Nick Swisher is potentially under team control for the next five years, signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012, and he's 27 years old. It figured that he'd stick around through the A's new youth movement, a block to build around.
Instead, Beane sent Swisher to the White Sox in exchange for two top-flight young pitchers, lefty Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, and an outfielder, Ryan Sweeney, because Chicago GM Kenny Williams was determined to pry Swisher loose. De Los Santos and Gonzalez were the White Sox's top-two prospects, and Sweeney had been rated their top prospect entering 2007. Gonzalez led all minor league pitchers in strikeouts last year with 185.
Beane is stockpiling pitching and outfielders with the Swisher and Dan Haren deals. He has received nine prospects in all, including five pitchers and three outfielders.
Beane said after the Swisher trade that the only way to compete long-term is to develop pitching in order to hang onto it for a long time -- obtaining big-league pitching via trades is difficult and pitching can be both expensive and risky on the free agent market. (Oakland recently experienced that with Esteban Loaiza.)
Joe Blanton, Swisher's fellow "Moneyball" draft pick, remains the most likely Oakland player to be dealt next. The A's might wait to see which starter-starved teams miss out on their targets in the next month, perhaps increasing Blanton's value, or they could hang onto him until the trading deadline -- which might be right about when Gonzalez is ready to come up, since Oakland is unlikely to want to start his arbitration clock early.
Asked about the A's rotation and about the outfield for next season, Beane said it's too early to tell -- he might make more moves before then. As things stand, however, Oakland has a sizable hole in the order without Swisher's bat, and that's going to be difficult to make up in any trade for prospects.
--3B Eric Chavez, when asked about the team's recent moves, said it's "inevitable" that he will be traded if he shows he's healthy following three offseason surgeries (both shoulders and his lower back). Chavez said it only makes sense, given the way things are going, and he's told Beane he understands if that's what Beane feels he must do.
--CF Mark Kotsay is coming off two seasons with injuries (he had lower back surgery last March), and if he shows he is healthy, he, too, could be moved to a contender by midseason. Kotsay said he has been hitting for the past three weeks and feels terrific. This is the earliest he's been able to do baseball activity in the offseason in years.
--OF Ryan Sweeney was placed on the 40-man roster and he has a good shot at making the Opening Day roster. His top competition for a big-league job this spring could be Carlos Gonzalez, obtained from Arizona in the Dan Haren deal.
--LHP Gio Gonzalez will be a non-roster invitee to big-league camp. The A's probably won't want to start his arbitration clock early, but there's a slim chance that if Joe Blanton is traded before the season and if Gonzalez is lights-out during the spring, he could win a spot in the rotation. There was some thought that Gonzalez might make the White Sox rotation this spring, and many scouts believe he is close to being ready for the big leagues.
--After the Dan Haren deal, rumblings about the A's signing Barry Bonds died down; speculation was that a rebuilding team would have no need for an aging slugger with legal problems. The Bonds rumors are gaining steam again, however, following the Swisher trade -- because the A's moved their most marketable player and they're not going to put many fans in the stands with the sub-.500 club they're virtually assured to have in 2008. Bonds would create interest and might sell tickets, or so the thinking goes.
BY THE NUMBERS: 255 -- Nick Swisher's RBI total in three-plus seasons in Oakland. He was second on the team in that category three years running.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Dude, it's unbelievable. I was like, 'Well, we are going young. Wait ... Swisher is young.' We're going with the youth movement, baby. At least Billy is committed to it. He's not half-(baking) it." -- 3B Eric Chavez's reaction to the Nick Swisher trade.
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