The A’s, Royals, and Going For It

On Friday night, the A’s traded top prospect Addison Russell and some stuff for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Mike Petriello did a great job of writing up the transaction, highlighting the pros and cons on both sides of things. Well, at least on the A’s side, because getting a prospect of Russell’s quality basically leaves this as a deal with no real cons for the Cubs. It might or might not work out — the nature of baseball makes this true of every decision ever made — but landing an elite young middle infielder in exchange for a player who has out-priced his own value and a rent-a-veteran is a huge win for the Cubs.

In fact, the inclusion of Russell in the deal led some pretty smart folks to compare this trade to one of the more controversial trades in recent history.

A year and a half ago, the Royals traded Wil Myers and stuff for James Shields and Wade Davis. At the time, Myers was generally rated as a top 10 prospect, with some even having him as high as top three. In exchange for Myers and Jake Odorizzi, the Royals acquired the rights to Shields for two seasons and Wade Davis for two seasons with three team options, so they acquired as many as seven years of team control of their new acquisitions. In exchange for Russell, the A’s acquired one-and-a-half years of Jeff Samardzija and half a year of Jason Hammel, so Oakland acquired a grand total of two seasons in exchange for their elite young talent. Just based on this fact alone, one could argue that the Samardzija trade might even be a worse return than the Shields trade.

And yet, when the deal was announced, this was my reaction.

I realize that some people see the disparate reactions to the two trades as evidence that I am biased in favor of some organizations and against others; in this case, for the A’s and against the Royals. After all, the trades have similarities, and the reactions are dramatically different. While I freely acknowledge we’ve said a lot more good things about Oakland’s moves than Kansas City’s moves over the past few years, I’m totally OK with that. The A’s are perhaps the best team in baseball, so if we weren’t saying more good things about their moves than every other team, we’d have been missing the boat.

Beyond that, however, I think there are two dramatic differences that support different conclusions for these two transaction.

1. The given playoff probabilities for the A’s and Royals at the time of the two trades.

2. The opportunity costs paid by the two teams.

Let’s deal with these two in order. As of today, our Playoff Odds model has the A’s with a 71% chance to win the division and a 28% chance to win a wild card spot; in other words, we’re giving the A’s a 99% chance to make the postseason this year, by far the highest mark of any team in baseball. Even factoring in the chance that the A’s might get passed by the Angels in the AL West and have to play in the Wild Card game, the model still gives the A’s an 86% chance of reaching the division series. Barring some kind of travel disaster that wipes out half the roster, the A’s are going to play in October, and they’re probably going to reach at least the division series. Jeff Samardzija is going to pitch meaningful baseball games for the A’s.

Compare that to where the Royals were when they made the Shields trade. Heading into both 2013 and 2014, our estimates gave the Royals roughly a 20% chance of winning either the division or a wild card spot, with the odds being more heavily tilted towards a less-valuable wild card berth, meaning that they would still have to play their way into the division series. The Royals made the Shields trade on the hope that it would make them a good team; the A’s are already a good team.

Giving up an elite young player on the hopes that it will help you get to October is not the same thing as giving up an elite young player knowing that you’re basically guaranteed at least one trip to the postseason. The dramatic rise in information that teams have about their own chances at reaching the playoffs is one of the primary reasons that we see teams pay higher prices at the trade deadline than they will over the winter, even though they’re acquiring roughly half of the value that they could have gained by making the move over the off-season. The increased information justifies moves in-season that are not justifiable without that information, and the A’s have a postseason near-certainty that the Royals have never possessed.

The wins that Samardzija will add to the A’s are simply more valuable than the wins that Shields added to the Royals, either last year or this year. Just as the number of runs an elite reliever prevents have a larger impact on a teams record than the equivalent number of runs allowed by a starting pitcher, a few wins for a team in the A’s position is more valuable than those same few wins for a team in the Royals position. We accept leverage index as a reality for in-game decision making, and we also should account for leverage in roster construction decisions.

But while the win-curve argument is the one most commonly made to support deals like this, it can be taken too far. There is a long history of teams making bad deadline trades because they overpaid for a short-term upgrade due to their spot on the win-curve. You can’t just make a blanket statement that any team that is a strong favorite to make the postseason should pay any cost to upgrade. The cost/benefit analysis still has to make sense. But that’s the other aspect of this deal that makes it unlike the Myers/Shields trade; the Royals paid a massive opportunity cost that the A’s are not paying.

As I wrote two weeks before the Royals traded Myers to Tampa Bay, Myers shouldn’t have really been considered a “prospect” for Kansas City; he should have been considered their starting right fielder. While Shields added a four win pitcher to their rotation, not using Myers to replace Jeff Francouer was something like a two win downgrade in the outfield, mitigating a large part of the advantage of acquiring Shields in the first place. The Royals got better in the short-term, but only marginally so, because they traded a piece off their Major League roster in order to make the trade. They robbed Peter to pay Paul, so the long-term cost only resulted in a minor short-term upgrade.

Addison Russell, as great as he might be someday, isn’t a big leaguer right now. He has 75 plate appearances above A-ball, and the Steamer rest-of-season projection suggests that he’d have hit like Eric Sogard if the A’s had promoted him down the stretch. Rather than swapping a two win player for a four win player, the A’s swapped a zero-win player for a three-win player. Russell’s value is entirely in the future, and when you’re making a go-for-it trade, you want to maximize your team’s present value. Trading Russell does not make the A’s any worse; trading Myers absolutely resulted in a downgrade for the Royals in right field.

And then there’s the money. One of the primary objections I had to the Myers/Shields trade was the Royals could have simply spent the $9 million they had to pay Shields on a two-win free agent pitcher and have been essentially just as good as they were with Shields and Francoeur. My favorite free agent starter of that winter was Scott Feldman, who signed with the Cubs for $6 million and put up +2 WAR over 182 innings of work. The Royals not only paid the opportunity cost of losing Myers as their right fielder, but they also took on $12 million in salary between Shields and Davis, so they lost the chance to spend that $12 million to upgrade the team without trading away young talent.

That opportunity cost is dramatically reduced in-season, because there are no free agents to go sign instead of making trades. During the winter, teams can essentially substitute from one market to another depending on the prices being asked for in trades and free agency; during the season, there is only the trade market, and if you decide not to pay the price being asked for in trades, then you’re deciding not to upgrade at all. The basic principle of supply and demand dictates that prices are higher when supply is reduced, and the non-existence of a free agent market in-season makes the $5 million in salary increase the A’s are taking on for 2014 basically a non-issue.

Samardzija’s price in 2015 will negate some of the value of controlling his rights for next season as well, so the A’s are still paying some opportunity cost to acquire him, as that’s $9 or $10 million in committed payroll they won’t have to spend that they otherwise would have. But the opportunity cost they are paying is dramatically lower than the one the Royals paid.

While it may be tempting to compare in-season trade prices with off-season trade prices, the circumstances surrounding those markets are not the same. In-season buyers have information that off-season buyers do not, but the tradeoff they make to gather that information is that they lack access to free agency as a trade-market alternative. Those two factors both conspire to make in-season trades more expensive, because buyers are gaining the value of leveraged information and sellers have less competition for available talent.

On the surface, trading Russell and Myers for short-term pitching upgrades might look similar, but these moves were made in very different circumstances, in different markets, and with different information. And Myers was capable of helping the Royals in the short-term in a way that Russell is not. These trades may be similar on the surface, but once you factor in the entire context of the deals, they are more different than alike.

That isn’t to say that this is some kind of great steal for the A’s. They paid a very high price, and this trade will likely hurt them in the long-term. But while the cost of both trades is high, the A’s are going to generate a benefit that the Royals were never likely to see. Trades are about balancing cost and benefit, not just about limiting costs. Both teams paid very high prices for their upgrades, but there are times when paying a high price does make sense. This is that time for the A’s.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


327 Responses to “The A’s, Royals, and Going For It”

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  1. byron says:

    My understanding of the win-curve model is that upgrades are most valuable for teams that are in a playoff race, not running away with one, so that would seem to be a point against the A’s.

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    • Hamster Man says:

      Angels are only 3 1/2 games back, A’s have little pitching depth left. One more injury and there’s a decent chance they would have lost the division lead.

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      • MLBfa23 says:

        LOL what depth does angels have if they lose weaver, wilson? matt shoemaker?

        A’s 5th-7th starters are chavez, milone, pomeranz. i’d say they have more depth if one of their top rotation starters get injured

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        • asdf says:

          good point. Angels are more vulnerable to injuries in pitching staff than A’s.
          I sometimes suspect Billy Beane is operating a fountain where useful pitchers are assembled when he needs to fill in for losses.

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        • Scott says:

          But Pomeranz is out injured with a broken hand…

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    • Jimmer says:

      A 3.5 game lead is hardly running away with a division. The team behind them owns the 2nd best record in the AL and the 2nd best winning % in MLB.

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    • Steven Gomez says:

      This assumes no regression for the A’s down the stretch, or that division rivals will not improve.

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    • byron says:

      I’m thinking of the 99% chance to make the playoffs the author cited.

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      • Wobatus says:

        Dave does seem to be paying more attention to the value come playoff time.

        As far as rest of season, per zips projections Samardzija and Hammel are only worth .4 wins more than Milone/Straily.

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        • Jed Landmark says:

          Assuming Milone and Straily aren’t hurt by the time the playoffs come around. Their pitching depth and injury worries definitely justified this trade; not to mention the A’s likely won’t be able to hang on to guys like Donaldson and Cepedes after their contracts are done which can give them trade pieces to aquire more prospects down the road. Small market teams in a position to win now need to jump on the chance before the roster imploads due to market cap.

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        • @TimmyTime says:

          Looks like zips is 0.9 +0.7 for Samardzija and Hammel = 1.6 versus Milone at 0.8 and Mills at -0.4 = 0.4. That’s +1.2 wins over 1/2 of a season or +2.4 wins annualized (for the sake of convention.)

          I get your point on the Straily 0.4 projection, but I think the A’s had already basically opined there by demoting him – he was effectively a 0.0 WAR pitcher for the remainder.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Yeah, I think implicitly the positive reviews of this trade are assigning a fair amount of value to Samardzija’s hypothetical future contributions in the playoffs. I think I’d be inclined to assign less value to the playoff stuff than commentators who really like this trade for the A’s. Yes, a playoff rotation matters, but Samardzija is but one man, and a man who can only play once every four games at that, and a man who is not among the top 20 players at his position, at further that.

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      • Johnston says:

        He’s certainly no David Price.

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        • David Price vs Detroit’s right-handed hitting lineup or Shark and Hammel vs the same lineup, in a five or seven game series. Given the A’s internal options, I’d much rather have the Hammel and Shark duo than Price, in that narrow circumstance.

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        • Johnston says:

          It’s not just about the Tigers, though, now is it?

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        • It has been the past two years. I’m sure they don’t want it to happen the same way again this year. And Detroit is the most likely Central winner again this year.

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        • asdf says:

          David Price Career wOBA vs. R = .301
          2014 wOBA vs. R = .293

          He’s just good.

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      • atoms says:

        The playoffs are the point of this trade, though. It seems pretty clear that Billy Beane places a pretty high amount of value on “playoff stuff”, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s gotten the A’s to the playoffs plenty of times, but they’ve never reached the World Series. The goal of a baseball team is to win the World Series.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Sure. And I’m saying: I’m not sure you can build a team to win in the playoffs, any more than you can build a team to win any other given 11 games against high-quality opponents. So from that perspective, I like the trade less.

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        • Doug Lampert says:

          You probably can’t build to win in the playoffs, but Bean may have some evidence that you can build to lose in the playoffs.

          AFAICT He’s never put a big emphasis on ace pitching, and he’s never done very well in October.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          While I would presume it is, small sample sizes and all that, do we actually know it is impossible to build a team to win in any other given 11 games against high quality opponents? I imagine it isn’t exactly something that is tested in the regular season since temas do not actually try to do that.

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        • ReuschelCakes says:

          I think a more reasonable way of stating it would be this: you cannot build a team to win in the playoffs, but you sure as hell can upgrade weaknesses to better your odds…

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        • Peter 2 says:

          Well for one, winning in the postseason (versus the regular season), very obviously is more dependent on the front end of your rotation than the back end. A seven game series can feature a team’s ace starting three games, where that same stretch over a random selection of seven regular season games would feature half as many starts from the ace—and an equal number of starts from the #4 pitcher, who frequently won’t even make a start in a playoff game.

          My intuition is also that elite relief pitching tends to be more valuable in the playoffs, when there are many more high leverage late inning situations, and rarely any tendency to rest an arm—you are gonna trot Mariano Rivera out there every night if need be. As an example, Rivera has had individual playoff series where he’s racked up 7-8 innings by himself—there’s a reason he’s far and away the all-time leader in postseason WPA.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      There are diminishing returns on wins added, yes, but the A’s aren’t really at the point where that is true. Avoiding the Wild Card game is a big deal, and the A’s are still at nearly 1-3 to end up having to play their way into the division series. Pushing their divisional odds higher and their WC odds lower has a significant benefit and keeps the A’s out of the diminishing returns area.

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      • byron says:

        Sure, I’m not saying there’s no value, but aren’t the 86th and 87th wins still more valuable than the 92nd and 93rd? I guess I’d like to see a win-value curve updated for the deprecation of the first wild card spot.

        Also, do I remember right that sample sizes in the postseason are so small that, once you’re in, it’s close to random? How much do two pitchers actually move the needle on odds to win the title, assuming you make the ALDS?

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        • Plucky says:

          In the generic case you are correct, but the 2014 AL West is not the generic case. This is in part what DC means talking about the information change between offseason and midseason. It’s going to take at least 94 wins to win that division, and possibly as many as 97 or 98.

          But that aside, this is a Flag Fly Forever trade. The A’s may have just made themselves the best team since the ’01 M’s. No guarantee that wins you a WS (see of course, ’01 M’s), but good pitching > mediocre pitching, and the pre-trade A’s were at risk of relying a lot on mediocre pitching in October

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      • SickRick says:

        same philosophy drives them to add a 2Bman (need to win division and avoid WC)?

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    • Old School says:

      If Billy Beane was GM of the Royals at the time of the Shields-Myers trade, Dave would be praising the Royals.

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      • Psy Jung says:

        nah dude

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      • just one problem... says:

        If Billy Beane was the GM of the Royals before last season, the Royals don’t make the Shields trade.

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      • KDL says:

        Did you read the article and come up with the worst possible comment? Or just not read the article?…Because literally the entire article is a refutation of what you’ve written.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          To be fair, just because the article is intended to be a refutation of what the commentor said doesn’t mean it is a good one.

          Of course, seeing how lackluster the comment was, I’d agree with Dave. (Though I feel both were fine.)

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    • awy says:

      it’s not done for playoffs. derp

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  2. Hurtlocker says:

    Even if that kid Russell turns out to be the real deal, the Cubs will continue to suck. They need cmore than Russell to be a good team. The A’s may regret losing him but they will still be better than the Cubs.

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    • jpg says:

      Because being better than the Cubs is the goal?

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    • jmsdean477 says:

      BB has pre negotiated to get 2 pitching prospects in trade this winter, and reacquire Russell from the Cubs. They will give him a list of 5 of which he will get 2. Prolly top 100s but more in the 15-50 range. lol

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    • Johnston says:

      I disagree. With Russell, the Cubs have a boatload of talented young position players. If they get a new TV contract and can afford some pitching, I think you will be seeing them in the playoffs soon.

