost two first round draft picks – most notably  Addison Russell. If Russell had stayed with Oakland, he probably would have been called up this year or next year in order to fill some holes in the middle infield since he was a shortstop in the minor leagues. However, he is now with the Chicago Cubs and was called up in late April this season.

Russell is currently hitting .243 with five homers and 21 RBI. Additionally, he has far less errors than A’s current shortstop Marcus Semien and none of those errors were committed at the shortstop position. With the success that Russell is having the MLB, the problems that A’s are having in the middle infield and the lack of additional support Samardzija and Hammel gave the starting rotation in 2014, the A’s should have kept their top prospects and not completed this trade.

Let’s move on to the Lester trade. This trade makes sense. The A’s needed another ace in the rotation if they wanted to make it deep into the postseason. However, it did disrupt the A’s offense immensely since they lost outfielder and power hitter Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox. The team as a whole never found success after that trade and everyone knows how the story ends. Oakland had a terrible second half of the 2014 season and ultimately lost the American League Wild Card game in 12 innings.

Jun 17, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler (16) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear that the offseason would be a time for rebuilding. In early November, the Oakland Athletics signed designated hitter Billy Butler to a three year, $30 million dollar contract. With this move, many thought that the Athletics were going to make a push for the postseason for a fourth year in a row. But then Beane agreed to a trade that would be more detrimental than the Cespedes transaction.

In late November, Beane traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and a few of rookies and prospects. Not only was Donaldson not a free agent until 2019, but he was also the Athletics’ most talented player. This move also made people reconsider the possibility of the A’s making it to the 2015 postseason. It seemed as though Beane was looking to rebuild Oakland’s prospect pool and depth this year in order to hopefully snag a World Series Championship title a little further down the road.

Ultimately, this trade was a huge blow to the team and the Athletics community. Even though Lawrie is pretty good defensively and has begun to heat up recently at the plate, he is nothing compared to Donaldson. Donaldson is currently hitting .301 with 18 homers, 48 RBI, and a .900 OPS. He also leads the AL in runs.

Additionally, even if the A’s saw Butler as a replacement bat for Donaldson, Butler is being paid $10 million a year while Donaldson is only making $4.3 million in 2014. Not only is Oakland paying more for an equally as strong bat in the lineup, but Butler has not been strong offensively at all this year. He is currently batting .246, which is his lowest batting average in his eight-year major league career.

Jun 23, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist (18) scores against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In early December, Beane traded Samardzija and a top pitching prospect to the Chicago White Sox for Semien, Josh Phegley, and some minor leaguers. He also traded Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infield prospect Joey Wendle. These two transactions only reinforced the idea that Beane was looking to rebuild the Athletics’ prospect pool. It became clear that the A’s did not have a good chance of making the postseason in 2015, but that they had some strong players who would be coming up to the majors over the next couple of years.

However, this thought process changed once again when Oakland acquired Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard. These last two acquisitions made many wonder if Beane did in fact want to strive for the postseason in 2015. Both Zobrist and Clippard only had one year left in their contracts before free agency and the Athletics would likely not be able to afford either of them in 2016. But now it looks as though Oakland will lose at least one of them by the July 31 deadline. It almost seems like a waste of a trade if they will only be with the A’s for half a season.

When looking back at all of the trades and acquisitions Beane made in the offseason, they were all inconsistent. Some benefitted the 2015 team while others will benefit the team in the coming years. Additionally, with so many new players, the team did not have enough time to gel together before the season started. The A’s are finally playing better baseball but only after two horrible months when they were still trying to figure out how each other played.

If this 2015 team could be together for another year, they have the potential to be great. However, many of their star players’ contracts are up at the end of this year, and it is very unlikely they will be returning to Oakland. Looking back on all the moves Beane made since July 2014, it is a pretty dismal review. All of the trades and acquisitions essentially hurt the Oakland Athletics in the long run. The result is a team that is the fifth worst in the MLB this year.

Next: Oakland Athletics' History: Jeff Samardijza, Dave Stewart and more

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