2008 In Review: The Year Of The Trade, Part 1

If the 2008 season will be remembered for anything around Oakland, it will be for a series of deals that gutted the team's major league roster, but filled the organization's minor league system with a number of bright talents. In the first part of a two-part series, we look at the first three of six deals the A's made leading into and during the 2008 season…

Trade #1: Marco Scutaro is dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell

What We Said At The Time

"A's Acquire Two Pitchers For Scutaro"

"…Scutaro's departure means that the A's are likely to carry two of the following four players next season: Hannahan, Murphy, Melillo or Petit. Hannahan and Murphy are likely to enter spring training as the favorites to make the A's 25-man roster, but both Melillo and Petit should to get long looks and could win spots with strong showings in spring training."

What Transpired

As we predicted, Jack Hannahan and Donnie Murphy both began the season on the A's Opening Day roster, while Gregorio Petit would spend significant time with the A's early in the year when other A's infielders were banged up. Kevin Melillo would be traded, ironically, to Toronto, but other utility infielders Cliff Pennington and Eric Patterson would get a long look with the A's late in the year.

Scutaro was, well, Scutaro with the Blue Jays. The Venezuelan infielder began spring training as a back-up, but he quickly found himself in Toronto's everyday line-up thanks to injuries to Scott Rolen and other Blue Jays infielders. In 140 games, Scutaro has hit .264 with a .340 OBP and 58 RBIs for Toronto. The RBI total is a career-high for Scutaro.

The A's, in the meantime, have not quite settled on their permanent replacement for Scutaro. Murphy got the bulk of the time as the utilityman for the A's early in the season, but an elbow injury knocked him out of the line-up for a month on May 20th through June 21st. The Southern California native never really got his bat on track in his limited playing time with the A's. In 43 games, he batted only .186 with three homers and 37 strike-outs. He was designated for assignment on July 22nd and was sent to Triple-A. Murphy hit .270 with 11 homers in 36 regular season games with the Sacramento River Cats and played well for the River Cats in the playoffs. He was recently added back onto the A's active roster when Hannahan went down with an oblique injury over the weekend.

Speaking of Hannahan, he played 143 games (good for second on the team), mostly at third in the place of Eric Chavez. He showed a very strong glove at the hot corner and the ability to play first base, but his bat has been lacking much of the season. In 436 at-bats, he has hit only .218 with nine homers and a 647 OPS. The injured oblique may keep him out for the rest of the season.

Petit, Pennington and Patterson have all had opportunities to put their names into the conversation for a spot on the A's 2009 roster. Petit got some early season opportunities with Oakland and he played well during his limited opportunities, batting .348 in 14 games and playing well defensively at second and shortstop. He spent the rest of the year with the River Cats, hitting .269 in 79 games while playing at second, third and short. Pennington began the year in Double-A Midland, batting only .260, but he reached base at a .379 clip and stole 20 bases before being promoted to Triple-A. With the River Cats, he hit .297 and he stole 11 more bags. He then moved up to Oakland and after a slow start, Pennington has looked much like the player he was in the minor leagues this season, getting on-base and stealing bases and playing strong defense for the A's, especially at second base.

Patterson was acquired from the Cubs in July (more on that in Part Two of the series) and while he played well in Sacramento, he has struggled with Oakland. Corner infielder Jeff Baisley has recently entered the infield conversation for the A's with a September call-up. Needless to say, the A's will still be looking to answer the question of who will replace Scutaro at the start of next season.

What The A's Got

Of course, none of the infielders listed above were actually acquired for Scutaro. Oakland obtained two young right-handed pitchers in the deal: Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell. Godfrey spent all but a week of the season with the High-A Stockton Ports. In 134 innings for Stockton, he posed a 5.10 ERA. Godfrey was better than his ERA indicated, however. He walked only 37 against 119 strike-outs, but he was the victim of some big innings in the hitter-friendly California League. Godfrey's 2008 numbers with the Ports are somewhat similar to Vince Mazzaro's 2007 stats with Stockton, and Mazzaro found a lot more success once he left the California League. Godfrey probably won't post a 1.90 ERA for Midland in 2009 like Mazzaro did this season, but he could see a dramatic improvement when he moves up a level.

Bell struggled early on in the season with Double-A Midland, posting a 9.45 ERA in 13 innings. He was sent down to High-A Stockton and missed much of the rest of the year with injuries, making only seven more relief appearances and posting a 7.71 ERA.