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      • jmsdean477 says:

        I was kidding, obviously don’t have a deal like this set up. I do expect BB has a plan of some sort though.

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        • Pete Carroll says:

          Yeah probably. It might even be something as out there as trying to make the present day Athletics as strong an outfit as possible…

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  3. Hmmm says:

    This is great. Just like you can’t guarantee Will Myers will be Ryan Braun, you can’t guarantee Russell will be young A-Rod. You can guarantee that 4 starts from Shark and Gray in a play-off series makes for a great chance to win the WS.

    I don’t know how the A’s intend to use the back-end of their rotation, but if I were Billy Beane, I’d use the sixth starter here and there to limit the innings on Gray and Chavez somewhat, and by that I mean I’d be tempted to keep Milone in long relief, but let him start at home since he’s so good there. That would be fun to see.

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    • Anon21 says:

      “You can guarantee that 4 starts from Shark and Gray in a play-off series makes for a great chance to win the WS.”

      But can you? What if Samardzija is just terrible in one or both of his starts? I know that way madness lies–why bother upgrading at all, when your reward is to get bounced by the “lol Zito is Cy Young this week lol” teams of the world–but it does bespeak caution in throwing around words like “great chance” to describe prospects in what is essentially an exercise in destroying the hard work done in the regular season of proving which team is best.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Yes, of course they can fall apart, as can any pitcher, but I would argue there is a noticably greater chance when throwing out Shark over theoritical Pitcher #4/#3.

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        • Anon21 says:

          How much are you going to actually notice that greater chance over the course of two trials with no repeats?

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        • Hawk Harrelson says:

          Quick calculation says if Oakland allows 3.7 RPG when Shark pitches and 4.4 RPG with Malone (going off FIP), you win one extra game in 14 based on 10 runs = 1 win. That’s an extra 7% per game, and that adds up the deeper they go in the playoffs.

          You could obviously come up with a more accurate number than that, but if you go with it…Relative to a simple coin flip, their chances of winning an individual series increase by 7%, 14%, or 17% depending on if you repeat the advantage 1, 2 or 3 times (i.e. W%=.5^3*.57 in a 4 game series, W%=.5^3*.57^2, for a 5 game series in which Shark pitches twice, and so on).

          In an 8-team tournament where all teams are equal, each has a 12.5% chance of winning, naturally. But if one team has a 63% of winning against all other teams, then its odds double to 25%. So while just adding a pitcher can never make a team a favorite over the field on its own, the acquisition makes more of a difference than you might expect.

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      • Baltar says:

        As you, yourself, point out, he did say “great chance,” not “guarantee.”

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    • Johnston says:

      “Guarantee”? LOL

      Clearly you are not old enough to remember Cy Young winners falling apart in championship games.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Why do you guys have a problem with what he said? If I’m going into a playoff series and I’ve got Samardzija and Gray lined up for 2 starts each, I’d have to like my chances at that point.

      In fact, I’d even say that having them lined up like that pretty much guarantees I’ve got a great chance at advancing.

      It’s kind of dubious that they would actually both line up for 2 starts each in a series, but that’s the premise the poster used for his statement.

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      • Anon21 says:

        “I’d even say that having them lined up like that pretty much guarantees I’ve got a great chance at advancing.”

        You can say that. Saying it doesn’t make it so. You’ve got an opponent who will probably be throwing good pitchers too, and who will probably feature a good lineup.

        It would help to quantify, though. I think Fangraphs can tell you that the numbers in replacing Milone with Samardzija in a given start don’t move as much as you might think.

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        • Nathaniel Dawson says:

          Yeah, I don’t know what you don’t like about that. In front of the A’s offense and defense, and a solid bullpen behind them, I’d have to be liking my chances if I’ve got Samardzija and Grey going in 4 of those games. I suppose it’s not an absolute guarantee that you’d have a great chance, as maybe the team you’re facing off against might also be a very good team and also have two very good pitchers lined up for 4 games. But Oakland has been the best team in baseball over the last two years, there’s not many teams that would match up as even up with them in a series.

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  4. My echo and bunnymen says:

    Beautifully written and broken down

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  5. bflaff says:

    A better comparison than the Royals and Shields would be the Phillies and Hunter Pence.

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  6. jpg says:

    Great stuff Dave. One question, if Oakland did indeed offer the same package or possibly a slightly better one to Tampa for Price, do you think the Rays will regret not pulling the trigger? Various reports are suggesting that Beane tried for Price first. Unless they think they can get Tavares plus other stuff from the Cardinals, it looks like Tampa may have overplayed their hand.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I’d rather have Russell than Taveras, honestly. But my guess is that Samardzija is more valuable to the A’s than Price, given the massive salary differences. They can afford to keep Shark for next year; they probably couldn’t keep Price. So I would bet that the A’s offered more for Shark/Hammel than they did for Price, and maybe only would have put Russell on the table if they got Zobrist too. Rays might believe they could do better than Russell by trading Price and Zobrist separately. But I think if the Rays did have a real shot at Russell, they might regret not taking it.

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      • SickRick says:

        yeah, big part of this is Shark will have reasonable salary next year and will almost certainly return a draft pick after he hits the market. Softens the blow of losing Russell a bit.

        They also must be high on the other two SSs in their system, Robertson and Pinder – both having super years in A+.

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      • jmsdean477 says:

        They will also have a glut of pitching they can deal from this winter with the 8 starters they have right now, and Parker/Griffen.

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        • Johnston says:

          And the A’s won’t be able to touch anyone like they just gave up with that pitching.

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        • Brendan says:

          agree w/ johnston. they could maybe restock some quantity by trading those guys, but parker/griffin aren’t going to bring back any top 100 prospects.

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        • MLBfa23 says:

          but parker/griffin can hypothetically reclaim their rotation spots in 2016 once kazmir/shark leave for free agency. of course no guarantee of their health yet

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      • jpg says:

        Either way, Tampa screwed themselves because they had to know that Russell could have been had. I’m sure they asked about Russell and I doubt Beane declared him untouchable. They could have simply offered to pay the rest of Price’s salary for the remainder of this year or they could have offered to take Jim Johnson off of Oakland’s hands to bridge that salary gap. Price’s remaining salary for this year – I don’t know the exact number but I’d guess it’s around $8 million – would have made up the gap between he and Samardzija’s price tag for next year.

        The Mets essentially did the same thing. When they shopping Beltran, they made it known that they were willing to pick up the rest of the contract if it meant getting a better prospect, which is how they were able to pry Wheeler away from the Giants. When they dealt Dickey, they agreed to take John Buck’s $6 million salary off of Toronto’s hands in order to facilitate the deal.

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      • guy smiley says:

        Do you think the Rays are maybe squeezing their pieces till the deadline? I know their chances of a playoff/division aren’t great at this point, but the AL East is pretty weak and headlined by a couple teams that might be playing a bit over their heads. The Rays have also played way under their expected win totals according to your last article on expected runs/wins totals.

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        • jpg says:

          “I know their chances of a playoff/division aren’t great at this point…” Honestly, that’s a pretty big understatement. They’re 8.5 games out in both the division and wildcard. They would have to leapfrog three teams to win the division and five teams to snag the last WC spot. They’re basically toast. Squeezing their pieces would only make sense if they felt there was a better deal to be had by waiting. I don’t see that happening. Russell is a top 10 guy and McKinney is a pretty nifty secondary piece. Even Straily would have been useful to them with all the pitching injuries they’ve endured.

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        • Joe says:

          Well this is the same core that made up 8.5 games in September 3 years ago if you’d recall…

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  7. The Fangraphs Rubber Stamp says:

    A’s smart. Royals dumb.

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    • Anon21 says:

      It’s kind of frustrating see this content-free comment left on an article specifically devoted to addressing the “argument” you’re making.

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      • Johnston says:

        You did not grasp his point? If the A’s do this kind of trade, it’s good, because they are the A’s and the A’s are smart. But the exact same trade is dumb if the Royals do it, because the Royals are dumb.

        He is concisely pointing out the double standards and hypocrisy this trade has generated in the media.

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        • Anon21 says:

          That “point” is exactly what Cameron addressed head-on in the piece this worthless comment is posted to. He goes through why, from his perspective, the two trades being compared are very far from “the exact same.” Disagree if you want, but engage, don’t just lazily snark.

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        • Anon21 says:

          “this worthless comment” = the one starting this thread, not yours. (Unless “The Fangraphs Rubber Stamp” is your pseudonym, in which case I’ll lump both comments together as worthless.)

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        • Johnston says:

          He can disagree by snarking if he wants to.

          This is the same trade. You can try to put lipstick on this pig all that you want, but it’s still the same pig. And it was dumb then and it’s dumb now.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Okay, I’m going to have to extend that “worthless” descriptor to cover your comments, too. If you want to disagree in a way that isn’t just wasting everyone’s time, don’t throw out tired cliches. Explain why the several distinctions that Cameron draws are wrong.

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        • Eminor3rd says:

          Did you… not read the article? The Royals weren’t good enough of a team to make the playoffs even after the trade. The A’s were a good enough team to make it before the trade. So the Royals get nothing, the A’s get playoff upgrade and insurance for the ROS.

          So, okay, same trade. but different context. That’s the whole point.

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        • Catoblepas says:

          Plus, Dave does a good job of explaining the difference in markets. The A’s had this level of talent in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean they would be at the position they are in July (see: Red Sox). Prices are drastically higher in season, because of that increased certainty, so the fact that the A’s paid even a similar price in July to what the Royals paid in December tilts the scale waaaay in their direction.

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        • paperlions says:

          If you really don’t think context matters in trades, feel free to make that argument. Good luck.

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        • Adam says:

          Johnston has been spouting the same tired bs all over the articles on this trade — we get it, man. You think this is a bad trade. That’s certainly a fine opinion if you really don’t like Samardzija and really like Russell. But if you think that this is the same as the Myers/Shields deal, you’re just being stubborn and letting your anger blind you.

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      • KCDaveInLA says:

        So, you and Dave Cameron think the Royals should just roll over and die than try improve their team? KC was a team desperately in need of legitimacy and experience, and keeping Wil Myers was not going to give them either. I didn’t love the trade when it happened, but I was glad to see the Royals finally try something bold instead of hording prospects that may or may not pan out.

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        • Pete Carroll says:

          I was one of the few (seemingly) that didn’t hate the trade at the time but – sans that run in 2003 – KC has seen their best run in over 20 years over the past year & a half or so. It isn’t really alchemy either.

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        • KDL says:

          There’s a HUGE difference between “roll over and die” and “trade away high quality cost-controlled talent for a longshot at the playoffs”.
          Christ, in the article Cameron even points out that they could have kept Myers and signed Feldman – for a much better overall value. How exactly does advocating such a free agent move equal “rolling over”?
          Your comment is the very model of “disingenuous”. And it’s plain wrong.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          They traded away one high quality cost controlled player, Myers, same as Addison basically.

          Shields has put up 5.9 WAR over the last two years. Feldman has put up 2.6 and Myers 2.8 for a total of 5.4 WAR: Those two players alone would not equal Shields. And Davis has put up over twice as much WAR (3.2 vs. 1.8) in that time. Getting a reductiong from Franceour puts them even, yes, but frankly that was mostly a function of the team being retarded in lineup construction (There was no reason not to platoon Jeff). And even then, -1.4 still puts the Royals ahead.

          I have no problem with the Royals going for it when their young talent meets the established talent that is leaving in two years: Unless you can sign your established talent to long term under market deals (Like Longo) or have a large group of lower ceiling higher floor prospects to go with your big guys (The Royals didn’t), all keeping Myers would do is spin the wheels and replace Alex Gordon when he leaves.

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        • KCDaveInLA says:

          KDL, maybe the ‘roll over and die’ comment was my exaggeration, but you missed my main point: the Royals decided that veteran leadership was more important than having another young uncertainty, and for Fangraphs writers (and the commenters who won’t dare question them) to keep slamming the Royals over the trade, THAT’S disingenous.

          Again, we KC fans know that this wasn’t ideal, but I respect the Royals more for trying to go for it (and yes, GMDM was trying to save his job. Wouldn’t you?) rather than expect another year of waiting around from their fans. Sure, it’s fun to watch a young team being young, but at some point, you have to start winning. To be fair, KC’s real mistake was putting Francouer in right field when Lorenzo Cain would have proven capable.

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    • Joe says:

      It seems as if you are making fun of Cameron for saying this.

      Does it matter to you that it’s true? And pointing it out is not dumb?

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      • Frank says:

        In addition to what Ruki says, recall that the 5.9 WAR on Shields was much less variable before the fact than the WAR on Myers, who still hadn’t played in the bigs, or on Feldman who was a bounce back candidate at the time.

        The better comparison for this A’s/Chicago trade is the Phillies/Astros trade for Hunter Pence. The Phillies substantially upgraded in RF over Ben Francisco with a player with 1.5 years of control left. They gave up top prospects to do so. If you applied the Cameron argument here, the Phillies should have stuck with Dom Brown, who was as close to major league ready as Myers and given up marginal prospects for a Feldman like player to upgrade over Raul Ibanez, who was the glaring hole in the team at that time.

        Further, the Phillies could definitely have swung such a trade at the time which casts doubt over the argument of Cameron, that the Free Agent market does not exist during the season. Sure, it may not for players like Pence, Shields or Shark but it still does exist for marginal players and bounce back candidates. These types of players can always be acquired free agent or otherwise at any time of year.

        The overall point, the Phillies traded for certainty of performance or close to it in moving for Pence and so did the Royals for Shields, so have the A’s in this trade.

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        • Hawk Harrelson says:

          Uhhhh. Two problems with comparing this to the Pence trade though. The Phils gave up Singleton, Correa, and Santana. That’s three good propects, and if I recall correctly the fourth guy wasn’t exactly fringe either, though I can’t remember his name. They got back 1.5 years of Hunter Pence, who was valued as somewhere between 3 and 4.5 WAR at the time.

          The A’s got back 1.5 years of Jeff Samardzija, who is currently worth somewhere between 3 and 4.5 WAR. So pretty similar to Pence. But they gave back Russell (who is probably better than all 3 of the guys the Phils gave up), a first round pick who doesn’t have a MiLB track record we can evaluate (worse than all 3 of the guys the Phils gave up), a busted prospect who wouldn’t stick in many starting rotations, and a PTBNL/cash. So the overall package was comparable, but probably worse.

          But the A’s also got back 0.5 years Jason Hammel, who is projected to add an additional win to their side of the trade, and has upside for more, since the projections pretty heavily weighting his production last year, which was ruined by an injury from which it seems he has recovered.

          The A’s are also higher on the win curve, since they are playing in what is probably the best division in baseball and have to worry about the effect of the 2nd wild card which wasn’t around when the Phils traded for Hunter Pence.

          So similar, but certainly not the same.

