Offseason Trades Fuel Athletics’ Success

Only two American League teams have a better record than the Athletics, even though they traded away their closer and two top starting pitchers for a collection of relatively unproven players after the 2011 season. Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey are all gone, but the A’s have a 71-57 record and are tied for one of the American League’s Wild Card berths with 34 games to go.

Though there’s no singular reason that the A’s have played this well, the team’s offseason trades could hardly be working out better. Billy Beane acquired one third of the team’s starting lineup, its setup man and two fifths of its starting rotation in deals this past winter. MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker offers a recap of these moves. Here’s the breakdown, featuring players on the team’s active roster:

  • Josh Reddick, acquired from Red Sox in trade for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney – Reddick has been a major contributor to Oakland's offense this year, hitting 26 home runs and posting a .253/.321/.487 batting line. He has already been worth 4.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs' version of the metric.
  • Seth Smith, acquired from Rockies in trade for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman - Smith has posted a respectable .244/.344/.431 batting line with 12 home runs. He continues to produce against right-handed pitchers (10 homers). 
  • Derek Norris, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Norris became the Athletics' regular catcher when Oakland sent Kurt Suzuki to Washington. He has five home runs but just a .272 on-base percentage in 158 plate appearances.
  • Ryan Cook, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – The 25-year-old right-hander has a 2.45 ERA with more strikeouts (60) than innings pitched (55). He averages 95 mph with his fastball and 11.8% of his offerings generate swings and misses. Cook, a 2012 All-Star, picked up 12 saves earlier in the year.  
  • Jarrod Parker, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – Parker has a 3.52 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 135 1/3 innings this year. Peripheral stats such as his 43.9 % ground ball rate and a 9.8% swinging strike rate are also encouraging.
  • Tommy Milone, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Milone has a 3.73 ERA with four times as many strikeouts as walks in 159 1/3 innings. 
  • The A’s also traded for a number of minor league players, including Brad Peacock and Collin Cowgill.

Oakland currently has a 51% chance of playing in the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds report. But even if the A’s don’t qualify this year, last winter’s trades should have an impact in future seasons. Smith will be second-time arbitration eligible this offseason, but Reddick won’t be arbitration eligible until next offseason. The others — Norris, Cook, Parker and Milone — are at least two years away from arbitration eligibility. Not only are these players contributing, they’re doing so at a time in their careers when they’re relatively affordable. That creates flexibility which makes a difference in any market and should be especially valuable in Oakland.


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