Oakland A's: Grading Billy Beane's Moves in Creating Overachieving Squad

Nick HouserCorrespondent IISeptember 19, 2012

Oakland A's: Grading Billy Beane's Moves in Creating Overachieving Squad

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    Through six free agent signings, seven trades, two waiver wire pickups and one outright contract purchase, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane once again proved his wizardry by putting together a team that defied expectations of being 20 games back in the AL West.

    Instead, the second-place A's are just 3.5 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. Oakland holds a one-game lead in the wild-card standings as well.

    The team wasn't supposed to be here.

    Beane's annual trades of talented favorites to build for next year drives many fans crazy (not to mention, into tears). Of course, 2012 has been different. These trades are working (so far) in the team's favor for this year's playoff push.

    Here's a look back at how Beane's trades have panned out. Each have been graded and power ranked from least important (the next slide) to the most.

Previous, Non-2012 Additions

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    Of course, the Oakland A's couldn't have magically gotten to where they are just by adding pieces in 2012. Some of their hottest hitters and pitchers were added or drafted earlier. Here's a quick look at the biggest contributors.


    Chris Carter

    Carter was acquired in a trade between the A's and Arizona Diamondbacks which sent Dan Haren to Arizona. Carter took a little while to finally figure out Major League pitching, but A's fans are more than happy now is that time. The trade also gained Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez, who was dealt for Matt Holliday.

    Grade: A-

    Carter is adding stability at first base. Anderson is solid.


    Grant Balfour

    Billy Beane signed Balfour to a two-year deal worth just over $8 million after a one-year tryout. Balfour nailed the tryout and has produced well since.

    Grade: B+

    A 2.88 ERA and 19 saves mixed with veteran leadership out of the pen. Not overwhelming, but very solid.


    Brandon McCarthy

    McCarthy earned a $1 million deal to play for a year in Oakland. From there, he earned another year's worth of work, this time for $4.275 million. He's been bit by injuries, but when he pitches, it's quality. Much of his contract can be attributed to leadership too.

    Grade: A

    The A's took a chance on a "no-name" pitcher trying to find himself in 2011. He found himself, they re-signed him, still for a bargain, and he's been nothing short of effective.


    A.J. Griffin

    The A's signed Griffin in the amateur draft of 2010. He debuted this year and in "no big deal" fashion, he's 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA, the first rookie in baseball to start and win his first six games.

    Grade: A+

    Looking at how he was acquired and what he's done so far, this grade doesn't really need an explanation.

March 13, 2012: Brandon Hicks Selected Off Waivers

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    In 2010, Brandon Hicks went hitless in five atbats. The next season, he hit .048 in 21 appearances. It's no wonder the Atlanta Braves were ready to let him go.

    The Oakland Athletics snagged Hicks, who still isn't quite hitting all that impressively (.172).

    To his credit though, he did produce one of Oakland's 14 walk-off wins.

    A nice pickup who can spell an infielder for a day game after a night game? Sure. A quality replacement for the last few weeks if someone goes down with injury? No.

    Grade: C

    Picking up Hicks hasn't affected the A's much at all. The move was neither positive or negative. This will be the baseline moving forward in the slideshow.

August 20, 2012: Stephen Drew Acquired

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    Stephen Drew arrived in Oakland hoping to rebound from a pitiful first half. The A's just needed anyone to produce better than the options they had in Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales.

    He's only been an Athletic for about a month, so it's a bit early to pass judgment. In the last two weeks though, he has hit .214, contributing more with the glove than with the bat.

    Right now, it's not terribly better than Pennington.

    Grade: C

    Another average move that hasn't panned out yet, but didn't hurt any either.

July 28, 2012: Fautino De Los Santos Traded for George Kottaras

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    After 75 games with only a .218 batting average, Kurt Suzuki's services were no longer desired in Oakland.

    The A's pulled up prospect Derek Norris, but must not have felt comfortable with him as an everyday starter.

    So the team looked for a trade partner and found one.

    Oakland sent Fautino de los Santos to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for catcher George Kottaras. Kottaras has hit just about the same with the A's as he did with the Brew Crew.

    Suzuki on the other hand, is finally over the .250 mark in Washington.

    Grade: C

    This average trade helped Suzuki and the Nationals more than the A's. Kottaras is a similar hitter, albeit with more power.