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  8. jmsdean477 says:

    Oak is currently on pace to out draw, attendance wise, any season in the last 10 years. I believe that the team aggressively pursuing upgrades will have a resulting affect on attendance. Also a deep Oct drive is worth progressively more from the post season war chest. I believe that the moves now will actually, if the results work as intended, allow the team to have more money/flexibility to work on the roster later.
    I also think in an intangible way the higher ups may have realize that if this team can win a WS, especially with colosseum issues on display for the world to see, that it would bring the stadium issue to a head, and force some traction on the issue.
    The other major difference in BB and DM is that BB has a track record to support his moves. I don’t know what his plan is for SS next season, maybe its trading Shark and Jaso(who seems largely redundant, if not a downgrade from Vogt) for prospects in the winter, then flipping those for a top SS, but the point is we don’t always see what BB is up to on the surface, but this is a guy who traded every star/All-star on the team 3 years ago, and since that move has resoundingly won the most games in baseball, and whats shaping up to be 3 division titels as a result. Call it a cult, but in BB we trust, since time and again he has made it happen. I think the flip side of losing Russell is gaining revenue, and further making this a desirable destination. Oak was offering Beltre only slightly less then TX a few years ago, after offering him more then Bos the year before that, I think with the team and club house culture in place now, it is at the top of almost any players list park and all.

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    • dross says:

      I am tired of the false Beltre line. A’s offered multi years to a free agent on an off year. Beltre took a single year at a higher per year number at Boston and then signed a huge contract at Texas. He played it smart and got more money than the A’s ever would have paid him. Why does that speak to the park or the culture?

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  9. Johnston says:

    I think that it’s exactly the same trade, and that it sucks for exactly the same reasons. Like the Fister trade and the Myers trade before it, this trade makes me want to throw things.

    I used to think Billy Beane was smart, but this trade made him look just like Dayton Moore.

    -45 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • geo says:

      Amen. And saying “it’s the A’s and it’s Billy Beane so it must be smart” does not reflect favorably on Dave or FanGraphs. Same with the Rays and Andrew Friedman. Both he and Beane have committed their fair share of clunkers.

      -30 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Andrew says:

      It may be a similar package of talent, but please explain how it is even close to the same trade. Improving a team from a playoff longshot to a playoff slightly less longshot is very different than improving a very good team that recently had been forced to start a $1 AAAA pitcher.

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      • Alex says:

        I’ve argue the Royals paid more for less too. I’d rather have Shark and Hammel than Shields and Davis, especially considering the former took one top 100 prospect while the latter required two.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Samarzdija the last 3 years, including this year: 8.2 (Using this year due to 3 years ago him being a reliever)
          James Shields the past 3 years, including this year: 9.4 (And unlike Shark, this cuts off a 4.5 WAR season)

          Shark has been better this year, but his HR/9 is a lot below his career average and even more under his last two years and he needs to keep that walk rate down to improve, if taking their track record into consideration Shields has clearly been better though. I can understand wanting Shark here due to age though.

          Wade Davis, past 3 years (Including this year): 4.2 WAR
          Jason Hammel, past 3 years (Including this year): 5.4 WAR

          Hammel has been superior and it mostly depends on what Hammel is real: 2012 Hammel or 2013 Hammel. The first is a great deal, the second less so. Amusingly enough, the difference in their WAR is exactly the same as Shark/Shields, but in reverse, so the amount of WAR for both sides is equal with both. So it is a pretty close trade.

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        • Alex says:

          Wade Davis is a RP this season. As great as he has been, I think the A’s prefer having a solid SP over a lock down RP. Can’t say I would blame them either.

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        • Alex says:

          Just to expound on that a little: Dayton was clearly trading for Davis as a starter, it’s why he spent all of 2013 in the rotation. Davis’s 2012 shows that he can/did have success in the bullpen, so it’s not surprising he’s been really good this season. That being said, it’s a lot harder for a mid market club to swallow paying $7 million (next season’s club option) and up for a RP, as good as Davis has been. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Davis on another team next season for that reason, leaving the Royals with just whatever they get in a trade for Davis and the comp pick for Shields.

          I think looks slightly different makes the trade look slightly different than the 2 years of Shields and 4 or 5 years of Davis they thought they were getting. Not necessarily worse, just different.

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    • Brian says:

      It’s the same trade…if you’re ready to equate a guy who only has 70 plate appearances above A ball with a dude who had two full seasons at AA and above, was ready to come up and play right away, and projected to put up a wRC+ of 120 or more (ended up being 131).

      Compare 2012 Wil Myers to a guy who is striking out 23% of the time in A+ ball, getting moved off SS by his new team, and projected by Steamer to slash .233/.293/.353 for a wRC+ of 83 if he were called up today. Which is barely playable at any position.

      This is one of the strongest points made in the above article, which covers how the two trades are fundamentally different, and does not “put lipstick on a pig.” I suggest you read it.

      +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Adam says:

      You’re a reactionary idiot if you think one trade that you disagree with all of a sudden makes Billy Beane dumb in your eyes. A very long track record of being a top GM is thrown away by one move that you (in the minority) personally disagree with. Go ahead and play armchair GM all you want and act like you know everything (trust me, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than you think) but it’s f-ing ridiculous and an absolutely folly to let one move stain an entire track record. That’s like saying Mike Trout sucks if he happens to go 0-5 with 4 Ks in one game.

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    • jmsdean477 says:

      His track record states that he knows more then you do, and that he has a way of making things work. Record of success is important dumb dumb. You were probably against the Cahill trade too huh.

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    • Helladecimal says:

      You’re obviously arguing from matters of principle than matters of fact. Could you assemble the winningest MLB team over three seasons on a shoestring budget in an intensely competitive division? I have my doubts.

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    • Pete Carroll says:

      Is this serious? I know people overrate prospects (this is putting it mildly) but the SEA-DET Doug Fister trade & the KC-TB swap look pretty good for the teams acquiring the more seasoned talent imo.

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      • Hawk Harrelson says:

        How so? Wil Myers was a 4.1 WAR/150 player last year, and the Rays only held him down because they wanted to miss the Super 2 date. This year is a down year but he was developing a stress fracture in his hand. Stress fractures aren’t discrete events. They happen over time and you could imagine how wrist weakness would impact a hitter. Anyway, they have 5 more years of team control on Myers over which you can evaluate him at below-market salaries.

        Shields was a 4.5 WAR player last year, so about the same as Myers on a prorated basis and looks like a 3 win pitcher this year. After this season he’s gone.

        So what do you prefer, six-to-seven years of Myers and $24 million over the first two years to spend as you see fit, or two years of Shields? Keep in mind you’re not a serious playoff contender. I think it’s clear which side you want.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Six-to-seven years of Myers won’t matter if the Royals are not competitive and they do not have the farm system to legitimately project themselves as competitive once Alex Gordon leaves (And taking away Shields either way, of course). Alex Gordon has put up an absurd amount of WAR since 2011 and Myers would just be replacing him, possibly with less.

        Also note that six-to-seven years of Myers includes the fact we’re still pretty unsure of what Myers will actually do in the majors: He has only has 141 games under his belt and both of his years featured pretty big things that cloud how to see them: A very high BABIP and a high HR/FB rate given his 46% groundball rate: Out of 46 qualified players last year whose HR/FB rate matched or exceeded Myers, 15.5%, only 4 did so with a GB% of equal or greater than Myer’s 46%: Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Cuddyear, Will Venable and Adam Jones. Mark Trumbo and Adam Lind also did so with a 45.9% GB%, enough to mention. His 46% GB% looks more similiar to players like Chase Headley (46.1%), Joe Mauer (46.9%), Nick Markakis (46.6%), Brandon Phillips (46.3%) and more that you can see by using the custom leaderboards yourself. He’s no Eric Hosmer but it is something disturbing, though with half a season of statistics rather hard to say if it means anything.

        Myers only flashed a lot of power in about 2 minor league seasons though, if you count his half season before being called up and ZIPS/Steamer both projected Myers for a more modest 2.6 WAR. Then again, I am probably biased, as I felt Myers was overrated before the trade even occured.

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    • LG says:

      Reading the article would have been too hard, huh?

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    • Paul M says:

      “I used to think Billy Beane was smart”

      Since June 1, 2012– when the A’s platoon essentially began. A’s are 224-138. W/L % of .619. Best record in MLB by 15 games. He’s still pretty smart, whatever you think….

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  10. Jonathan Aicardi says:

    This to me scrams more “championship or bust” move, which I suppose could be said to some degree for all buys in-season, but particularly for the A’s within context of all their close calls over the last decade and a half. They’ve fielded such good teams for so long and haven’t even made the World Series within Beane’s tenure. I have to think at some point there’s value-fatigue for this franchise simply making the playoffs year in and year out but never getting farther. As noted, this team was essentially guaranteed a playoff spot this season regardless. This move says they’re thinking bigger: 5 game series, 7 game series dynamics and so forth.

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  11. Exnra says:

    It’s amusing to see the fanboys post articles rationalizing/apologizing for Billy Beane. “It’s TOTALLY different,” they wrote, all too quickly after the trade.

    Dayton Moore (or Ruben Amaro before him) trade quality prospects to gear up for playoff run = BAD!

    Billy Beane trades quality prospeccts to gear up for playoff run = GOOD!

    People need to realize they’ve bought into Michael Lewis’ narrative. Not everything Beane does is smart.

    -25 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Johnston says:

      I’m an A’s fan and was a Beane fan, but this trade is totally the same.

      -29 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Billy Beane says:

        This is the first time I’m hearing you say this, and I’m crushed.

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        • Dayton Moore says:

          Ya hear that, Billy? That’s the sound of me and my Royals on your heels for a playoff spot. We’re similar me and you… very similar.

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      • Pete Carroll says:

        Your GM just traded for two potential difference making SPs (on a team with the best record in MLB as of today). Woe is you…

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        • Johnston says:

          He rented two players for a franchise prospect. This is the baseball equivalent of a farm family eating the seed corn. You eat now and starve later to pay for it.

          If the A’s get knocked out before or in the ALDS, this trade is going to make the Bagwell trade look REALLY good.

          -9 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Charles says:

          Wait, trading a prospect for a middle reliever = trading a prospect for two SPs, one of whom the A’s have control over for 1.5 years?

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        • Adam says:

          Just ignore Johnston. He’s either trolling or dense. Doesn’t respond to anyone’s legitimate arguments. Just spews reactionary hyperbole.

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        • Johnston says:

          Dismissive crap. If the A’s don’t win it all – and the odds are that they won’t, because this rental only helps them marginally (see ZIPS), the negative consequences of this trade are going to carry over for years and years. If you can’t see that, that’s not my problem.

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      • A's Fan says:

        F*** off, Johnston. You’re giving A’s fans a bad name on here.

        Beane has probably been the best GM in professional sports in the 21st Century, and you’re dismissing him like he’s a buffoon for making this trade. Most A’s fans are sick of coming up short in October… what’s the point of holding onto Russell (and not go all-in for a ring) when most of the current roster is likely going to be gone in 2016? I don’t know about you, fellow “A’s fan”, but I wasn’t really looking forward to having Tommy Milone or Drew Pomeranz start a critical playoff game (assuming they would have gotten to the ALDS without this trade…)

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        • Johnston says:

          F*** off yourself. Run the numbers and look at the future. Lowrie’s an FA in 2015 and we are looking at black holes at SS and 2B now. This rental is a marginal upgrade at best – look at the projection numbers – in exchange for which we, as a small budget team, gave away the cost-controlled jewel of our franchise. If Russell is what Billy has said he is – the next Barry Larkin – then this trade is an unmitigated disaster. You may be too blinded by visions of World Series glory to realize that yet, but a big chunk of our future just went down the toilet.

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        • Paul M says:

          “The negative consequences… are going to carry over for years and years”. OK– for years and years (15 to be exact) the A’s under Beane have won more compared to payroll than any team in the sport– than any team in almost every pro sport, for that matter. And even without allowing for payroll, I believe they have 4th best record in that time. They may suffer a downgrade for 5-6 years at 1 offensive position if Russell is a star and whomever they use to replace him isn’t. That downgrade could easily be countered by several other Beane (or Forst, since Billy probably won’t be the GM for this entire period) moves to improve the team in other ways, as has ben done before. And there’s a chance– a la 2007-2011– that the team will slip into mediocrity for much of Russell’s team-controlled period anyway. I’ll take my chances, thank you, with a 2014-15 team with a better chance to win it all.

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    • David says:

      Of course not. But the difference is that Oakland’s playoff run is much more realistic than the pipe dreams in PHI or KC. Going for broke when you’re close is a calculated risk. Going for broke when you’re wrong about being close is a disaster.

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      • jpg says:

        Bingo. Oakland is in a justifiable position to make this sort of gamble. Kansas City wasn’t.

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      • Brad S says:

        Calling KC’s chance a pipe dream just shows you don’t watch many royals games. The production in the 3 and 4 hole as been embarrassing and they’re still right there in contention because of all the great players they have.

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        • Helladecimal says:

          “Right in contention” is also different from “best in MLB and in best division.”

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        • Hawk Harrelson says:

          I thought this comment was a joke. Seems to me that if your 3 and 4 hitters are black holes you would rearrange your lineup so your best hitters are at least getting the most PAs with runners on base.

          It would seem then that you are admitting that not only do your players stink but your manager can’t even perform basic lineup construction tasks.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          To be fair, you can have good players and a manager who couldn’t manage watching paint dry.

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      • Mcneildon says:

        I don’t agree with the original commenter’s general premise, but I believe he is referring to the Hunter Pence trade in 2011 and the Roy Oswalt trade in 2010 for PHI and Ruben Amaro. In both of those seasons PHI finished with the best record in baseball.

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      • bflaff says:

        The Phillies had the best record in baseball the year before they traded for Pence (2010) and also the year they traded for Pence (2011). They got bounced in the NLCS both years, and then traded him away for prospects that haven’t had an impact. To get all of that, they traded away four solid prospects that I’m pretty sure they wish they still had.

        Cameron is right that the A’s are in a much better position to ‘go for it’ than the Royals are/were, and the Myers deal is a different animal for the reasons he describes. That said, the more relevant question to ask is whether or not the price Oakland paid was worth the upgrade.

        Best record, best team, best players – it doesn’t guarantee anything in a short playoff series. So what is the void OAK is filling, and why did it require Beane to offload top prospects?

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    • Brian says:

      You are implying that KC was actually gearing up for a playoff run. Do you actually think that KC was going to make a playoff run last year?

      Don’t you think that the before a GM makes a trade designed to help the team win in the present (at the cost of future wins), the first step would be to properly evaluate whether or not the team is any good?

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      • Brad S says:

        The Royals won 86 games last year last time I checked. Thats a pretty good team obviously.

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        • Brian says:

          Last I checked…that was good for 7th place in the league. Their pythag record was good for about 87 wins last year. Which means they were unlucky. Which means that if they were neither lucky nor unlucky…they still would have finished in 7th place.

          Did you mean “good, obviously” as “well the top half of the standings are good teams, obviously and the bottom half are bad teams, also obviously.”

          They finished 5.5 games back. That’s not particularly close. I guess you could have closed your eyes and believe that Escobar, Moustakas, and Cain underperformed by 2 wins each last year. Then you are 0.5 games better than TB for the last wild card spot any you won yourself a nice shiny half of a playoff spot.

          Or you could you somehow find the extra 7 wins on that roster that it would have taken to tie Detroit and get a full playoff spot?

          I thought not.

