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Billy Beane Confused Again

January 12, 2015

As a 13-year-old girl whose junior high school has been taken over by zombies, lots of times I don’t know what’s going on, y’know? And so here’s Billy Beane taking on $12.5M in Ben Zobrist and Chewnel Escobar rentals. In isolation, it makes a ton of sense: the middle-infield has been a black hole for the A’s forever (Eric Sogard has been getting plenty of AB). Zobrist has tons of positional flexibility and is a legit .725-.750 OPS guy from both sides of the plate. Escobar is solid defensively and will be a useful piece while the club figures out where Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie are going to play.

It’s a move that gets made by a team that wants to contend.

But hang on a minute: how did Lawrie and Semien get here?

Oh. Right. Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardjiza were traded away to pick those guys up and replenish the farm system. Jon Lester left via free agency when the Cubs offered him too much money. So did Jason Hammel, although the A’s probably could have competed there (2/$18M).

By going out and getting old guys (Zobrist, Escobar, and Billy Butler who feels old) on rental arrangements, perhaps Beane is trying to emulate that team across the Bay that somehow keeps winning world series: professional hitters, good pitching, win. Sounds great. Except the Giants are actually paying people a lot of money–roughly the fifth highest payroll in the bigs at $150M, about double what Oakland’s stumping up. So sure, Billy. Just add Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Brandon Crawford, and we’ll begin.

Oh. Right. Well then why not sit 2015 out? Save that $7M you’re now paying Zobrist for half a season of an impact player the next time you’re ready to make a run. Even with Zobrist, there’s no run this year.

The Angels had pitching injuries last year, and were still fine. They’ll be there this year. Texas had injuries all over the place last year, and likely aren’t as good as the Angels, but will be as good as the A’s. Seattle stretched the payroll to lock up Seager and bring in Cruz. Austin Jackson is in his walk year, and Ackley’s arb-eligible, so Seattle’s making a push before Cano’s contract turns into the total pile of dogshit we all know it is.

Just on the law of averages, at some point, the Astros have a shot at mediocrity.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. The A’s want a new stadium… likely in San Jose. Tampa Bay, the A’s trading partner in the Zobrist/Escobar deal, also wants a move, and this payroll dump is just one more step in that direction for the Rays. Turning the A’s into a budget version of the Cincinnati Reds isn’t going to get another building, either in Oakland or in San Jose.

Billy Beane’s off-season moves continue to leave me confused, as I see no plan to either win now or win later.


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One Comment
  1. Copper permalink

    While I am as confused about what Oakland is trying to accomplish as the next guy, what I don’t understand is your fascination with the overpaid aspect of a player’s contract. There is no salary cap so unless Theo is going to cry poor in the next 5 years, what he chose to pay Lester is irrelevant. Same as Cano, crazy money but it hasn’t affected the teams moves in the least.

    The Jays or Pirates or Marlins are much more apt to cry poor in the event of a media blitz on inaction. We all know Vernon Wells contract was a collasal albatross but it was moveable in the end.

    Unless a salary cap comes in to play and GMs are wasting cap space, I don’t think the value of the contract of any free agent really means anything unless you are talking about AA or the like.

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