Ranking Oakland Athletics' General Manager Billy Beane's Best Trades

Benjy Egel@@BenjyEgelCorrespondent IISeptember 9, 2013

Ranking Oakland Athletics' General Manager Billy Beane's Best Trades

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    Since becoming the Oakland Athletics' general manager in 1997, Billy Beane has made a career out of trading big names for young talent.

    Beane tore up a potential dynasty in the early 2000s because of financial constraints, then brought the A's back into the playoffs in 2006 and 2012 with different rejects like Frank Thomas and Brandon Moss.

    After his knack for finding hidden gems was chronicled in Michael Lewis' Moneyball, opposing teams picked up on some of Beane's strategies. Still, deep-pocketed contenders are often willing to sacrifice future stars for established contributors.

Honorable Mention: Nick Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney

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    Swisher was traded before the 2008 season for Gonzalez and Sweeney, two top prospects in the Chicago White Sox organization.

    Gonzalez emerged as a front-of-the-rotation starter after two difficult seasons in Oakland, while Sweeney averaged 110 starts from 2008-2011 in the A's outfield.

    Chicago also threw in fireballer Fautino de los Santos to sweeten the deal. De los Santos reached the majors in 2011, throwing 33.1 unspectacular innings before being swapped for backup catcher George Kottaras.

    The trade is an honorable mention because Swisher has played equally well since leaving Oakland, and Gonzalez wasn't around long enough to lead the A's to the postseason.

7. Billy Taylor for Jason Isringhausen, Greg McMichael

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    The Taylor-Isringhausen swap was mentioned in Moneyball as one of Beane's greatest heists. While teams around the league searched for the next Mariano Rivera, Beane made an art of trading his closers for talented prospects.

    Isringhausen and McMichael came over at the 1999 trade deadline, when Izzy was struggling after having elbow surgery the previous year. Taylor hadn't always pitched well, but he had 26 saves at the end of July.

    Just as the aliens in Space Jam stole NBA players' talents, Isringhausen seemingly sapped all skill from Taylor's body. 

    In 1999 Izzy's ERA was 6.41 with the Mets and 2.13 with the A's, while Taylor went from 3.98 to 8.10. As Isringhausen developed into an All-Star closer, Taylor failed to hang on with the New York Mets, Tampa Bay Devil Rays or Pittsburgh Pirates.

6. Trevor Cahill, Craig Breslow for Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill

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    Cahill was the A's All-Star representative in 2010 and dominated the beginning of 2011, going 6-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his first 10 starts. His ERA swelled to 4.16 by the season's end, and has not improved with Arizona.

    Parker's 2013 has been the inverse of Cahill's 2011: a terrible start to the season followed by an 18-game unbeaten streak. The former first-round pick has recovered from Tommy John surgery to become the A's ace.

    Breslow has been very effective for the Boston Red Sox this year, but Cook has been ever better as Grant Balfour's set-up man. The righty didn't allow a run in his first 21 appearances and was named to the 2012 AL All-Star team.

    Cowgill had a handful of mediocre at-bats for the A's last season before becoming to the New York Mets' Opening Day center fielder. After moving onto the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he seems destined for a career as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

5. Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney for Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Raul Alcantara

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    Remember the "trading the closer" idea Beane understands better than anyone else? Here's Exhibit B.

    Bailey and Sweeney have been plagued by injuries, while Reddick hit 32 home runs, won a Gold Glove and led the A's to the AL West Division title last season.

    Head hit 18 home runs and had a ridiculous 1.147 OPS in 67 games at High—A Stockton in 2012. He has yet to dominate at Double—A Midland, but Head and Alcantara both rank among the Athletics' top 10 prospects

    While Reddick and Head have struggled this season, Alcantara is 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 5.17 K/BB between Single—A Beloit and Stockton. At just 20 years old, he has the talent to crack the A's rotation as early as 2015.

4. Jose Ortiz, Mario Encarnacion, Todd Belitz for Jermaine Dye

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    Dye was the quintessential right fielder, with pop in his bat and a cannon for an arm. The Kansas City Royals dealt him in his prime, when Dye had been named an All-Star and won a Gold Glove the previous season.