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        • jpg says:

          Exactly they won 86 games WITH Shields which means they were basically a .500 team before they got him. When you’re a .500 team that plays in a small market with limited funds, you don’t sell off the crown jewel of your farm system for a 4 win pitcher.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Five teams make the playoffs + wildcard game ever year, last year it was the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Indians and Athletics who made it. Only one other team had a record over 86, which was the Rangers. The Orioles and Yankees were 85. They did not make the playoffs and obviously that means it was a failure, but I would hardly say it means they were super far from trying.

          Personally, I was a proponent of the Royals trade (Though that is also because I felt and still feel Myers was/is overrated) and while I am a bit iffy on the Athletics trade (Mostly because they probably have a system that can better create another run of years after this) I can’t fault them for the trade.

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        • Hawk Harrelson says:

          If you look at the 2013 pre-season projections on coolstandings, you will find that the Royals projected for 79 wins at the beginning of 2013 (with Shields). So they did outperform the projections. Good!

          But what with needing 90+ wins to beat the Tigers and being projected behind most of the AL East AND West to be one-half of the wild card game, I’d say it was incredibly optimistic for KC to believe they were a likely playoff team.

          Consider that the Royals finished ahead of relative underachievers like NY, LAA, CHW and TOR and STILL they couldn’t make the playoffs. And they weren’t even really that close. It’s especially telling that even with CHW finishing 20 games (!) below the projection – that KC had 19 games against the worst underachiever in the league, and they weren’t good enough to make a serious challenge at the last playoff spot.

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        • Wobatus says:

          Royals have won 90 of their last 162 games. They are 3 1/2 out. 1/2 game out by pythag records. But much worse by baseruns. I think they have a shot. It’s a shame Zimmer has been hurt all year. And Butler and Hosmer have been awful. But it had been so long since they were even competitive fans of the team are at least getting meaningful games. And not every fan is analytically inclined and may just be happy fielding a team on the outskirts of the race with a chance to get in.

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  12. jdbolick says:

    This column is questionable on both ends. Myers was far from the can’t-miss contributor he was billed to be by some, as this season has shown. His long-term outlook is exceptionally bright, but there are some real flaws to be worked out. Meanwhile the general expectation was that Russell would be major-league ready at some point this season or 2015 at the latest. Obviously the hamstring set him back, but Addison is considered advanced both offensively and defensively to the point that he’s not far from contributing.

    Then as byron correctly pointed out, a team with an estimated 99% chance of making the playoffs is hinging the value of “going for it” entirely on the outcome of playoff games, a wager that this site and Cameron himself have pilloried in the past. Even Billy Beane famously referred to the playoffs as a “crapshoot.” And it’s not as if the A’s are replacing bums in their rotation. They sent down Tommy Milone and presumably will be moving Pomeranz back to the bullpen. Obviously Kazmir could get hurt or midnight could strike on Jesse Chavez, but there’s not an enormous amount of gain for Oakland from making this deal, especially if you’re like me and do not believe Samardzija to be on par with David Price.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JosephK says:

      The 99% figure is largely irrelevant; 71% is the number to focus on. Winning the division and avoiding the coin-flip game has tremendous value.

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      • jdbolick says:

        It’s not at all irrelevant, as again, we’re talking about modification of advancing odds in the small sample chaos of the playoffs. Moreover, how much does this deal really improve Oakland’s odds of winning the division? 5%?

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      • hk says:

        Especially when Felix Hernandez might be starting the coin-flip game.

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  13. Wobatus says:

    Not that this changes anything, but BA’s top 50 mid-season list just came out. Russell is number 5.

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    • Johnston says:

      You do not trade a #5 prospect. You just don’t.

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      • AF says:

        This comment perfectly captures the thinking that leads to the overvaluation of top prospects.

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      • Adam says:

        Yes, because a #5 prospect is automatically going to be an All-Star year-in, year-out. I mean, look at what Wil Myers is doing this year…

        Or, you know, look at how awesome every top 5 prospect in BA’s history has done…Jesus Montero is certainly a stud. So is Travis Snider and Brian Matusz and Cameron Maybin and Dom Brown and Brandon Wood and Jeremy Hermida and Andy Marte etc etc. Johnston, your comments scream 15 year old baseball fan who thinks he knows it all.

        http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          It’s true that a top prospect has no guarantee of success. It’s also paradoxically true that most successful teams build via the farm system and don’t trade their top prospects for moderate short term upgrades, especially when they’re on a low budget. A given prospect may have a negative career Expected WAR. But trading all of them for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel does not usually lead to success. Trading Addison Russell may or may not backfire. If the A’s routinely trade all their best prospects for non-superstars they’ll suck.

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        • Wobatus says:

          However, a lot of their team is built on non-superstars from elsewhere or prospects no one thought much of to begin with, leaving aside Sonny Gray. Crisp, Moss, Donaldson, Jason, Norris aren’t home grown.

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        • Brian says:

          @Ivan, what you’re saying is assuming that Billy Beane is always going to trade away top prospects in this type of deal. History actually implies that he does not routinely make this type of trade.

          If you are afraid to trade away some lottery tickets for proven players sometimes, you’re more likely to end up like the Rockies’ stars-and-scrubs mediocrity than the Rays’ homegrown juggernaut from years past. And if you haven’t noticed, their pipeline isn’t producing like it did during their golden years.

          If you are scared to go for it when you have a homegrown golden generation come through, then you are failing to maximize their talents. And then when your prospect luck regresses back towards the mean, what are you left with?

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          I was just trying to elaborate on the “Prospects are overvalued because they mostly don’t make it” meme. I don’t think the A’s will have that “stars and scrubs” problem because Beane is pretty good at getting serviceable pieces cheap. He’s not good at getting stars that haven’t been drafted or signed by Alderson. Before Josh Donaldson, the only example I can think of is Mark Mulder and he was the #2 overall pick.

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        • Johnston says:

          I’ve been playing, coaching and watching baseball since before most of you were born. Ivan said it best: “most successful teams build via the farm system and don’t trade their top prospects for moderate short term upgrades, especially when they’re on a low budget.”

          The A’s do not have the budget to recover from a mistake of this magnitude. The team will need to rebuild in two years or so and their crown jewel cost-controlled critical position player prospect was just traded away for two rent-a-pitchers. Take off your fanboy glasses: this is an unrecoverable error.

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        • Adam says:

          There are lots and lots of ways teams build winners. Show me your study that “most successful teams build via the farm system” — because this A’s team sure wasn’t.

          http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-unique-path-to-success-in-oakland/

          Yes, everyone remembers the “Core Four” but a lot of the Yankees’ success in the late-90s/early 2000s came from acquiring free agents. How about their 2009 WS win? Last year’s Red Sox?

          Stop spouting this cliche like it’s a truism. Back up your statements with numbers. This is Fangraphs, FFS.

          Also, Barry Zito…Nick Swisher…Blanton was decent, Rich Harden, Bobby Crosby. And I hope you realize that Alderson/Beane don’t draft/sign these guys. It’s the amateur scouting director and amateur scouts.

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        • Adam says:

          Johnston, the “playing, watching and coaching baseball before most of us were born” is the saddest, most irrelevant argument that there is. Particularly because it apparently hasn’t done you any good in the insight and analytical thinking department.

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        • A's Fan says:

          @Johnston

          I would gladly stomach a 100-loss 2016 or 2017 season (which probably won’t happen… Beane hasn’t even lost 90 during his tenure) for a World Championship in 2014 or 2015.

          I’d rather get a ring here & there than win 90 games every year and get bounced before reaching the WS…

          Keeping the future in mind is nice, but sometimes you have to just go for it. That time is now (and 2015) for the A’s. Crossing your fingers and hoping Kazmir/Gray/Chavez hold up the rest of the regular season AND in the playoffs was probably asking too much. Who would you rather have starting Game 4: Jason Hammel or Tommy Milone?

          “If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a s***.”

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        • LG says:

          LOL, Johnston, nice appeal to authority

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      • Helladecimal says:

        How many times have prospectors been fooled by iron pyrite?

        Look — a possible WS for OAK this year could potentially do very nice things for their revenue/payroll and attendance. It’s a gamble, sure, but many of the high-performing, underpaid players on this OAK squad will likely seek higher contracts with other organizations in the near future. If the revenue situation gets better in OAK, Beane & Co. would have more options at their disposal: retain some of these players at a higher price or venture out into the FA market with more confidence in their offers and a larger pool of possibilities.

        Since Beane has already decided to de-emphasize the farm system in favor of experienced ML-level but underutilized players, why would he risk losing hold of an intensely competitive AL West division just to cling dearly to a (read: potentially) star middle infielder? Is the small chance of developing a prospect into an All Star SS worth putting the very real chances at a successful playoff run at the mercy of a thin and unproven starting rotation? What alternative upgrade would you make? A 2B? Who would you move from this current roster to get a serviceable, even league-average 2B that would have the greatest chance to outperform the combined WAR of their platoon at that position? What 2Bs on the market are available and what would that price be? Would you be willing to tinker significantly with the position players given their current levels of production — mess with carefully constructed platoons, alter clubhouse chemistry when cohesion heading into the postseason becomes even more important? I’d like to hear your thought outside of anguished whining.

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  14. Joe says:

    So it’s a debate about whether or not the A’s overpaid or paid a fair price.

    The Royals debate was whether or not they were being dumb or moronic.

    It is clear to me that Shields was going to be trending down as soon as the trade was made, while Samardzija still has more good years ahead. He was a late bloomer and doesn’t have the mileage.

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    • jdbolick says:

      Joe, do you not realize that Shields had either his best or second best season after being traded? Samardzija is two years younger at the time of the trade, yet while minor league innings might be considered less taxing, he’s still amassed 1128 over the last eight years. That’s not exactly a fresh arm.

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      I think it’s clearly an overpay. The point about win curves is that sometimes an overpay is justified. There weren’t many good pitchers available. If Price was too expensive and you don’t want to go into the playoffs with a replacement level starter on staff and quite possibly pitching a 1 game elimination game then you make a trade, even if it’s an overpay.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Neither Jesse Chavez or Tommy Milone are replacement level.

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        • Stan Gable says:

          Maybe not technically but if you think either is a reasonable facsimile of Jeff Samardzija then I’m not sure what to tell you.

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        • jdbolick says:

          This is FanGraphs. Why is anyone talking about Jeff Samardzija as if he’s an ace when his profile has stayed the same, he’s just been luckier on fly-balls this season? If Oakland traded Russell for David Price I would be fine with that. Price costs more, but the A’s presumably won’t spend $10 million on a closer in 2015.

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        • Stan Gable says:

          Thanks for the clarification as I thought I was The AV Club. I was wondering why this piece was light on Alison Brie mentions incidentally.

          Anyhoo, absolutely nowhere in the post that you responded to was it expressed that Samardzija was an ‘ace’. If you earnestly don’t feel that he’s a decided upgrade over either Tommy Milone or Jesse Chavez though, well, we agree to disagree.

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  15. Johnston says:

    “Trading Russell does not make the A’s any worse”

    Disagree. It makes the A’s significantly worse from about 2015 to about 2021. Just not this minute.

    -23 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eminor3rd says:

      The full quotation: “Russell’s value is entirely in the future, and when you’re making a go-for-it trade, you want to maximize your team’s present value. Trading Russell does not make the A’s any worse; trading Myers absolutely resulted in a downgrade for the Royals in right field.”

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    • Brendan says:

      I’m an A’s fan too, and I share your concerns. How much better would russell as SS, lowrie at 2B be than what we are running out there now? 1.5 wins over the rest of the season? vs. a pitching upgrade of maybe 3 wins?

      I understand the logic, and I know our pitching is thin, but this makes me very nervous about 2015 and beyond.

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      • AK7007 says:

        Right now, the A’s second basemen project to be worth around another half win over the rest of the season. Replacing them by moving Lowrie over and having Russell play SS is going to be a win and a half upgrade? Really? That would be projecting Russell as a true talent four win player today. That requires extreme bullishness on Russell. More likely? He’s just a marginal upgrade today, and a significant one in the future.

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        • Wobatus says:

          I mentioned before that Samardzija and Hammel are only projected by ZIPS as a .4 wins above Milone/Straily. Not sure I buy that, or that Russell isn’t an upgrade over Sogard etc.

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        • Johnston says:

          “I mentioned before that Samardzija and Hammel are only projected by ZIPS as a .4 wins above Milone/Straily.”

          The Billy Beane fan club wants to ignore that. This is a huge rent-a-pitcher upgrade! Really! And mortgaging the future for 0.4 additional wins is a great trade! Really!

          Nonsense.

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        • Adam says:

          ZIPS is pretty bearish on Samardzija and bullish on Milone (and always has been) and doesn’t know that Straily has lost a bunch of velocity and turned into a pumpkin.

          I don’t think you’ll find a single person in baseball who thinks that this trade hasn’t improved the A’s by more than .4 wins for the rest of the year. Good thing they play the games and we don’t just put ZIPS projections in a computer simulation.

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        • Paul M says:

          ZIPS had A’s at .500 or worse in their pre-season projections. It and every other metric has continually said, even after A’s started winning this spring, that they will play .520-.540 ball the rest of the season, and yet they keep winning at a .610-.630 rate. Part of the reason for that is Beane’s ability to make smart moves DURING the season (the platoon inception in 2012. Putting Pomerantz in the rotation. Bringing Vogt up despite him being a “third catcher”. And now this trade.) This may be his most underrated virtue– nearly all of the best A’s teams during the Moneyball era have gotten better as the season progressed.

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        • Wobatus says:

          Adam, yeah, I think ZiPS is likely off on this.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      I’m not even sure that he won’t contribute this year. Replacing Sogard and Punto with Russell would be an upgrade in my opinion no matter what Steamer has to say on the topic.

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      • AK7007 says:

        The A’s obviously weren’t using your opinion to make trade decisions. What motivates your opinion to be so bullish on Russell and judge his current projection inaccurate?

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          Even according to his current projection he is a 0 WAR player, not a -20 WAR player. A 0 WAR projection is the 50th percentile projection. Therefore there is some 20% – 40% chance that he’ll be worth something, even according to Steamer. That is perfectly consistent with “I’m not even sure that he won’t contribute this year”. Obviously the A’s don’t see it that way. I disagree with them.

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        • Adam says:

          And I think I’ll go with Billy Beane instead of random dude on the internet who thinks he knows it all and has probably never seen Addison Russell play.

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        • suicide squeeze says:

          0 WAR is not 50th percentile, at least when it comes to major league players. And if there is a 20-40% chance that Russell would be above replacement, then there is a similar chance that he would be below replacement as well. It just wouldn’t be worth potentially hindering Russell’s development to call him up on the off chance that he represents a small upgrade right now.

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      • Brian says:

        Quite possibly true. But how much of an upgrade are you expecting? Isn’t that important?

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          Sure. I have no idea. If there’s maybe a 30% chance that he’s a 1 WAR player and a 15% chance that he’s a 2 WAR player then that has to be factored in.

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        • Doug Lampert says:

          And if there’s maybe a 30% chance that he’s a -1 WAR player and a 15% chance that he’s a -2 WAR player that has to be factored in.

          0 WAR is the projection, he could be better, but he could also be worse if you rush him to the majors prematurely, and you’re starting the counter on team control for a 0 WAR player.

          How would calling him up now on this kind of speculation be a good idea?

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Problem: It only potentially makes the A’s worse from 2015 from 2021, because there is a good chance Addison will not be very good.