January 24, 2012: Bartolo Colon Signed

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    Bartolo Colon impressed many when he won his 10th games in 2012 while maintaining a 3.43 ERA. A feat like this for a 39-year-old player was phenomenal and yet head-scratching.

    For good reason.

    On August 22, Colon tested positive for a banned substance, earning a 50-game suspension.

    It was good while it lasted.

    Grade: C

    The positivity of the stats are reduced by the negativity of failing a banned substance test.

August 3, 2012: Kurt Suzuki Traded, Pat Neshek Purchased

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    On Aug. 3, the A's traded catcher Kurt Suzuki to the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor league catcher David Freitas.

    The move eliminated Suzuki's contract from their salary and made room for George Kottaras and Derek Norris.

    Freitas is a non-factor in 2012.

    On the same day, Oakland purchased the contract of reliever Pat Neshek. In 17 games, he has a 0.63 ERA, 14 strikeouts and four walks.

    Grade: C+

    It's only slightly above average because, although the move opened the door for better hitting catchers, the return was dismal. Neshek is effective, yet remains rarely used.

January 16, 2012: Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman for Seth Smith

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    Needing to fill the vacancy at designated hitter left by Hideki Matsui, the Oakland Athletics made a trade with the Colorado Rockies.

    The A's swapped relievers/spot starters Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso for DH/OF Seth Smith.

    Smith hasn't necessarily been the most integral part to Oakland's fantastic late-season run, hitting just .246 and 13 home runs. He's contributing nonetheless.

    Moscoso has been used sporadically, accumulating a 6.53 ERA in 41 innings. Outman has less appearances and a worse ERA.

    Smith is a great pick up considering how Outman and Moscoso have performed.

    Grade: C+

May 15, 2012: Selected Travis Blackley Off Waivers

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    Travis Blackley's career thus far has been an interesting one. After spending the 2004 season with the Seattle Mariners, he did not pitch in the majors again until 2007.

    It only lasted one season though, as he was again out of the league until 2012.

    But it gets deeper.

    Blackley signed with the San Francisco Giants and was designated before finally landing with the A's. So far, he's valiantly done everything the team has asked him to do.

    Blackley originally joined the bullpen, only to be called upon as a starter filling in for the injured Brandon McCarthy. He's continued to bounce back and forth.

    He's definitely been efficient for a guy who's role is ever changing.

    Blackley started in 12 of his 20 appearances. In 93 innings, he's kept a 3.36 ERA.

    Grade: B-

    This was an extremely underrated move on the A's part. They took a chance on a guy who hasn't pitched in four years and someone who was discarded early on.

December 1, 2011: Signed Brandon Moss

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    Brandon Moss entered Major League Baseball in 2007 and spent most of his career bouncing around the league.

    In 2011, the Oakland Athletics took a chance on the journeyman who hadn't hit higher than .240 since early 2008.

    In his career pre-Oakland, Moss hit a total of 23 home runs. In 2012, he has 18.

    His resurgence came at the perfect time, adding stability to a first base position that has already seen the likes of Brandon Allen, Kila Ka'aihue and Daric Barton pass through this season.

    Moss is hitting a cool .268/.333./.568 with 39 RBI.

    He might not be a long-term solution, but he's provided fantastic contributions in the last month.

    Grade: B-

    Moss isn't the sexiest pickup of the year. Still, he's getting the job done.

January 5, 2012: Re-Signed Coco Crisp

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    On January 4, 2012, Coco Crisp told San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser that he re-signed with the Oakland Athletics because he "loved playing in Oakland, [the team has] a lot of kids with a lot of potential, and underdogs can shock some people."

    Good call Coco.

    The A's could have let him walk. Instead, they felt he was important enough to sign the outfielder to a two-year deal worth $14 million.

    Crisp started the season slow, but has picked up since August. He's now batting .252 with a surprising 10 home runs, in addition to 42 RBI and 34 stolen bases.

    There's no statistic for veteran leadership on a young team either.

    Grade: B-

April 30, 2012: Brandon Inge Signed

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    After being designated for assignment and eventually released by the Detroit Tigers, Brandon Inge signed a one-year deal with the Oakland A's.

    His .100 batting average coming in was about on par with Oakland's other options.

    Thankfully for the A's and fans, Inge rebounded with the A's. His batting average more than doubled and he knocked in 52 RBI and 11 home runs.