Trade #2: Dan Haren and Connor Robertson are dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith

What We Said At The Time

"A's Deal Haren In Big Swap With D-Backs"

"After a month of speculation, the Oakland A's made a dramatic move on Friday, dealing ace Dan Haren and reliever Connor Robertson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a package of talented minor leaguers. … The A's, of course, are giving up a big prize for these prospects."

What Transpired

As it stands now, this trade is looking like one of those rare deals where both teams got exactly what they were looking for. The A's were looking to bring in a stable of young talent as they build towards the future, while the Diamondbacks were looking for a staff ace to help them make a run at the playoffs.

Arizona has gotten 209 innings of 3.27 ERA baseball out of Haren thus far this year. He is a National League All-Star and he has a 16-8 record as of Monday. Haren has struck-out 197 and walked only 39 while putting together arguably the best year of his career. He signed a long-term extension with the Diamondbacks during the season and should be a fixture near the top of their rotation for years to come. Although the Diamondbacks may fall short of the playoffs this season and have actually had a worse year than in 2007, they can't be unhappy with what they have gotten out of the 28-year-old right-hander.

Robertson spent most of the season with Triple-A Tucson. He made 47 appearances with the Sidewinders, posting a 7-4 record with one save and a 5.02 ERA. That ERA was significantly lower before a poor August that saw him post a 14.40 ERA in 10 outings. Robertson struck-out 72 in 71.2 innings. He made six appearances in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks with 5.14 ERA in seven innings.

As happy as Arizona has been with their half of the deal, the A's are arguably even happier with what they picked up. At the time of the deal, there was some criticism of the trade because many pundits felt that the A's failed to land any major-league ready talent. As it turned out, all but two of the six prospects acquired by Oakland in the trade spent time in the big leagues this season.

Eveland was the first of the six to debut with Oakland. The lefty started the year off strong, posting a 3.49 ERA before the All-Star break. However, his poor command eventually caught-up to him and after a rough July and start to August, he was sent down to Sacramento to smooth out his mechanics. The A's have won all but one of his starts since he has returned from Sacramento and he has allowed only 12 runs in 38 innings (2.84 ERA) with 29 strike-outs and only 10 walks since he demotion. In total, the 24-year-old Eveland is 9-8 with a 4.09 ERA in 163 big league innings. He will need to lower his walk rate next season to maintain his spot in the rotation, but his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (eight homers in 163 innings) has been impressive throughout the season.

Smith was the next of the six players to arrive in the big leagues. He was recalled from Sacramento after only one start in the minor leagues and has been part of the A's rotation ever since. The left-hander has been a workhorse for the A's. He has made 32 starts, throwing a career-high 183.1 innings and posting a 4.07 ERA. Smith has held opposing batters to a .244 average and he leads the league in pick-offs, but he, like Eveland, has been hurt at times by command issues. Smith has walked 85 against only 108 strike-outs and he has allowed 20 homers. Overall, however, it has been a solid rookie season for Smith. Between Eveland and Smith, the A's have gotten 339 big league innings of 4.08 ERA (i.e. better than league-average) pitching this season.

Gonzalez was arguably the top prospect acquired by the A's in the deal. The outfielder almost won a spot on the A's Opening Day roster during spring training before a hamstring injury derailed him at the end of camp. Gonzalez began the year with Sacramento and he parlayed a good start with the River Cats into an opportunity with the A's in late May when Ryan Sweeney landed on the DL. Gonzalez got off to a good start offensively and made a number of highlight reel plays in center. A horrific August (.176 BA) landed Gonzalez back in Sacramento late in the month to get his swing back, however. He helped the River Cats win the PCL and Triple-A crowns by being named the post-season co-MVP. He has looked much smoother at the plate since returning to the bigs last week, collecting four hits in nine at-bats.

Gonzalez still has work to do on his approach at the plate. Big league pitchers began to take advantage of his aggressiveness once he was known around the league, so he will need to prove that he can control the strike-zone better to start seeing more hittable pitches next season. Defensively, he has proved he can play center and he should be the A's centerfielder at the start of next year.

Cunningham also had a strong spring that was ended early by injury. He broke his wrist sliding into second and missed the first five weeks of the season. Wrist injuries can be difficult for hitters to overcome, but he didn't miss a beat. Cunningham hit .329 with 17 homers and a 932 OPS in 107 games split between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. He was called up to Oakland in late August and has hit .271 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 70 at-bats over 19 games. Cunningham's defense has been somewhat uneven and it appears that he is going to be limited to a corner in the bigs. However, he has shown good power and the ability to be a game-changer in the late innings early in his young career. Although Cunningham has only 20 Triple-A games under his belt, he should be a strong candidate to start next season in the big leagues.