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      • Johnston says:

        Oh, yes, Russell is so not-very-good that AFTER the trade Billy told Theo that the Cubs “had just got Barry Larkin.”

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          I am merely pointing out the fact that you can’t say a prospect will succeed either way. Addison had the same risk associated with him beforehand and planning on him being a success beforehand would still be a mistake. Regardless of the trade, you cannot assume a prospect will fulfill their talent.

          Also, of course Billy would say that. I think you’d much rather build a reputation that you trade valuable players regardless of what the player’s value actually is. And when was the last time ANY GM traded a prospect and then was like “Yeah we hated that guy” regardless?

          Disliking this trade is fine and maybe even correct. Assuming Addison Russell will be good regardless of the trade is not.

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    • atoms says:

      Things that have future value are discounted in an NPV calculation.

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  16. Joe Hieronymus says:

    As a lifelong Royals fan, I can say with certainty their front office is clueless. I envy clubs like Oakland and Tampa who are savvy. Royals will likely be mediocre the rest of this season then regress next year. Dayton Moore should have been replaced four years ago and his trade was a desperation move to save his job. Sad thing is whoever inherits his mess is loking at a three year rebuild minimum.

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    • Brad S says:

      Look at all the great players we have. You are obviously not a fan just a royals hater. Just another hater that can’t give the royals any credit where credit is due.

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      • Sam says:

        I’m a Royals fan and I 100% agree with him. Moore’s drafting alone should have gotten him canned, let alone paying players such as Franceour and Betancourt to step on the field. Moore’s been in KC what, 8 years now? Arguably our two best offensive players are still Gordon and Butler…not coincidentally both leftovers from the previous regime. Hosmer? Moustakas? Not exactly a lineup of greats, especially when you consider the long list of busts that Moore’s minor league system has failed to develop despite drafting in the top 10 for 6+ years. Moore has failed to do in 8 years (make the playoffs) what we in KC see other GM’s in Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Washington, etc, do in 3 or 4 years, and at some point you have to stop making excuses and point the finger of blame at Moore.

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  17. Nick says:

    Given their ballpark and defense, if I’m the A’s or an A’s fan I would have much preferred a Brandon McCarthy reunion at his price to this deal.

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  18. Dylan says:

    “The wins that Samardzija will add to the A’s are simply more valuable than the wins that Shields added to the Royals, either last year or this year.”

    I think this goes against every Most Valuable Player column ever written on FanGraphs

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Only if you assume that the MVP award requires a winning team, which practically everyone on this site does NOT assume.

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      • atoms says:

        I think he’s saying that FanGraphs folks generally are willing to say that a very good player in a Tulowitzki-type situation who are transcendent stars stuck on a bad team should still be considered for things like MVP, but in this situation, Cameron is nevertheless arguing that talented players have higher marginal value to competitive ballclubs that can reach, which tends to be more in line with the thinking of those who argue that the MVP award should go to the best player on a winning/playoff team.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          I believe the difference is that, to the team, the contribution is larger if it is on a good team. However, the value of the player himself is unchanged.

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    • KDL says:

      You’re thinking of value in a much different way than it is used in that quote.
      A one dollar bill is obviously more valuable than a 75 cent. (MVP value)
      But in a situation where I desperately want a Dr Pepper from an exact-change-only vending machine 75 cents is more valuable TO ME. (value in the quote).

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  19. Marco says:

    If anyone is willing, there are a couple things I’m curious about:

    1. The notion that the playoffs are a crapshoot once you’re in. I hear this quite a bit. Is it believed to be generally true?

    2. The A’s 99% playoff probability. Do people believe in this number?

    If both are true, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the value the A’s received. Is a top 10 prospect really worth a marginal playoff probability upgrade? What did their WS odds go from? 15% to 18%?

    Thanks in advance.

    PS Maybe this is a rent Shark and then trade in offseason play?

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    • JosephK says:

      If every round is a crapshoot (i.e., 50/50 odds), then the A’s can double their WS odds by virtue of winning the division and avoiding the WC play-in game. Basically, the odds go from 6.25% (.5*.5*.5*.5) to 12.5% (.5*.5*.5) once you’ve bypassed that first hurdle. I think this move is mainly aimed at securing the division; any marginal playoff probability increase, however small, is just a nice bonus.

      Are they a total crapshoot? I’ll leave that to someone else. I seem to recall Nate Silver or someone at BP doing some work several years ago on factors that led to playoff success, but it turned out to be a dead-end I think.

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      • Rawson says:

        Sorry, late to the party. The study you mentioned was in the final chapter of Baseball Between the Numbers, written by Silver and Dayn Perry. They did regression-type analyses of all the playoff teams from 1975 to 1995. The three factors “with the most fundamental and direct relationship” to playoff wins were closer win expectancy (WXRL), pitcher K% (total staff) and defensive fielding runs above average (FRAA). In other words, run prevention. Maybe Beane was paying the price for his devotion to advanced offensive statistics? If so, he seems to have learned something – Fangraphs ranks the 2014 As as the 7th-best defensive team in MLB.

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        • Beane may have learned something. He’s been having good defensive teams but he didn’t learn the pitcher strikeout rate part up to now, but Shark and Hammel are putting up numbers higher than what the A’s team has been putting up for strikeouts. But he’s still off on the closer unless Doolittle can continue his outrageous numbers.

          FYI, BP has officially said that the findings of this chapter was no longer valid. And they stopped their Secret Sauce articles.

          I would argue that BP doesn’t understand the findings of that chapter, and that the findings are still valid.

          And frankly, the discoverer of these three factors, Silver, did his creation no favor by creating his Secret Sauce articles and the methodology in them.

          The problem with the Secret Sauce methodology for those articles, and why it failed to be predictive, is that the teams were ranked relative to each other. Of course that did not yield great predictive power, we had no idea of where the teams placed in the history of these stats, which is what the authors in the book did. If the teams were ranked roughly around each other historically in terms of the three factors, it would be like trying to figure out who would win the series if you have two .600 teams playing each other, it would be random, mostly. And the point of the factors is not that it was a guarantee of a team going deep into the playoffs, but that their odds are improved.

          What should have been done is slotting each playoff team into the history of all playoff teams and assigning their ranking in history. As the table in the book showed, teams ranking high got into the playoffs and won the World Series. What the Secret Sauce article should have reported is where each playoff team that season slotted into the historical ranking overall for all playoff teams, so that way we can see if, say, all the teams were bunched together, or if there was a team or two who were outliers for good or bad. If they are bunched, you should expect a season where the winner is kind of random, the crapshoot. If there is an outlier to the better side, that would be the team to watch. If there is a outlier to the poor side, that would the team expected to lose.

          And things still might not work out, this was only meant, from what I understand, to give an indication of how likely or not a team can do deep, it was not 100% factoring. And I still like it for that.

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        • Another good thing from ranking is that then they can report, say, how the teams, say, ranked 10 ahead and 10 behind, did in the playoffs, that would give a better idea of what to expect from each team. Ranking in the Top 10 overall clearly was impactful, but since they didn’t provide the full ranking, we have no idea at which point the ranking is all random, or even if the predictive value was all on the top only.

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        • Why I believe it still works is multi-faceted.

          I’ve been studying PQS in the playoffs and found that teams that have pitchers that dominate (i.e. have a quality start sabermetrically) maximizes their chances to win in the playoffs. Win rate roughly 75-80% when the other team does not have a dominant start (and roughly 55-60% of the starts were not) and obviously mano-a-mano when you have a duel of good starts. I know it’s obvious that a quality start improves your chances to win a game, but what this does is shows how much it improves your chances.

          PQS uses sabermetrics to rate a start and strikeouts is a key component of having a quality start, making up 40-50% of the scoring that makes a start rated as a quality start.

          I’ve also found that, much like the old quality start stat, there are pitchers who throw quality starts more often than others.

          And that fits in with a finding from that BP chapter, they found that having a good 3-man rotation was a significant factor in moving deeper into the playoffs. To simplify the methodology, they narrowed the factors down to three that they thought were key, but a 3-man rotation was a significant correlation.

          And it also states how important strikeouts are for starters and thus relievers as well, tying in with the strikeout rate factor.

          Tie that in with a good fielding defense – which maximizes all the BIP for outs – and you got two of the factors of going deep into the playoffs. And obviously having a shutdown closer is great for going deep.

          But that also has another consequence outside of the playoffs: you reduce the run environment in your games that you play in. That makes your offense not need to be as good as other teams. Using Pythag, for a .556 team (or 90 win team), for every 0.1 runs you can reduce RA, the necessary RS to maintain that winning percentage drops 0.11 runs. Or viewed from the other direction, for every extra 10 runs you give up, you need to score an extra 11 runs in order to maintain your .556 winning percentage.

          Thus, if your team is among the top 3 overall in the majors in RA, your offense don’t need to be as good as the average team, it can be much below average and still win enough to make the playoffs. So it makes it easier for you to make the playoffs as well.

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    • Dylan says:

      The playoffs are not actually a crapshoot. That’s a saying that people use to put forward the fact that there’s a lot of randomness in a sample size as small as a 7 game series. However, a better team still has a better chance of winning.

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      • Walter says:

        I cant’t remember the place or the exact numbers, but the number that pops into my head is that a typical 7 game series might see one team as about 55-45 favorite. If I’m at all right there, shark is maybe worth a couple tenths of a percent in 7 game series. The bigger value is certainly in the no-one-game-playoff insurance.

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        • Matt says:

          I just know that facing Verlander and Scherzer the last two years didn’t seem like a marginal advantage. Especially in game 5.

          There is a difference o be made by a starting pitcher in a playoff series. In fact with no statistical analysis at all on my end I would say high end starting pitching is the number one attribute of a playoff winner.

          I would guess baseball takes 162 games to statistically separate teams enough to be legitimate, but that this is mostly due to separating .73. to .301 batting averages.

          If every team faced a ghost offense of the same batters abd pitchers were the only difference I would guess the cream would not take nearly as long to rise to the top.

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        • Matt says:

          I meant .273

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    • Marco, the playoffs are a crapshoot if the teams are evenly matched. As I noted in my comment above, if you have a good rotation, that’s no longer true, you have the advantage now.

      But advantage does not mean you will win every time. Kershaw is good and has the advantage, but he does sometimes lose.

      The idea is to build up a rotation of pitchers who throw quality starts a lot. The best pitchers, per PQS, reach 70%+ from my review of past seasons stats. Elite pitchers 50-70%, good, at least 40%.

      Hammel is at 94% for the season. I’ve never seen any one do that over a full season, if he can stay anywhere close to that for the A’s, they got a steal and he would go a long way towards helping the A’s go deep.

      I would note, however, that the Phillies took that lesson from the Giants in 2010 into 2011, and they got 5 quality starts and lost in the first round. It is no guarantee, just like having a gun in a man to man fight is no guarantee that you will win, but if you are up against a guy with a knife, you have to like your odds.

      And Hammel had 50% quality starts in 2012 and only 22% in 2013, so if he reverts to either, he’ll be a nice add if 2012 form, horrible add if 2013 form.

      Shark is at 67% this season, which is great.

      About the 99% playoff probability, the Giants were there not a month ago or so, and now they are not even leading their division. They lost their leadoff hitter and their #3 hitter, lets see how well the A’s does if they lost Crisp and Cespedes for a month.

      That said, I would believe it mostly, injuries happen, but mostly teams are relatively healthy and will continue playing to their abilities, and I don’t have the impression that the A’s were playing above their heads in the first half, though Doolittle likely will regress big time at some point, right?!? Take out his outperformance, and they could be tied with Angels right now, no?

      I don’t like the trade mostly because Beane does not appear to be a good judge of baseball talent. To me, he appears to be a notch above any of us, a rotisserie player, trading up a storm. How does he trade off Ethier for Bradley, only for Ethier to outhit Bradley in the very next season? Then he trades off CarGon (and a closer who is still closing) for Holliday, and again, Cargon in his first season outhits what Holliday did for the A’s. In both cases, the A’s basically end up with nothing for their future.

      I understand trading for the flag flies forever, and that eventually a prospect produces, like Wheeler for the Mets, but twice, he didn’t see that his prospect was on the verge of breakout superstardom and traded him for a vet, then trades his way down to nothingness for those prospects.

      He also ended up with nothing for Hudson, and among Chavez, Tejada, and Giambi, lets the other two go away for a draft pick, while signing Chavez long-term for big money. Once or twice, I can say it was just bad luck, but to me, that’s a history of talent misjudgement.

      And studies by BP and THT has shown that teams generally know what they got, and generally hold onto the prospects and players that they know to be good, only letting go of the ones they don’t think as much of. Sabean may not always get what he needs in a trade, but he’s very rarely given up a prospect worth anything after he’s traded away. Only Liriano perhaps qualify, but his injury history cost the Twins Mauer’s and Morneau’s peak golden years. Then there was Foulkes and Howry traded away, Villaneuva, no real prospect traded away, heck, one of the better ones who got away came back in Vogelsong.

      Meanwhile, he kept Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford, Wilson, Romo, the core of the two World Championship teams. Imagine how good the A’s would be right now had they kept Ethier and CarGon and traded both away 3-4 years ago for a bundle of prospects, they might already have their good starters and could keep Russell instead of having to trade him away.

      But to the point of those who say that a top prospect is no guarantee, I traded for LaRoche in a keeper league back when he was a top prospect, he was suppose to be my future starting 3B, and he never even got near that at all. But to my point above, Beane has a bad history of knowing what he has in hand with position players. How do you miss that?

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      • Paul M says:

        Beane “bad history of knowing what he has in hand” “poor judge of talent”– sure, right… Nobody is infallible, not even him. He has made mistakes. Newsflash. I will simply repeat the obvious– a franchise with the 3rd or 4th lowest payroll over the past 15 years has the 3rd or 4th best record… And easily the best in MLB since Beane completed his retooling of the latest iteration on June 1, 2012 (Donaldson to 3B, Cespedes back from injury; inception of multiple platoons) I’d hate to think what the world would be like with a really bad GM– but I guess fans of multiple franchises know already.

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        • OK, I didn’t mean to argue that he’s not a good GM. Anybody who can regularly win a division has to be good in some ways, in my mind.

          And that’s exactly what I mean, every GM makes mistakes, even GM has a blind spot. No GM is perfect. I find that nobody seems to mention his mistakes nor feel like discussing them.

          And there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES. I think that trading off a young player – twice – where the young player, the very next season, outproduces the veteran that you just traded for, is a MISTAKE.

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  20. Brad S says:

    Bottom line – the Royals are better off with no Will Myers and Dyson and Cain in the outfield. Last time I checked Jeff Francour has been gone for along time so that argument was completely irrelevant.

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    • jpg says:

      Dayton is that you?

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    • Joe Hieronymus says:

      Gordon, Cain and Dyson are a fantastic defensive outfield and all are decent with the bat. It is frustrating Yost doesnt fill out his lineup card with them more. Aoki and Ibanez are bad jokes. Additionally, Shields is unlikely to re-sign this winter.

      If the Royals are serious about contending, they should fire Dayton Moore and Ned Yost.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Very much this. Dyson and Cain would be a lot better as full time guys, though Cain is often injured, Aoki isn’t a joke but on a team with so many good OFers he is clearly the plug and play 4th OFer. As for Ibanez, well…I suppose it just wouldn’t be the Royals if there was not some black hole of despair to suck away one’s hopes.

