According to reports, the A’s have acquired Matt Holliday in exchange for Greg Smith, Huston Street, and Carlos Gonzalez (the deal hasn’t been finalized, and only Smith has been confirmed, but this group seems to be the general consensus). On its face, this seems to be a complete 180 for Oakland, not only from last winter, but even from this past July, when they traded away Rich Harden and Joe Blanton in the midst of a pennant race.
One thing we can be pretty sure of is that Billy Beane isn’t playing it down the middle; the A’s are either trying to win in 2009, or are still rebuilding. Taking that as a given, we’ll likely see one of two outcomes:
- The A’s are trying to win. In this case, they will keep Holliday for the whole season if they are competitive, or until the trading deadline if they are not. The idea here is that the potential upside of having him outweighs the potential shortfall (if any) between the three players traded in this deal, and the eventual return on Holliday when he leaves Oakland (either draft picks, or players acquired in a midseason trade).
- The A’s are still rebuilding. If this is still the case, Holliday will likely be traded again Opening Day. As one brilliant person said to me tonight, it’s possible Beane made an offer that he thought was a steal on a value-for-value basis, and figured he could flip Holliday later this offseason for more than he gave up.
We may know more soon. The A’s recently brought back strength coach Bob Alejo, Jason Giambi’s personal strength coach, who had previously worked for the team before Giambi left for the Yankees. If, as is widely expected, Giambi ends up back in Oakland, it would seem that their rebuilding period is officially over.
Whether it is actually feasible for them to compete next year is a question for another day, but it’s not that crazy. The team put up a cumulative .242/.318/.369 line last year, and should be due for some regression to the mean. Add in Holliday, and possibly Giambi, along with a team defense that carried them for much of last season, and all of a sudden this isn’t such a bad team.
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