The 2010 campaign marked the first non-losing season out of the last four years for the Oakland A's.
The A’s can argue that their teams have underachieved the past few seasons due to injuries, but the reality is the past few teams were constructed largely of patch-work, while the front office and player development departments continued to work towards their ultimate goal of seeing through the rebuild they started several years ago.
Beginning with the trades that broke up the Big Three of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, Billy Beane has continually rebuilt the A’s roster in an attempt to return to the success of the early 2000s.
The current roster (including prospects that could make an impact in 2011 if called upon due to injuries) includes an astounding 17 players that were acquired due to trades orchestrated by Billy Beane as part of his “master plan.”
The most recent success experienced in Oakland was the 2006 team, which defeated the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series to advance to the American League Championship Series. That 2006 team was eventually swept by the Detroit Tigers and knocked out of the playoffs without a repeat trip to the World Series.
The ’06 team included some key contributors acquired via trade as well. Dan Haren, acquired in the Mark Mulder trade to St. Louis, helped anchor our pitching staff. Milton Bradley, acquired in exchange for Andre Ethier by way of Los Angeles, helped the team’s offense. Jason Kendall, acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for Arthur Rhodes and Mark Redman, caught our pitching staff.
The 2011 team, which looks to surpass the successes of the 2006 team, are already leading in the category of players acquired by trade:
Daric Barton (First Base): Acquired from St. Louis as part of the Mark Mulder trade.
Chris Carter (OF – Prospect): Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Dan Haren.
Fautino De Los Santos (RHP – Prospect): Acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Nick Swisher.
Even if the four prospects included on this list do not see any time in the Major Leagues in 2011, this is still an astonishing percentage of the roster to be filled by players acquired via trade.
The 2011 starting lineup will only feature Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington as “home grown” drafted talent. The rotation features only Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden. The bullpen only features closer Andrew Bailey as a drafted Athletic. Landon Powell was also drafted by Oakland and likely will remain the backup catcher.
Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Rich Harden and Brad Ziegler (minor league free agent) all came to Oakland as free agents.
While fans groaned over the losing seasons in 2007 to 2009 and even the .500 season last year, Billy Beane and assistant general manager David Forst have stressed that they are following their master plan to turn the Oakland Athletics into a contender for years to come.
Several members of the 2011 team will be free agents after this season, leaving the interpretation open that the 2011 team is constructed to “win now.” This may very well be the case, but there is a prospect in place behind every potential departure that will keep the A’s in contention behind their strong rotation, which will remain intact for years to come.
Lose Mark Ellis; replace him with Adrian Cardenas or Jemile Weeks. Josh Willingham leaves; in steps Chris Carter. David DeJesus finds a new team next year; Michael Taylor is waiting behind him.
Coco Crisp finds a better deal in free agency; Ryan Sweeney steps right back in, or Michael Choice jumps to the big leagues. Astonishing to think that only Jemile Weeks and Michael Choice are original Oakland draft picks.
Another Oakland draft pick, Grant Green, will eventually take over for Cliff Pennington, although the A’s are not going to rush Green’s development.
When presented with the evidence of the construction of the 2011 team, it is hard to argue that the A’s front office did not have the foresight they claimed to have all along.