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  21. Noodles says:

    I think the main debate is how many wins Hammel/Samardzija add over Milone/whoever else they bump?

    Milone isn’t great but pitching around league average. Pomeranz (if he’s the one being bumped) has looked good, given Hammel’s history it isn’t a sure thing he’s an upgrade at all.

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  22. Ivan Grushenko says:

    I’m not convinced there’s no double standard here:

    Royals —

    Improved by 2 WAR in 2013 and maybe 1 WAR in 2014 to improve their chances at the playoffs from maybe 10% to 20% and their chances at a World Series title from 0% to 1%. I don’t know the precise numbers from 2013 but I doubt it’s a lot different that that. Ah but they could have just signed Scott Feldman, so they’re stupid.

    Athletics —

    Improved by 2 WAR in 2014 and maybe 1 WAR in 2015. Chance at playoffs remains 99%, or if you buy that Kazmir and Gray and Chavez are about to collapse maybe from 90% to 99%, and improve their chances at a World Series title from 12.5% to 13.5%. Never mind that Russell might help at the end of the year — Steamer’s 50% projection is that he won’t so there’s maybe a 30% chance that he will. Also never mind that they could have acquired Brandon McCarthy unless the Diamondbacks weirdly prefer Vidal Nuno to Dan Straily or Tommy Milone or Renato Nunez.

    1) Why is improving a shot at the World Series from 12.5% to 13.5% valuable but not improving your shot from 0% to 1%?

    2) Why are you so sure that Russell won’t contribute at the end of the year. He’s crushing AA at 20 coming off an injury and having hardly played at that level.

    3) What about Brandon McCarthy?

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    • 1) Because it’s more likely they’ll even make the playoffs. The Athletics basically become closer to mediocre later for being more likely to be the best team in baseball this year. The Royals traded being a playoff team for years for being mediocre for 2 years.

      2) Same reason people were suspect of Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Mike Moustakas, etc. Plus Beane knows more about his own prospects than anyone. Makes me inclined to think he’s not as good as thought.

      3) Good point.

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      • Ivan Grushenko says:

        1) This is true both before and after the trades. The trades made a 1% difference for both teams in terms of winning the World Series and a bigger difference for the Royals in terms of making the playoffs. Having Wil Myers does not equal having a playoff team for years to come.

        2) Why does this not apply to Wil Myers as well?

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        • atoms says:

          The marginal value of that 1% change is higher to the 12.5% team though.

          It’s like if you give a $100 to a starving broke person, it will have a lot of value to that person, but if you give $100 to a billionaire it will be almost meaningless to that person. Same amount of money, different marginal value.

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        • Hawk Harrelson says:

          2) Wil Myers was a fully developed player at the time of the trade. He hit 37 HR across all levels with a 137 wRC+ in AAA and a 212 (!) wRC+ in AA in 2012. You can with a fair degree of accuracy predict that he would hit for between 110-130 wRC+ in MLB given that track record.

          If you disagree then that’s OK, but then how can you predict how Addison Russell’s 131 wRC+ in High-A would translate to the MLB level? Steamer says it looks like an 83 wRC+. Point is, we can’t really predict how tools can play in-game until we see some sort of track record in the high minors. That’s why you don’t see teams promoting hitters very often straight from AA into MLB. And that is how Addison Russell is different from Wil Myers.

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      • Antonio, to my point above, Beane should know his prospects better than anyone, yet he traded both Ethier and CarGon and they became superstar players the very next season, both producing better than the veteran player the A’s got back in trade. The A’s ended up with nothing from those two trades, which is probably why they were in such a black hole for 4-5 years after those trades, until he put together this team.

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        • This reminds me of the black swan example where if you roll the dice enough times, you can see almost any sequence of “success” even if it is happening randomly. Beane to me is that crapshooter, rolling the dice constantly with his trades and rebuilds. He gets credit for his successes, but I’ve never seen anyone complain about losing both Ethier and CarGon for nothing, let alone anyone noting the fact that both Ethier and CarGon outperformed the veteran they were traded for, THE VERY NEXT SEASON!

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        • Wobatus says:

          Andre Ethier has never been a superstar player. I think he is decent and gets short shrift here because he’s overpaid, but he’s been a roughly 3 WAR player until recently, cracking 3 for a full season once.

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        • Paul M says:

          Please Wobatus– don’t throw facts into the equation. Including CarGon’s road stats… It’s more fun watching the Beane haters just wind this thing up on their own… Can’t beat the entertainment.

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        • OK, I was hyperbolic with Superstar, but the point is that Ethier out produced Bradley, the very next season, which nobody seems to care about.

          And producing at 3 WAR a year is still pretty good, I would say, that’s the whole idea behind replacement value, to show that even average 2.0 WAR players are still pretty good, and that translates to $18M per year in production, I mean, is that something to sneeze at today, I still think that is a lot of production.

          Paul M, I didn’t realize that pointing out mistakes makes me a hater. What I hate are loose ends. Nobody points out Beane’s mistakes or discusses them, much. I’m all about facts.

          Here are the facts that I can’t connect: how does a professional GM, and studies have shown that GMs generally know what talent they have and keep the talent while letting go of the lesser talents, trade away two prospects on the brink of breaking out, for two veterans who end up producing less than the prospect, the very next season?

          To your point, he’s a good GM overall – I didn’t know I had to profess my admiration for him before discussing his faults or get branded a “hater” – but I think he has a blind spot in terms of judging when his own players are about to break out, which suggests that he (or rather his organization) don’t really know how to assess their own players talents properly and need better talent evaluators. Hence my comment about being a rotisserie trader. But he’s obviously good at that, else he wouldn’t have the results in W/L.

          But to miss that two players were ready to break out to be good players – the very next season – seems like huge mistakes to me. And that seems pertinent to this discussion since he is trading another young stud who appears to be breaking out soon, perhaps next year. If you disagree, do so and explain why, as I’m not stuck to my position, but this does bother me and I’ve never seen any good explanation.

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  23. JCougar says:

    Dave, you also didn’t mention a third reason why this trade makes sense for Oakland. This prevents their main competitor for the division title (which is of course still important in making it deep into the playoffs) from deriving the same benefit. So not only is it +2 wins or whatever for OAK for the rest of the year, it’s two less wins the Angels could possibly acquire.

    Of course, normally, you could argue that the Angels, if they wanted a 2-win upgrade, could easily find replacement wins on the trade market, and this doesn’t really block them all that much…but I’m not so sure. They simply don’t have good enough prospects to trade for Price.

    As far as Cliff Lee or Ian Kennedy goes, it’s possible the Angels could get one of those guys, but Lee is an injury risk, and there will be a lot of suitors for Kennedy.

    And as far as the rest of the potential SPs on the trading block, they all pretty much suck.

    I still think they overpaid, though…basically because I don’t think Samardzija is all that good. His best season was in the bullpen, and outside of this year, he’s been a #4-type starter in a league with a DH. They got 2 seasons of back of the rotation starters for an elite prospect at a position where there are very few elite hitters. And I personally prefer the “continually competitive” model over the boom/rebuild model. They built this current team via shrewd trades and waiver-wire pickups…who’s to say they can’t replace these current guys via the same methods?

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  24. daniel cumings says:

    Does anyone remember Justin Smoak or Jesse Montero? They had great numbers in more than 700 plates appearances in AA and AAA, were considered to be franchise players, and they were traded for pitchers. Currently, they both have negative career WAR with statistics consistent with those results.

    This doesn’t mean that Russell will be a failure, even though many elite prospects end up as average players or much worse. It means that Beane traded Russell at the top of his value (which is what you should do). He’s a prospect with less than 100 plate appearance above A. If the As just get to the World Series, players may actually take a slight discount to play for the As, bad plumbing and all.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Yes and I also remember John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell. I also remember Pedro Martinez, Paul Konerko, Sandy Alomar Jr, Hanley Ramirez, and Scott Kazmir. Trading a Top 10 prospect (Kazmir was #12) doesn’t always backfire but it often does. The only times it isn’t likely to is if you’re getting a superstar back, like the Tigers did when they traded Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera. The Red Sox might not regret trading Hanley for Beckett, but that’s only because Beckett won a World Series in Boston. Samardzija isn’t Cabrera or even Beckett.

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  25. Jon Daniels says:

    I’m just glad I never was dumb enough to give up Profar just to chase a WS ring or two.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      But you were dumb enough to give up Adrian Gonzalez for Hurling Adam Eaton and throw in Tall Chris Young for the privilege. That was a “win now” move, no?

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  26. Paul M says:

    1. The concern about the 1-off is real. Why subject a near-great or great team to that kind of coin flip, particularly since it is a distinct probability that you’ll be facing King Felix? A’s chances of winning division probably increased from 65-70%– at best– to 75-80%– at worst;

    2. Kazmir has not thrown more than 160 innings since 2008; Gray is pitching his first full season in the bigs; After them, “le deluge” of Sanchez, Mills, Milone and Pomeranz… The Tigers and a loaded rotation– even with Verlander in an off-year– are a clear and present danger– as the sweep last week in Detroit shows. Beane knew this team– as constituted before this trade– was hardly set up to perform well in October. It has improved markedly now;

    3. And they have Shark for 2015 as well– when Parker and/or Griffin may return– and the rotation has depth that can in turn be dealt for younger position player help– not Addison Russell worthy help, but decent players. The impact of a World Series or two on this team’s financial standing would be huge– remember the A’s of Henderson, Canseco and McGwire were a rich team. This team in this stadium will never be that, but they could easily produce a 25-30% payroll increase off the revenue gained from one championship.

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    • Paul M says:

      “Chavez”, not “Sanchez”– had Tigers on my brain.

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    • The problem with your arguments, and I liked them until you got to this, is that everything seems to hinge on not just making the World Series, but winning the World Series. That to me means that if the A’s don’t win the World Series, the trade would be a failure in your estimation, do I got that right?

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      • Paul M says:

        No we can go all Dusty Baker in the WS and take the ball from Russ Ortiz and still get benefit.. But seriously for a second two years of Shark allows for a decent chance at two deep runs, thus increasing the odds of one WS success.. Just give us Barry Zito for one key start, OK? For old times’ sake?? I think getting there would produce about 30-40% of the full impact, but winning it? Well, yeah, that’s what it’s all about… I like what Shark (and Hammel this year; maybe Parker next year) might add in a 16-17 game postseason as opposed to a 10-11 game postseason,

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        • Good news for you, Barry is looking for his next team, he’s available and waiting…

          I don’t disagree, I like what Shark can add in the post-season because I believe that ace-level starters are the way to go deep into the playoffs (I don’t care much for Hammel, this season seems very flukey to me).

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  27. What Tom Tango Would Say says:

    The Wild-Card is not part of the playoffs.

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  28. Hank says:

    Did I miss the part of the analysis that compares the massive surplus value deficit in the trade to the value of the incremental improvement in the division chances? Or is the argument basically “they are at a point in the division chances where ANYTHING given up would make sense?”

    It’s nice to talk about win curves and provide a “going for it” handwaving rationale but how does the change in division odds (or WS odds if that is the argument) compare to the net negative in surplus value lost in this deal? Given Dave’s past evaluation of young prospect value (and also not ignoring the value of McKinney in this deal either), I have a hard time believing the change in division (or WS) odds offsets that lost value – even if you factor in Shark’s impact on next year as well.

    Where is the actual analysis in this argument? What if the A’s gave up their top 5 prospects? Top 10? Without assigning a value as to what they gained in this trade this analysis seems a bit lacking to determine smart/good move.

    Also as someone mentioned above (and what was very explicitly used in evaluating the Myers deal), could the A’s have made a smaller move which would have gotten a lot of the win curve/division curve gains at a lot less prospect cost? Could Zobrist have provided a good portion of that improvement at far less cost? (just as an example)

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    • Opportunity cost is a great point. Might make the As deal a net loss. Honestly though, it makes the Royals deal even more of a loss. Instead of trade your top prospects and pay more, why not keep the prospects (not trade anyone) and sign starters?

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    • Scot says:

      There was zero thorough quantitative analysis in the post, only the outline of some type of quantitative analysis. At this point it is time to select a metric, say W.S. win probability, calculate (not just discuss) the change in probability for this year and future years, and report quantitative results.

      Baseball analysis has improved a great deal. This posting was mostly to get folks talking and thinking about differences.

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  29. Jim Ripper says:

    I still think that Dave dramatically overhyped Wil Myers potential. Before getting hurt this year Myers slash line was.227/.313/.354 in 224 plate appearances. He is no sure thing. I was neutral on the Myers/Shields trade at the time. If you remember how horrible the Royals starting pitching was in 2012 you can at least see Moore’s intentions. Shields and Davis have produced as he had hoped. The main thing that has held back the Royals has been the lack of development from Moustakas and Hosmer. If they had progressed as most of us thought they would the Royals would have taken one of the Wildcard spots last year and probably would be leading the Central right now. It is their lack of development not the Myers/ Shields trade that has held this team back and will ultimately cost Moore his job.

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    • Hawk Harrelson says:

      So we just forgot about the .293/.354/.478 line in 373 PA from last year? Or the fact that he was playing those 224 PA with a messed up hand? Or that a less-than-half-season slump of a young hitter isn’t enough to just dismiss his potential?

      Player X: .220/.281/.390 in ~150 PA.

      Screw it. Player X is Mike Trout.

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      • Jim Ripper says:

        2014 is a bust for Myers due to ineffectiveness and injury. He’s now one year closer to arbitration and the Rays got nothing out of him this year which was the most important year for him for the Rays. Now they’re contemplating trading Price and starting another rebuild. Maybe Myers is a future stud maybe he isn’t. He is by no means a sure thing. They definitely could have used Shields this year as we watch him out pitch Odirizzi tonight which is ironic. After they trade Shields and start the rebuild its apparent that Myers will either be a bust or start to be too expensive for the Rays by the time their competitive again.

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        • Alex says:

          That doesn’t make the trade good for the Royals.

          Odorizzi pitched pretty well tonight too, I think the Rays are still happier with 5 years of him instead of Shields, cost differences included.

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        • Alex says:

          And actually, what’s ironic is that Odorizzi is at 1.5 WAR to Shield’s 1.4 WAR. I wouldn’t expect that to remain that way at the end of the season but it’s still pretty funny to note.

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Wade Davis is at 1.5 WAR too. I think it is time to call it the Wade Davis Trade.

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        • Jim Ripper says:

          I actually think the Royals should make Wade Davis the closer next year and trade Greg Holland. Given Holland’s year he should command a pretty high salary his 2nd time through arbitration. I personally don’t think they can afford both Davis’ and Holland’s salaries as relievers. I think they could get a decent return this winter for Holland with two more years of control and I think Davis would be perfectly fine in the 9th. I have a feeling, however, that they are going to try and stick Davis back in the rotation to replace Shields which I think would be a mistake.

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  30. Paul M says:

    Part of that analysis would have to factor in the chance that either or both of the A’s previous top two starters– Kazmir and Gray– would be unavailable or significantly weakened by November… Playoffs are hardly a crapshoot when one or both of the top two pitchers who got you there are missing in action. Particularly when you may have to play 17+ games when those pitchers would start in 4 or 5 games. The odds are now increasingly strong that the A’s, should they win the division, would face the Angels/Mariners in the first round and the Tigers with Scherzer-Verlander-Sanchez and Porcello in the ALCS.. You are not winning both of those series depending on Jesse Chavez or Drew Pomeranz.

