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Grading the Oakland A's Trade Deadline Performance

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Grading the Oakland A's Trade Deadline Performance
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jon Lester, former ace of the Boston Red Sox, now heads west to the Oakland Athletics.

The trade deadline is officially over, and Oakland A's fans can finally go take the shower they've been avoiding while hovering over Twitter. 

In the last month, the A's have pulled off two major blockbusters, a minor move and three non-moves that lit social media up. Today, Oakland looks like a popular pick for this year's World Series title. After the first trade alone took place, it became clear general manager Billy Beane decided to go all in. Another league-shaking deal later, and he's clearly not bluffing about stacking his cards.

But while the moves are great for 2014, are they worth it in the longer run?

Here are the most significant moves and non-moves, with grades and reaction.

 

Acquire Jeff Samardzija (SP) and Jason Hammel (SP) for Addison Russell (SS), Billy McKinney (OF) and Dan Straily (SP)

The move that set it all off.

Not many inside Oakland hate this trade. Or, at least, they didn't on July 4 when it happened. The first major blockbuster of the summer came as a complete shock. Beane has coveted prospects for years, rarely trading marquee minor leaguers away for big names. But in this case, he gave up Oakland's two best prospects and a former starter for two marquee trade candidates.

On paper, the A's immediately owned one of the best rotations in the game.

Short term, this is a win for the A's.

However, it's long term that is now a concern. Since coming to Oakland, Hammel has suffered four losses in four starts and currently owns a 9.53 ERA. Samardzija has been dynamite. But he's arbitration eligible soon and should command a huge salary.

To get these two, Oakland gave up Russell, a top prospect in all of baseball and its shortstop of the future. With the additions of McKinney and Straily, the A's minor league depth took a hit.

Grade: B+

The move for now is an A. Factoring in the future, it dips into a B. Hence, the B-plus. Hammel has been disappointing, and the A's gave up so much talent. Luckily, Samardzija has been that good for the A's so far.

 

Designated Jim Johnson (RP)

This move—or lack thereof—is included because A's fans expected something to materialize and it didn't.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Jim Johnson struggled badly while with Oakland.

With a $10 million salary in tow, many hoped Oakland could receive anything back in return for one of the most memorable busts in recent years. The Miami Marlins apparently came close, but that door closed and the A's simply designated Johnson for assignment instead. So far, there have been no takers, and because of the contract, there likely won't be any.

Grade: D+

Moving Johnson was going to be difficult, but the fact that anyone was interested at all means a deal could have gotten done. Oakland should have pushed a bit harder on this one. Instead, they'll pay him to pitch elsewhere should he get picked up.

 

Acquired Sam Fuld (OF) for Tommy Milone (SP)

According to Ken Rosenthal of ESPN, Tommy Milone has been traded to the Minnesota Twins. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN confirmed the A's received outfielder Sam Fuld in return.

This one's a bit of a head-scratcher.

Fuld—with the A's to begin the season—ran out of options earlier in the year, and the A's had no choice but to cut ties with him.

Now with Minnesota, he's hitting .274 in 53 games.

Oakland searched for outfield help before the deadline. With Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick on the field and Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry injured, they simply needed a reliable reserve. Sam Fuld is just that. But if Crisp is injured long term and Cespedes is now with Boston, the team may need more than Fuld.

What's more, Fuld should have been extremely cheap.

The fact that the A's gave up Tommy Milone—frustrated or not—seems like grand theft with the Twins making out like bandits. They receive a young back-end starter locked up for several years on the cheap. The A's get a role-playing outfielder for a few months.

Grade: C

More should have been had for Milone, but Fuld is by no means awful.

 

Acquired Jon Lester (SP) and Jonny Gomes (OF) for Yoenis Cespedes (OF)

Alex Speier of WEEI.com provided big news as dawn broke the morning of July 31 (via MLBTradeRumors.com), reporting Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

Jon Lester is an A-plus pitcher. Yoenis Cespedes is at least worth an A by himself. A one-for-one swap of these two should just about cancel each other out and becomes a win for both sides. Throw in the fact that Oakland receives Jonny Gomes, and you can bump the grade up in favor of the A's.

So what's bad about this trade?

Well, for starters, the A's had depth at starting pitching. Sure, the addition of Lester gives them a beast of a rotation. And come playoffs, they'll only need four guys, so a rotation of Lester, Samardzija, Gray and Kazmir sounds video game good.

But Cespedes carried the offense quite a bit.

Yes, other guys can hit. But Oakland lost a hitter with the third-most home runs and third-most RBI on the team. After him, there's a steep drop-off (after his 67 RBI, the next best is 40).

Grade: B+

A rotation that was already really good becomes tops in the game. An offense that—though it leads the league in runs scored—can be shaky at times (see the recent Houston series) just lost a superstar. Hard to call that kind of move an A-worthy move.

One could argue the A's weren't going to be able to keep Cespedes after next season. But it's doubtful they'll keep Lester after 2014. If he goes back to Boston as a free agent, the Red Sox will then have both pieces in 2015.

 

No Movement on Second Base, Jason Hammel

Apparently the A's "fielded tons of calls" for Hammel. With an 0-4 record and a near 10 ERA, it's mind-boggling why Oakland didn't jump at the opportunity to get something for him. Something, such as a second baseman.

Without Hammel, the rotation would feature Lester, Samardzija, Gray, Kazmir and Chavez. Drew Pomeranz is capable in an emergency once healthy. Josh Lindblom and Arnold Leon are in Triple-A as well. Heck, even Brad Mills worked out on a temporary basis.

Additionally, the obvious hole in the lineup is at second base.

Eric Sogard is hitting .267 in July, better than his .202 average on the year. But there are two full months left, and there were much better options available.

Grade: D

If Oakland is all in, why not upgrade second? Likewise, if other teams call about Hammel, why not move him?

 

Overall Grade: B

The major moves heavily outweigh the minor and non-moves.

First, the designation of Jim Johnson is weighted much less here than the rest. He was a hard sell, and there are still a few days left for someone to claim him.

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Next, Milone didn't want to be in the organization anymore. The A's get rid of a disgruntled employee and add some outfield depth (needed) and a solid clubhouse guy.

They chose not to do anything regarding second base and/or Hammel. That seems like a poor decision; one of the poorest of the trade deadline for Oakland.

The major takeaway is the rotation.

This staff is World Series-contender quality. Two of their five starters are in the top 10 for ERA. Four of five are in the top 25. Teams are going to have a difficult time scoring against this squad.

But to get to this point, they had to sacrifice plenty.

The Cuban Missile, La Potencia, the two-time, back-to-back Home Run Derby champion—Yoenis Cespedes—gone. The No. 1 and No. 2 prospects. Gone. A fan favorite now and part of the future will suit up elsewhere. And the men the A's have to show for it may be gone in just three or four months as well.

So right now it's worth it. The A's are all in with a straight flush. Incredibly strong but still beatable with the right counter cards.

If they lose, not only is now heartbreaking, but later could be painful too.

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