    The A's traded three prospects to the Colorado Rockies, who sent infielder Neifi Perez to the Royals at the 2001 trade deadline. 

    When healthy, Dye was good for 25 home runs and 85 RBI a year. He fractured his tibia in the 2001 ALDS, spoiling the A's last chance at a World Series run with Jason Giambi.

    Aided by Coors Field, Ortiz popped 13 home runs and slugged .495 in 53 games for the Rockies. After his power disappeared in 2002, Ortiz played in the Independent League, Triple-A, Mexican League and Japan Pacific League, never returning to the majors.

3. Ben Grieve, A.J. Hinch, Angel Berroa for Johnny Damon, Mark Ellis, Cory Lidle

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    Kansas City general manager Allard Baird and Beane preceded the Dye trade with another three-team swap before the 2001 season.

    The A's sent Berroa and Hinch to Baird for Ellis and Damon, then shipped Grieve to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Lidle. Tampa Bay traded closer Roberto Hernandez to Kansas City to complete the deal.

    After hitting 27 home runs and driving in 104 runs in 2000, Grieve's power disappeared under Tropicana Field's dome. The 1998 AL Rookie of the Year's slugging percentage dropped 100 points, from .487 to .387 with the Devil Rays.

    Berroa won the 2003 Rookie of the Year with a .287/.338/.451 batting line and 23 steals, but never came close to matching those numbers throughout the rest of his career.

    Damon made up for his low batting average with 34 doubles and 27 steals in 2001 before achieving glory with the Red Sox.

    Baseball had no better fourth starter in 2001 than Lidle, who went 13-6 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.15 WHIP behind Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.

    Beane managed to hold onto Ellis for a surprisingly long time, finally dealing him in 2011 after nine-and-a-half years of strong defense and contact hitting.

2. Dan Haren and Connor Robertson for a Boatload of Prospects

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    Oakland acquired five prospects and a scrub who had just surpassed rookie eligibility for Haren, the staff ace, and Robertson, a fringe MLB reliever. By the magic of Billy Beane, the A's came out as the clear victors.

    Every prospect played for the A's in the majors, and aside from outfielder Aaron Cunningham, all developed a regular role.

    Current long-relief man Brett Anderson came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks, as did Chris Carter, who slugged 16 home runs in a platoon role during the A's 2012 playoff run.

    Carlos Gonzalez hit 22 doubles in 302 at-bats while manning center field for the 2008 A's. Gonzalez had a promising combination of power and speed, but was dealt to the Rockies in the ill-advised Matt Holliday trade.

    Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, who came over with a whopping 64.1 major league innings under his belt, each had one mediocre season in the A's rotation.

    The A's dealt Haren when he was just 27 years old, so he had four good seasons for the D-Backs and Angels before bombing with the Washington Nationals. Robertson threw seven innings for Arizona in 2008 and quit baseball two years later.

    Of course, the A's wouldn't have landed Haren in the first place were it not for another trade...

1. Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, Daric Barton

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    Beane traded Tim Hudson and Mulder three days apart, breaking up the Big Three when owner Steve Schott could no longer afford the young stars. Unlike Hudson, Mulder netted the A's a talented group of youngsters.

    Mulder had one decent season for the St. Louis Cardinals, going 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. The lefty then struggled with rotator cuff problems and rarely pitched before retiring in 2010.

    As the Athletics' primary set-up man for two years, Calero alone was arguably more valuable than Mulder. He couldn't get batters out in his final seasons in Oakland, but Calero was instrumental on the A's 2006 playoff run.

    After relieving for the Cards in the 2004 World Series, Haren won at least 14 games in all three of his seasons atop the A's rotation.

    Haren's best season came in 2007, when he finished among the league's top 10 in innings pitched, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.

    While some A's fans have been disappointed with Barton, he had a 5.1 WAR in 2010 and his 110 walks led the American League. After spending most of the last two years in the minors, Barton is hitting .345 since his August 26 promotion.