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  31. Paul M says:

    By October– sorry, have a weird “key gremlin” going on.

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  32. Alec says:

    This trade reminds me a bit of the Randy Johnson trade to the Astros. The Astros gave up a lot of future value in Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama, but they were making a post-season push, and Johnson was by far the best asset available. The result was Johnson going on one of the greatest runs of pitching ever for them in the 2nd half, and them making the playoffs. Obviously, Shark is not the Big Unit. However, the process is around the same.

    What this really shows is that Billy Beane isn’t simply a guy who trades veterans for prospects to keep the A’s cheap. He’s a guy who deeply understands valuation of baseball players, far beyond simply knowing who is undervalued. He knows when their value justifies the cost he is paying.

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    • If he deeply understand the valuation of baseball players, how do you explain the Ethier and CarGon trades for players who gets outperformed by the prospects?

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      • JayT says:

        You keep bringing up these trades, but it’s not like the A’s lost some huge piece by giving away Ethier. In his first six years of club control (which is all the A’s would have had him for most likely) he had 14.1 war. That’s 2.3 war per year. That’s an average player. Sure, you don’t want to just give away average players, but it’s also not some huge black stain on Beane’s record.
        CarGo put up 18.6 war in the five club-controlled years with Colorado, so that’s obviously a worse move, and one I’m sure Beane would love to have back, but it’s hardly some Bagwell or Smoltz type trade.

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        • Antonio Bananas says:

          Plus there’s this:

          CarGo Home: .330/.388/.602
          CarGo Away: .262/.318/.443

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        • There’s also this: fWAR of 18.5 since A’s traded him, over 6 seasons, roughly 3 WAR per season. Plus, he’s having an off year, so prior to this season he has actually produced at roughly 4 WAR when you consider that his first season with COL was half a season.

          Does no one understand replacement value? The whole point of making an average player 2.0 WAR is to show that even average players are good players. And 3 WAR is worth $18M per season, or is that not considered good any more?

          And given that Beane was forced to trade off all his good players a few years back because his farm system was lacking – a controversy back then – think about the implications of him still having those two players instead during the past 6-8 years, the package of prospect goodies he could have gotten when he sold them off? Or maybe he wouldn’t have needed to sell them off if he still had the two?

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  33. Chance the Rapper's Other Job says:

    I think in a lot of these trades, the value of winning home field advantage is forgotten, too. The As are about a lock to make the playoffs. An extra win or two doesn’t change that. But with all the noise of playoffs, home field advantage ends up being one of the best tools to increase the odds of winning, and an extra win or two during the regular season can go a long way towards locking up home field.

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    • Brendan T says:

      Potential added bonus for the A’s: Samardzija is unable to pitch for the NL All-Stars. Billy Beane really does think of everything!

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  34. Antonio Bananas says:

    Great article, basically everything I was thinking. As actually are close to the playoffs as opposed to the trade just getting them to .500. Russell was a true prospect to where Myers upgrading Franceour would have netting the Royals close to what the Shields trade got them anyway, etc.

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  35. Ruki Motomiya says:

    I thought the Royals deal was actually a good one, if iffy, and while I am iffy on this trade too I also feel it makes sense. The Royals did it because in 2 years if Myers is good they’d essentially be circling the wagons and end up right back where they started, so with young players, Alex Gordon before he left and Butler off a good year it looked like a good time to strike. They were in contention last year and are in the thick of things this year despite horrid offensive production, so it hasn’t been all that bad so far, though obviously it is a failure unless they get Wildcard or higher this year. Something people need to remember is that even high end prospects are just a chance, even if they are generally a better chance. Though I thought Myers was overrated, too soon to say though.

    The Athletics is mostly iffier because they probably have some better chances post-2015 than the Royals, but Shark will help them for a while and they’ve pretty obviously got a run this year and probably the next too, trading the chance of Addison for that is probably not a bad move. They could also try and sign Hammel to an extension before he hits free agency and maybe get a good deal.

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  36. Aaron (UK) says:

    You have the tools, Dave, in that you have a projections model that uses player data and also includes the postseason.

    So you can make a precise estimate of the difference the trade made to Oakland’s chance of winning the World Series on the day it was consummated. Presumably something of the order of 2-3%?

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  37. drmorris says:

    Johnston’s criticisms make perfect sense if one cares little about actually winning a World Series when one has the best chance to do so. (But, of course, winning the World Series is exactly the point of baseball, and roster construction and trades and everything else.)

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      This trade does almost nothing to improve the A’s’ chances of winning a World Series. It’s maybe a 1% upgrade this season, at best, and a tiny fraction of a percent next season.

      Russell promises to provide tens of millions of dollars in value in the future, conservatively estimated. The idea that a 1% upgrade in world series win probability this season is worth that much doesn’t pass the straight face test.

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      • He ‘promises to’? No, he doesn’t. He has the potential to do that. He’s a AA prospect.

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      • Hawk Harrelson says:

        Not for nothing but Russell promises the potential for tens of millions in value, in the future, which you have to discount to get to the NPV. Value of time and all that.

        Shark gets you between 4-5 wins over the last 1.5 years of his arbitration period for somewhere along the lines of $10-14 million depending on his next award (he’s owed ~$2 million for the rest of this year). The price of a win has inflated to $6-7 million depending on your source so Shark nets between $15-30 million, today, plus any marginal value based on playoff performance and where the A’s are on the win curve (near the top, given the wild card situation and the fact that they are in the toughest division in baseball).

        Russell can potentially get you something like $100 million in excess value over 6 years, at sometime in the future, but only if everything breaks perfectly. What is the chance that everything breaks perfectly? If you say more than 50% (which is near the break even point for this deal), then does THAT pass the straight face test?

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        • Walter says:

          50-50 chance at something like all star level production, which would be needed to generate that 100M excess value? Na, doesn’t pass the straight face test.

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        • Paul Thomas says:

          Calling Samardzija a 3-3.5 win player is ridiculous given his track record. His career ERA- is 99. The guy is the definition of league average.

          Equally ridiculous is the assertion that “everything” has to “break perfectly” for Russell to be highly valuable. If he is himself merely league-average for six and a half seasons, that’s worth in the neighborhood (using the same $6-7M per win figure) of $60-70M. That’s probably about an average return. (Though it doesn’t account any value at all to the other pieces in the trade.) And it blows away even the most preposterously optimistic views of what the A’s could gain from the deal.

          Nor can this trade be justified by some kind of leverage-based or discount-rate-based argument. Given that baseball salaries are inflating far more quickly than the economy as a whole, you could make out a pretty good argument that free wins three years from now are actually MORE valuable than free wins now. At the very least, they’re comparable. And as my posts below indicate, the notion that the A’s are at a flexible spot on the win curve is just false.

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      • Paul M says:

        “This trade does almost nothing to improve the A’s chance of winning a World Series”.

        Sorry– I have to go McEnroe on you– YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.

        1. It increases– perhaps significantly– the chances of the A’s winning the division and avoiding a 1 game playoff– probably against Felix Hernandez– which is the very essence of a coin flip. Shark and Hammel is an upgrade from Mills/Pomerantz/Milone. The Angels have been every bit the A’s for the past 6 weeks– Beane was not going to sit idly by and watch a 96 win season be subjected to one roll of the dice.

        2. It increases– perhaps significantly– the chances of the A’s winning two playoff series within the AL– one of which should come vs. the Tigers and a stacked rotation– particularly since the A’s top two starters pre-trade were a) a brittle lefty with no season of 160+ IP in the last 6; b) a small righty in his first full season in the bigs. Shark and Hammel represent a pretty strong hedge against the distinct possibility that one of Kazmir or Gray might no be available in October. Look at the Giants in 2010 and 2012 for evidence that a deep rotation can pay huge dividends in the postseason.

        3. I know there is no way to measure the following, and some may question its very existence, but he just told his clubhouse “I believe you are good enough to win it all”. After heartbreak after heartbreak in the divisional round, I’ll at least allow for the possibility that he has increased their chances for a WS win on that basis alone.

        4. He now has some pitching depth at AAA (Pomerantz, Mills if he clears waivers, Milone) that in turn could be used to upgrade (2B??) his offense before July 31. Remember that Parker and Griffin are still factors in the future or potential trade bait once they return from TJ rehab.

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    • Johnston says:

      “winning the World Series is exactly the point of baseball”

      No. It is not. It is *a* point. And only one team out of the entire MLB can do that per year.

      Other points: “butts in the seats,” making money, and fielding a winning team every year and these are things that any team – not just one – can do.

      No one can guarantee a World Series win no matter what trades they make. The playoffs are a small sample size crapshoot. The worst team in the playoffs CAN win it all.

      But any well-managed team can do the other things, and that’s what the real point of baseball is: not Win The Crapshoot Now, but be good forever.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Paul M says:

        Yep… And if you win it all, there will be more butts in the seats. (In fact, A’s attendance already up this year– highest in a decade) “Be Good Forever”– A’s have 4th (might be 3rd now) best record in the sport since 1999– and by far the best given payroll. I know 15 years is not technically “forever”– but gee, doncha think it tells you something about Beane’s ability? So he’s done what you want– and then some– now he’s going all-in for the other. Bully for that.

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  38. Paul Thomas says:

    I strongly value finishing the regular season with the best record in the league. I wish MLB did as well. (The pennant could and should go to the team with the best regular-season record, not the team that gets hot over 7-12 games in October.) In a world where finishing top of the table meant something specific, this trade might be logical.

    But that’s not the way it works in the real world. And in that world, from a strategy perspective, I can’t see how this deal makes sense. It’s giving up a premium asset for a tiny, tiny short-term upgrade. Samardzija just isn’t a good player, though I admit he looks good in a pair of jeans, and the A’s were in all likelihood making the playoffs anyway. The value of an individual player IN the playoffs is very low, because there just aren’t enough games for him to make a difference.

    This seems to me like an in-season variation on the Matt Holliday trade (the first one, I mean), which could charitably be summarized as a complete disaster. Rentals suck, they have always sucked, and as far as I can tell, they will continue to suck for the indefinite foreseeable future.

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    • JosephK says:

      Samardzija is 23rd in WAR since 2012 among qualified pitchers. I think you overstate your case a bit when you say he “just isn’t a good player.”

      Folks are hammering home the point that the A’s already had a 99% chance of making the playoffs to advance the argument that this trade was all about playoff games. I think it’s all about securing the division and avoiding the play-in game (both this year and next). Curious to hear your thoughts on this.

      I hated the Holliday deal, but I’m not sure the comparison is totally valid. Considering DC’s point about context, that trade actually reminds me more of the Myers deal; the A’s interrupted an inchoate rebuilding process by trying to patch together a winner in 2009 when the pieces weren’t there yet, and they sacrificed a tremendous amount of future value to do so. They sacrificed a great deal of future value in this deal as well, but did so to address a real vulnerability on a team that has a chance to do something special in 2014 and 2015.

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        Avoiding the play-in game is meaningful, but the equivalent of a one-win upgrade is just not a big deal in this context. I don’t know exactly what that does to the probabilities, but I’d guess it bumps the chances of avoiding the play-in by about 5%, which in turn bumps the odds of winning the World Series by about 1/8 of 5% or about 0.6%.

        I cannot get excited about that kind of increase in the team’s chances.

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    • Pete Carroll says:

      ‘Samardzija just isn’t a good player’

      Umm, ok.

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    • Johnston says:

      “But that’s not the way it works in the real world. And in that world, from a strategy perspective, I can’t see how this deal makes sense. It’s giving up a premium asset for a tiny, tiny short-term upgrade…Rentals suck, they have always sucked, and as far as I can tell, they will continue to suck for the indefinite foreseeable future.”

      Nice to see someone here who understands the value of a premium asset over short-term rentals.

      And, yes, rentals will always suck.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Alex says:

        Except Shark isn’t a rental.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Johnston says:

          Shark is exactly a year and a half rental.

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        • Alex says:

          So Addison Russell is a 6 year rental, right? More than a half season of team control makes the player not a rental, otherwise we can define any player other than ones who spend their entire career with 1 team as rentals.

          Plus, would you call David Price a rental? Because you were flipping your lid at the thought of getting him but it’s even LESS likely the A’s would have kept him past this season, making Price a true rental. OH NO, I used the R word, that means the deal would have sucked because all rentals suck. Too bad.

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        • Alex says:

          I mean, I get that you hate the trade. I get WHY you hate the trade. So I apologize for my snark, I don’t think it’s editable, otherwise I would just remove.

          I hope the A’s win the WS year, and I hope you can find some joy in that if they do. I mean that, I really do.

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    • Adam says:

      Yeah I bet the Rangers are real bummed about giving up Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee (and the Phillies really want Carlos Carrasco back, I bet). And the Tigers are pissed about giving up Jacob Turner for Anibal Sanchez. Going to the World Series must have really sucked for those teams.

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      • Stan Gable says:

        Even if those respective teams didn’t get hot in the postseason, those were all completely defensible trades at the time. If Oakland doesn’t win a postseason game in the next two campaigns, I’d still feel that this trade was a worthwhile gambit. The process doesn’t always produce the most desirable results but less than optimal results don’t necessarily make said process a failure, etc.

        Prospects have been overvalued seemingly forever but it’s at a fever pitch now it seems.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Johnston says:

          Overvalued? Young, cost-controlled talent is overvalued? Like Trout, say, or Harper? Huh?

          Plus please explain to me how a small-market, small-budget team can be consistently competitive in the long run without young cost controlled talent.

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        • Paul M says:

          “consistently competitive in the long run”

          OK– of every team in every sport in my lifetime– and that’s nearly 50 years of following these things, so the sample size is HUGE. The best “small market, small budget team” in terms of being “consistently competitive” has been the Oakland A’s. And there really isn’t a close second. So I guess that makes Billy Beane a fool for this trade… The only remaining thing to say, Senor Johnston, is that is why we are here and he is there…

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        • Paul M says:

          Standings Since June 1, 2012:

          12. SF 192-170 BIG MARKET
          11. LAA 193-167 BIG MARKET
          10. PITT 195-168 SMALL MARKET
          9. LAD 197-167 BIG MARKET
          7. BAL 198-164 MID MARKET
          7. NYY 198-164 BIG MARKET
          6. WASH 203-159 MID MARKET
          5. CIN 205-157 MID MARKET
          4. SL 206-157 MID MARKET
          3. DET 206-153 MID MARKET
          2. ATL 211-150 MID MARKET
          1. OAK 224-138 SMALL MARKET

          Size of market determined more by revenue than any other factor, including population base. SL/DET/ATL and even CIN are all mid market pluses– but interesting that none of the mega market teams appear in the Top 6. For any who think I am cherry-picking, note that there have been 2 years and 1 month plus of results since this start date, that it is an ongoing Oakland edge, and that this was the time when a confluence of A’s developments occurred– Donaldson becoming full-time starter at 3rd; Cespedes returning from his most significant injury period; and, most importantly, the inception of platoons at 1B, C and DH that dramatically improved the A’s offense.

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        If your point is that not 100% of prospects who have been traded for short-term rentals have gone on to become megastars, and not 100% of teams who have rented stars have crashed out at the LDS stage of proceedings, congratulations– you’ve just proved the most banal point imaginable.