Anderson and Carter both spent the entire year in the minor leagues, but they both had outstanding 2008 campaigns. The 20-year-old Anderson began the year in High-A, but by the end of the year, he was pitching in the PCL title-clinching game for the Sacramento River Cats. Along the year, he pitched well at Double-A and was the winning pitcher in the bronze medal game at the Olympic Games. In 20 regular season appearances for Stockton and Midland, Anderson went 11-5 with a 3.69 ERA and 118 strike-outs against only 27 walks. He finished the year as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball and he has a legitimate chance of being in the big leagues by next August.

Carter spent the entire regular and post-season with the Stockton Ports and was arguably the biggest reason Stockton took home the California League championship. The 21-year-old slugger hit a Ports' record 39 homers during the regular season and another five during the post-season. Although he struck-out 156 times in 137 games, Carter walked a respectable 77 times and posted a .361 OBP to go along with his .569 SLG during the regular season. He hasn't settled on a defensive position yet, but he showed some promise at third and in the outfield, where his strong arm was surprisingly impressive. He could be the A's top hitting prospect going into next season.

Trade #3: Nick Swisher is dealt to the Chicago White Sox for Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos and Ryan Sweeney

What We Said At The Time

"A's Trade Swisher To White Sox"

"The Oakland A's made another off-season splash on Thursday, dealing popular outfielder Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for three highly touted prospects: pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. … Over the past three seasons, the colorful Swisher had become one of the most popular players in the A's organization. He was also one of the team's most patient hitters, drawing a team-high 100 walks in 2007. His career on-base percentage is .361."

What Transpired

Although the A's acquired only three players for Swisher, some pundits thought that the haul was even better than the one the A's took in for Haren and Robertson before the season started. Gonzalez and De Los Santos were among the top pitching prospects in baseball coming into the season and Sweeney, while coming off of a down year, was still a 22-year-old outfielder with a silky smooth swing. Most also predicted that Swisher, free from the pitcher-friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum, would put up big numbers with the White Sox.

Where one could argue that both parties came out of the Haren deal satisfied, one could argue that, in some respects, neither the A's nor the White Sox are 100 percent satisfied with this deal as of yet. Luckily for both parties, the players on both sides should have plenty of years left to make the deal a win for their teams.

With the exception of a strong June and August, it has been a forgettable season for Swisher. His overall numbers are surprisingly pedestrian -- .221 BA, 24 HR, 69 RBI and a 746 OPS in 489 at-bats. He has been strong at the hitter-friendly US Cellular Field (888 OPS), but he has been nearly non-existent on the road (595 OPS).

Ironically, Sweeney has given the A's almost the exact same production as Swisher has given the White Sox, albeit over a smaller number of games and in a different way. Sweeney has only five homeruns in 110 games, but his OPS is actually one point higher (747) than Swisher's. The Iowa native has hovered around .300 for much of the season and has shown he can play a passable centerfield and an above-average right-field. The biggest negative for Sweeney this season has been his health. He has battled a series of nagging injuries throughout the season that forced him to miss more than 40 games. Sweeney has been seemingly healthier this September and his numbers have taken off. Through Sunday, he was batting .321 with a 917 OPS this month.

Gonzalez has had an up-and-down season. The lefty entered the year as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but he has gone through some growing pains this season. He struggled early with Sacramento, but by mid-June, he was pitching like his old self. Gonzalez finished his time with the River Cats with a 4.24 ERA and 128 strike-outs in 123 innings. Over his last 10 outings, Gonzalez had a 2.62 ERA in 58.1 innings. He was promoted to the big leagues in early August, and there the growing pains have continued. In 30 innings, he has struck-out 30, but he has walked 24 and has posted an 8.70 ERA. Struggling during his first time at a level is nothing new for Gonzalez, but his command issues and long-ball tendencies thus far with the A's have been somewhat disconcerting. He still has the talent to be a front-line starter in the big leagues, but he is still a work in progress.

De Los Santos' season ended almost before it began. He made only five starts for the High-A Stockton Ports before landing on the DL with a sore elbow. De Los Santos underwent Tommy John surgery in May and he has missed the rest of the year. He should be back on the mound early next season. Unfortunately, he will be 23 before the start of next season without having ever made past High-A. He had the stuff to move quickly before the injury, but until he is throwing again at full strength, it will be hard to know where he stands.


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