We’ve looked at Billy Beane‘s Top Three Best Trades, so now we’ll shift gears and look at Beane’s biggest blunders. Coming in at No.3 on our list is the trade that brought Matt Holliday to Oakland.
Billy Beane has helped lead the A’s front office since 1998. During his tenure, Beane has enjoyed plenty of success despite working with relatively low budgets over the years. His value to the Oakland organization is undeniably historic, but even he has made his share of mistakes.
Maintaining success in Oakland has been one of Beane’s biggest strengths as the A’s have captured six division championships and secured 11 trips to the postseason under Beane’s watch.
Still, many of Beane’s critics point to the fact that the A’s have not won a championship under Beane’s guidance. Beane has watched plenty of his teams fall under the pressure of October and has advanced to the ALCS only once (2006).
Additionally, critics of Beane have suggested that he’s made plenty of mistakes over the years. Like any other executive in baseball, Beane has faced criticism for certain trades that are unpopular among loyal fans.
One of the biggest failures of Beane’s run as an executive for the A’s was the Matt Holliday trade.
Timing Was Off
The deal was shocking for nearly everyone around baseball at the time. The A’s had just finished up a losing season under Bob Geren and had started a massive rebuilding process.
Haren’s trade brought in a lot of talent, so it was expected that the A’s would focus on turning their farm system around following the 2008 season.
Apparently, Beane had other plans in mind for the A’s and bolstered their lineup with Matt Holliday.
Looking at the deal, the A’s essentially traded their future away in an effort to bolster their offense for a single season. Holliday was intent on testing the free agent market and the low-budget A’s had no serious intention on keeping him.
Acquiring Holliday while also trying to pull of a rebuild was tricky business for Beane. As we all know, the deal would ultimately fail to work. The A’s were not close to contending in 2009 and despite adding Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi around Holliday, Oakland failed in 2009.
Holliday’s impact in Oakland was also less than spectacular. In 93 games with the A’s, Holliday managed to hit .286/.378/.454 with 11 HR and 54 RBI. The numbers were less impressive than the monster numbers he posted in Colorado the year before.
Holliday also appeared to be miserable in Oakland. To this day, Holliday appears to have no love for Oakland. The Coliseum was not Holliday’s preferred ballpark and he struggled to put up the type of numbers he posted in Colorado.
Beane flipped Holliday for a trio of youngsters when it became increasingly clear that the A’s would not be competing. For Holliday, the A’s received Brett Wallace, Shane Patterson and Clayton Mortensen.
So, essentially the A’s swapped Street, Smith and Gonzalez for Wallace, Patterson and Mortensen. Okay, not exactly, but the trade still stings a bit. Beane made a crucial error in judgment by letting go of Gonzalez.
Holliday failed in Oakland while Gonzalez succeeded in Colorado. More importantly, though, the A’s in the end did not receive much from St. Louis for Holliday.
Wallace was regarded a top prospect, but the third-baseman failed to make it with the A’s. He was flipped himself for outfielder Michael Taylor. Taylor, who showed promise as a power hitter, failed to live up to expectations with the A’s.
Why The A’s Acquired Holliday
Billy Beane has stated on several occasions that he does not favor a complete tear down approach. Beane’s biggest goal each year is to win and rebuilding is not often associated with winning. There’s plenty of struggles that go along with a rebuilding plan.
Beane tried to strike a balance between winning and rebuilding with the Holliday trade. More specifically, the A’s were banking on Holliday to perform well in Oakland in order to flip him at the deadline.
They did flip him for several prospects, but his value, unfortunately, was not as high as Oakland expected it to be. Wallace was a top rated prospect, but the A’s never saw much action from him following the trade.
Offensively, the A’s still struggled to find ways to score runs in 2009. Even with Holliday, the A’s found that their veteran heavy lineup simply ran out of gas. Eric Chavez failed to stay healthy as did Garciaparra and Giambi.
The trade backfired on Beane and continues to be brought up as one of his biggest failures. Carlos Gonzalez transformed himself into a star with the Rockies and during the Bob Geren era, it was tough watching Gonzalez succeed from afar.
So, for us, Beane’s decision to trade the A’s future in exchange for a half-season of Holliday doesn’t quite add up.