You can’t help but be a little bit jaded if you’ve been an A’s fan during the tenures of the last two ownership groups. With Billy Beane at the helm of both regimes, players have regularly been allowed to walk away as free agents or have been traded with years of team control still in hand.
It’s always the same excuses: “We have no choice. We hate our stadium. The sewage repairs are just too costly. We only sold 12 churros last game. We’re ever-so-poor.” Or something like that. It’s the high price an A’s fan pays. We know we will never have our stars locked up long term like the Giants have. When the Haas family was in charge of the A’s, the payroll was sky high and everyone wanted to play at the Coliseum. That seems like ancient history now. So with the A’s showing early signs of being an also-ran this season, the question begs asking: when will Beane sell the entire squad down the river?
If you think he’s out of bargaining chips, there are still a few gems in Oakland which would have the other 29 teams drooling. Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir are already in the shop window, as are all players in walk years. As unthinkable as is to even suggest trading Sonny Gray, you know it has to be killing Beane that he hasn’t traded him yet. If Beane had Brian Sabean’s job, Posey, Bumgarner, Sandoval, Cain, and Crawford would have been traded years ago.
So when you look at the natural cases for a possible trade, which are the players who are only signed for this season, they aren’t the only ones. The theory of trading a guy while he’s still in (or even before) his arbitration years for maximum value is one used often by Beane. This is why fan favorites like Hudson, Mulder, Gonzalez, and Donaldson were all sent packing – or All-Stars like Tejada, Giambi and Zito were allowed to leave: to rebuild/reload before they became too expensive for the destitute owners.
The last three seasons have been rather pleasant around these parts. Playoffs every year, excitement, good players and a good manager. But so far this season the A’s are being pushed around big time. Their bullpen keeps finding ways to get worse. Transactions concerning demotions and promotions are almost every day now. And on Tuesday night, there was a disturbing sign of team discord when pitcher Jesse Chavez showed up first baseman Ike Davis after an error. Chavez, who pitched brilliantly and earned the win in Oakland’s 2-1 victory at Minnesota, screamed the F-word after getting the ball back. You almost never see something like that, but it got worse.
In an interview with Roxy Bernstein after the game on 95.7, Chavez alluded to ‘having to face extra batters and throw extra pitches.’ Ouch. And there was a brief familiar social media flap, as well. This is what happens when teams start losing, right? Well, I think Chavez was already in a fragile state of mind because of initially missing out on an original rotation spot to inferior pitchers like Kendall Graveman (now in minors) and Drew Pomeranz (will be go to minors once Jarrod Parker is back.) Having known Chavez somewhat over the last couple of seasons, I can attest that he is a good guy and grateful of his career, so I found all of this rather surprising. You can now conclude that either Chavez was having a frustrating night or consider that Oakland has a fractious clubhouse with paper covering the cracks.
It’s still early (yes, it is) so the A’s have no reason to panic just yet. Coco Crisp came back last night and Parker plus Sean Doolittle are on the way. Zobrist will be back in a few weeks, too. But Beane might not be so patient. He is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most unpredictable general manager is the history of sports. So if/when I hear Matt Olson was traded for Craig Breslow, I wouldn’t be shocked, but I would still throw up for a week.