    Unfortunately though, Inge was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury on Sept. 1.

    Grade: B

    Inge was able to turn things around for himself, was solid at third base and provided clubhouse leadership (See, the Bernie Lean). For that, the trade earns high marks.

December 23, 2011: Gio Gonzalez Traded for Milone, Norris, Cole and Peacock

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    Apparently two weeks is a large enough amount of time to grieve according to Billy Beane, because 14 days after trading Trevor Cahill away, he sent starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez packing.

    Gonzalez provided talent in the Washington Nationals rotation behind Stephen Strasburg while the newly acquired four pack had to fight it out for a roster spot in Oakland.

    Not only did Tommy Milone make the squad, he leads the team with 13 wins.

    Milone has been solid, striking out 130 while walking just 33. He currently holds a 3.81 ERA.

    Norris is contributing where it counts, spelling George Kottaras, hitting the walk-off home run on June 24 and ending the game on Sept. 14 by throwing out Xavier Avery who was attempting to steal second.

    Cole and Peacock have not played in the majors this season.

    Gonzalez on the other hand, is seeing career bests as a National. He has a 19-8 record, 2.95 ERA and has cut his walks back from 91 last year to 72 so far in 2012.

    Simply put, Gonzalez has been dominant.

    Grade: B

    Peacock and Cole are non-factors. Milone has been outstanding, but there's no denying Gio has been better. Norris also hasn't done enough to consider this a great trade. Good, yes; great, no.

January 26, 2012: Jonny Gomes Signed

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    Five away from his career best, Jonny Gomes has hit 16 home runs as a pinch-hitter and off-the-bench replacement. That's fourth best on the team.

    In the last month, he's hitting .345.

    Maybe it's time to find him a spot in the lineup every day.

    The A's are getting their money's worth and then some out of Gomes' one-million dollar deal.

    Grade: B+

    Gomes was added for a bargain and has played so well he may very well earn himself a starting role next season elsewhere (e.g. Josh Willingham).

December 9, 2011: Breslow and Cahill for Cook, Cowgill and Parker

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    The first transaction of the A's offseason sent shock waves through the league as Billy Beane shipped starter Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    In return, the A's received little-known reliever Ryan Cook, young outfield prospect Collin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker, who would come over hoping to compete for a spot in the rotation.

    Two of the three have come up huge.

    Cook was the A's lone representative at the 2012 All-Star Game. Parker is 11-8 with a 3.51 ERA, 119 strikeouts and only nine home runs allowed all season.

    Cowgill is a bonus.

    The speedster will likely contribute as a pinch-runner the rest of this season and may have an expanded role in the future.

    If he doesn't pan out while Parker and Cook continue to produce, it won't be the end of the world.

    Grade: A

    Parker was able to jump into the rotation and contribute immediately. Cook was an All-Star, but tankered off after the break. Cahill meanwhile, is 11-11 with a 3.92 ERA. Oakland gave up two quality pieces for three younger players of equal talent.

December 28, 2011: Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney for Josh Reddick

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    Just when fans thought the trading of two starters would mark the end of the onslaught, Billy Beane then gave closer Andrew Bailey to the Boston Red Sox. The deal was sweetened with up-and-comer Ryan Sweeney.

    In return, the A's received Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.

    Reddick truly defined "diamond in the rough" on his way to a team-leading 29 home runs, 138 hits and 79 RBI. Head and Alcantara are in the minor leagues.

    For the Red Sox, Sweeney has played in just 63 games. He has no home runs and 16 RBI.

    Bailey spent much of the season on the disabled list. He has pitched in 13 appearances. He has a 3.38 ERA and four saves.

    Grade: A

    The A's gave up their closer, who spent most of 2012 on the shelf, and a talented outfielder for an even younger and more talented outfielder. That's a win.

February 13, 2012: Yoenis Cespedes Signed

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    The A's bucked the expectation of being a small-market team who cannot compete for big-name free agents by signing Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal.

    With Cespedes in the lineup, the A's are 70-40 (h/t: WTAE.com). Without him, the team is 12-21.

    In his first year in MLB, he's acclimated well. So far, Cespedes is hitting .290 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI. He has also contributed 16 stolen bases.

    Grade: A

    His stats aren't quite Josh Reddick, but he's more likely to maintain the consistency. He also hits better with runners on and the team is simply better with him in the lineup.