        A bad process does not necessarily produce a bad outcome (indeed, one might say that reinforcing this point is one of the principal reasons why this site exists). The fact that a short-term rental might “work out” for the renting team 10 or even 20 percent of the time, as it arguably did in those cases, doesn’t make it a defensible move. You can win laying money on a hard six in craps, but you’re still a moron for laying it.

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  39. channelclemente says:

    Russel buys the downside, now he’s a Cub. I’m sure he chatted with Donaldson about the situation in Chicago.

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  40. jim fetterolf says:

    Saw somewhere the claim that Billy Beane’s new stroke of genius was in recognizing that prospects were over valued. Dayton Moore saw the same thing, knowing Myers can’t hit off-speed stuff and Odorizzi has a hard time finishing five innings. Took the Royals from laughing stock to contender and built a bridge to Ventura and Duffy.

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  41. MLB Rainmaker says:

    I do like both trades and do believe you are being hypocritical in defending the A’s and chiding the Royals.

    First, if you’re going to talk about the impact on each team from an economics viewpoint, you need to look at the marginal impact of not the cumulative impact. As others have mentioned, adding Samardzjia at this point doesn’t significantly impact the expected wins for the A’s. On the flip side, with a bottom-5 performance from its SPs in 2012, the addition of a front of the rotation pitcher has a significant impact on the marginal expected wins of the Royals.

    Next, if you’re going to cite market supply in your argument for opportunity cost, you also need to discuss market demand. If there is diminished supply, isn’t there also diminished demand?

    Finally, you continue to make to a linear approach to decision making relative to roster construction and win values, and that mindset ignores the premise for the entire sport….making money. All of baseball is a for-profit enterprise and the primary consideration of GMs is generating revenue. In that environment, an improvement in expected wins, even if those wins do not create a compelling likelihood of reaching the playoffs, still have value to the organization.

    Plainly said, the Royals pitching staff was much worse on a relative basis than its hitters; the Royals could afford to give up a hitter, if that exchange improve their pitching.

    Finally, just looking in the rear view, Meyers is out and didn’t really show much this season when he did play, Odorizzi is a surprise but his WAR is matched by Davis’s bullpen WAR, so who’s really better off? The Royals will likely flip Shields at the deadline or sign him long-term and Meyers needs to bounce back significantly to even retain his starting gig.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Shields will probably not be flipped or signed and I say that as someone who likes the Shields deal. Myers will get starting gig without bouncing back either, though time will tell if this is actually a good idea.

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    • Wes Rumbaugh says:

      I think the accusations of hypocrisy ignore the differing roster contexts that these two deals were made in. I agree with the commenters who have properly pointed out that wins are a much more scarce resource for the Royals than the A’s, but that ignores the effects of each trade on roster construction, and thus in producing that marginal win value. When the Royals traded Myers, the proposed solution to the newfound scarcity at the RF position was more Jeff Francouer. I can confidently state that there is no roster problem that can be solved with more Jeff Francouer. By contrast, the A’s are filling an area of relative scarcity, as they have recently run into a healthy dose of pitching injuries as well as potential regression from starters without long track records. They happen to already have an adequate shortstop in Jed Lowrie, so it’s not like Russell was being relied on to provide value immediately like Myers theoretically would have been for the Royals. Basically, the A’s traded from a position of relative abundance in order to shore up what was at the time a position of scarcity, while the Royals traded one area of scarcity for another in the Myers deal.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        What annoys me is there wouldn’t have even been a scarcity issue because if they had just started Dyson over Franceour it would have produced a lot of value (Or platiin as Frenchy hit lefties well over his career). The Royals actually have a healthy amount of OFers and yet they get Ibanez.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MLB Rainmaker says:

        How did the A’s trade from a position of “relative abundance”? Jed Lowrie’s in the bottom 5 offensively among qualified Shortstops and the A’s have no other SS prospect above Low-A ball.

        In spring training, Beane mentioned Russell was knocking on the door and intimated that Lowrie could be on the hot seat. Nothing about that sounds like abundance to me.

        On the other side, the 2012 Royals had Butler and Gordon as center pieces for the offense, and had three prospect they expected to continue to mature in Sal Perez, Moustakas, and Cain. Now we know things didn’t work out the way the Royals expected, but offensive production looked like an abundance going into 2013 for the Royals.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Wes Rumbaugh says:

          The key word there is RELATIVE abundance. Lowrie is a strong candidate for positive regression considering the last two years where he has produced 121 and 111 wRC+. His BABIP is low this year at .255 and he still has walked enough to have a respectable OBP. This may just be because I’m a Royals fan and have low expectations for offense, but for a SS, Lowrie is pretty solid, especially when compared to the offensive black hole that Jeff Francouer represents.

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    • Shankbone says:

      “Plainly said, the Royals pitching staff was much worse on a relative basis than its hitters; the Royals could afford to give up a hitter, if that exchange improve their pitching.”

      Why is this such a hard concept to get in these parts? The Royals didn’t need any more teething problems with hitters, they’ve got enough of that on their hands already. They needed a big time pitcher to anchor their staff. And he has.

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  42. Rrr says:

    Russell isnt a big leaguer? He could easily supplant Lowrie at ss, like yesterday.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  43. GilaMonster says:

    I think the problem with the Royals is that they over-played their hand and tried to go all in too early. We all know the Royals had a legendary farm system a few years back and when the prospects came up they tried to cash in too early. Gordon was an all-star level player. Perez was a surprisingly good.Butler was coming off a 3.0 WAR season. Hosmer and Moose were SUPPOSE to be all star level players. Lamb was SUPPOSE to be an ace. Montgomery,Duffy, and Dywer were SUPPOSE to be solid starters. They were essentially betting on everything going right.

    Here we are in 2013-14. Hosmer has been mediocre.Moose is replacement level. Butler can no longer hit. None of their pitching prospects worked out really. And the team has been carried by Alex Gordon and Sal Perez.

    The Royals were betting on the future and the development of young players without knowing what they really had. The A’s are betting on an improved version of a team that got them to the ALDS last year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      I would say this is like the opposite. If anything, the fact their youngsters haven’t gone all right is for winning now and not banking on them being great in the future.

      Keeping Myers is essentially turning the wheels and replacing Gordon with someone who might be worse for some years while having iffy prospects on bringing in, well, non-prospects, due to low budget and a prospect farm that was not as strong due to all the promos.

      The Royals went in at a fine time, in my opinion anyway, and we’ll see if it works out this year, but they’re in contention enough I wouldn’t say it is a failure. And of course FanGraphs is always saying to analyze the process and I feel the Royals’ process, and the A’s, was solid enough.

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    • Stan Gable says:

      ‘Hosmer has been mediocre.’

      That’s one way to put it. Are you his agent?

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  44. John Elway says:

    Let me give it to you straight from the horse’s mouth.

    As a GM you have to make tough calls, even on popular players. I don’t know what the football equivalent of WAR is, but eyes and stats confirmed that the upgrade from Tebow to Peyton was well worth the money. With our young core (especially defense) and weak division, I knew it was time to pull the trigger. Even now, having to say goodbye to Champ Bailey to make cap money available for younger guys was a must, tough as it was.

    The Royals management seem to be too loyal to certain players and it messes up their perception. I really think they were hoping that Francoeur would play like his rookie season, and that’s why they were ok with trading Myers. The A’s don’t get attached to their players, at least not since Eric Chavez.

    Just neighing.

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  45. Johnston says:

    Which is more likely, guys? That the rent-a-pitchers lift the A’s to where they win the WS, or that Russell really is the next Barry Larkin, as Beane said, and has a huge positive impact on his franchise for years. You guys keep telling me that this is FanGraphs. If it is, then run the probabilities.

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    • JosephK says:

      I don’t know the exact impact this has on OAK’s WS odds, but based on Scott McKinney’s numbers from a few years ago, position player prospects ranked 1-10 have about a 62.7% success rate (defined as producing an average WAR of >1.5 during cost-controlled years).

      http://www.royalsreview.com/2011/2/14/1992424/success-and-failure-rates-of-top-mlb-prospects

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    • Bubba says:

      Considering there are only a handful of SS’s in history of Larkin’s caliber, I would say it’s much more likely that the rent-a-pitchers lift the A’s to where they win the WS.

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    • Paul M says:

      But here’s the rub… Let’s say the numbers are 30 for the WS win (might be higher given that with Shark there are two years in play) and 60 for Russell being Larkin. So the ratio is 1/2. I can now ask it a different way: “If I told you that by making Trade X, one time out of three you would win a World Series, but two times out of three the player you have traded away would become a star, but you don’t win the WS, which would you take? This is now Game Theory, folks… And I think the answer is pretty clearly Door # 1.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • wallysb01 says:

      This is absurd. Larkin is the 9th best SS in history by fWAR. The chances he’s that good are probably somewhere around 1/100,000 or something. Chances he’s at least useful are good. Chances he’s an all-star are unlikely. Chances he’s one of the best players we’ve ever seen is very, very small.

      Meanwhile, fangraphs last update to the postseason odds included the additions of Shark, which, along with a couple wins, they now have a ~16% to win the WS vs the ~12% it was a few days ago. This is also without Hammel, who’s replacing Mills, on the roster yet. And the difference between them is about 1 WAR over the ROS.

      So, the “real” expected wins is going to go up about 1 more from 97.4 already. Already, at 97.4 wins, fangraphs dropped the chance of the A’s being forced into the 1-game playoff about 7%, from 27 to 20. I’d say that’s a substantial value there. The Hammal instead of Mills replacement, probably drops it another 5%-ish I’d guess.

      Now, as several people have mentioned, the A’s may not be done dealing. So if they can package some of their now redundant SP for a true second baseman (or SS and move Lowrie to 2B), this deal could keep on giving. We don’t even really need a great 2B, just slightly above average would be a substantial upgrade, as the ROS projection for 2B is near replacement level at .6 WAR for ROS. So a 3 WAR player, would be worth about 1 extra win.

      Another thing that now, after the potential injury to Weaver, becomes apparent from this trade is that it reduces the number of quality starters available to the Angels.

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      • Johnston says:

        So the A’s gave up a cost-controlled top five prospect for a 4% greater chance to win a World Series one time?

        And you actually think this is a good idea?

        We live in different worlds. In the one I live in, short-term thinking like that is considered to a sign of a lack of judgment.

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  46. InBillyWeTrust says:

    Sunday, October 8, 2000 at Network Associates Coliseum (Oakland Athletics)

    Game 5 v. NYY

    A’s SP Gil Heredia…u don’t think this haunts Billy more than his personal playing career demons? This ends the argument on this trade. A’s fans are ready to truly have a shot at the ring. And Brad Pitt is ten times as hungry as the loyal fan base!

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    • Paul M says:

      The beauty of this observation is that the reason Heredia had to pitch twice was a) A’s essentially faced a final day 1 game play-in where they had to use Tim Hudson to win it (I attended that game), and b) their brittle (as it turned out, sadly) young lefty– sort of a hybrid of Kazmir-Gray 2014 possibly– got hurt in September after a strong late-season surge and was out for the playoffs. Mark Mulder– lifting weights…

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    • A's Fan says:

      This is a great point. Would you rather have Jason Hammel (3.16 SIERA) as your #4 starter, or Tommy Milone (4.46 SIERA)/Drew Pomeranz (3.93 SIERA; assuming he returns back normally)?

      Who would you rather have starting Game 3: Sonny Gray or Jesse Chavez?

      This trade puts the A’s in much better position in the playoffs.

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    • InBillyWeTrust says:

      Beane has tried the baseball equivalent to “grip it and rip it” golf, by sending the early 2000s teams to the playoffs with a passable starting rotation. And as the Heredia argument points out, all it took was one weight lifting incident to put the team in a bind.

      We all know that the new low-scoring era we’ve entered will only accentuate the fact that pitching wins playoff games. And if the AL can win the all-star game, the AL’s top seed would have home field throughout. And O.co fans will tell you all you need to know about pitching with a football field for foul territories.

      This roster is built to pitch and win at O.co and this trade reflects the past failures as much as the future hopes of green collar baseball!

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  47. MoreHRs&LesNorman says:

    Unconvincing argument. You are rationalizing the deal on the margins. Dave, it’s not like you “kinda” didn’t like the Shields trade. You were probably more negative about that move than any other move in the last 10 years.

    The two points you make here are certainly valid, but it’s not nearly enough to reconcile your approval of this trade and your disdain for the other.

    As you yourself acknowledge in the intro…the trades are remarkably similar and it reeks of bias. You fail to acknowledge any points on KC’s side when comparing the deals. Shields is a better pitcher than Shark; the wins Shields and Davis are providing in 2014 very well may be the difference in KC making the playoffs while Oakland makes the playoffs either way; etc.

    Good effort to reconcile the conflicting opinions, but the argument is not convincing.

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  48. Matt says:

    Don’t forget that Jim Johnson is gone at the end of the year, and his salary is roughly equal to Smardjiza. So the A’s are trading out one high salary for another (more productive one) at the end of the season. I know that the money could be better utilized potentially, but I think DC is right on point that it’s win now mode for the A’s, and trading the future for present is a calculated action. Beane has been hungry for a while, and this is the best A’s team they had in the last 14 years. You’d be crazy not to go for it 100%!

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  49. RMD says:

    “The A’s are perhaps the best team in baseball”

    Great article, Dave. But “perhaps” shouldn’t be used in an editorial. We want to see your stance on this issue at hand, not stubborn instances on intentionally reaming vague in order to appear more reasonable.

    There is no logical argument that the A’s are not the best baseball team on the planet. The quote is one instance out of several on this site that regurgitate wishy-washy statements that actually impede analysis rather than encourage it.

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  50. John C says:

    Those trades are not comparable at all. I can’t see how anyone would make that comparison.

    The Royals traded away a major-league ready top prospect who went on to be Rookie of the Year the following season. The A’s traded away a guy who just got out of A-ball, where he’d hit .275. Scouts may love Russell, but he hasn’t proven a thing yet. Wil Myers had slugged .554 in 99 games at Triple-A before he was traded.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Great point. Prospect rankings aside, there was a much higher likelihood that Meyers succeeded.

      So, in a nutshell, Athletics traded a guy with a lower success likelihood for a much better chance at making the playoffs. (comparable to what the Royals did)

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  51. 2011 MVP Dustin Pedroia says:

    This guy don’t know what he’s talking about.

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  52. Joel says:

    One additional advantage to the A’s is that they blocked their competitors from trading for two of the better pitchers available. Hard to quantify, but an advantage just the same.

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  53. rustydude says:

    See?! The Royals are still “all in” 1.5 years later. They just signed Joe Saunders! Take that Billy Beane!

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  54. Jesus Mejia says:

    This is about winning, Billy Beane is aiming for the world series,it is a simple good trade for both teams involved, basically i agree with everything in this article.

    By the way he did not just improved an added depth to their starting rotation, they took the two guys that would have improved their opponents out of the market. They are hurting the winner of the american league east in a big way.Blue jays ,Orioles, Yankees, all have big question marks in their staff and both of these guys would have been real upgrades to them.

    There would always be a draft and an international market to adquire prospects but not every year you have a real shot to get to the world series. Obviously the needed the depth, they lost two arms of their plan A earlier this season due to injuries.

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