2008 In Review: The Year Of The Trade, Part 2

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 second part of a two-part series, we look at the last three of six deals the A's made leading into and during the 2008 season…

Part One

Trade #3: Mark Kotsay is dealt to the Atlanta Braves for Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond

What We Said At The Time

"A's Acquire Devine, Richmond For Kotsay"

"…Kotsay is coming off of the worst year of his major league career. The veteran outfielder appeared in only 56 games for the A's in 2007 after undergoing back surgery during spring training. … In return for Kotsay, the A's are receiving two promising young arms: Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. … Devine has appeared briefly in the major leagues in each of his three pro seasons. Thus far, his career has been spectacular at the minor league level and shaky at the major league level. … Richmond has exceptional control and good movement on his low-90s fastball. He also has improved his curveball and his change-up in recent years."

What Transpired

Thus far, this is a deal the Atlanta Braves would probably like to forget. Although Kotsay played surprisingly well when healthy for the Braves, he was acquired with the idea that Atlanta would be challenging for a playoff spot, something that wasn't in the cards for the Braves this season. In 88 games for Atlanta, Kotsay hit .289 with a 758 OPS and six homers. However, he missed the entire month of June when his chronic back problems flared up once again. He was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for a minor league outfielder on August 27th. Thus far for Boston, Kotsay is batting only .197 with no homers in 18 games.

One of Atlanta's main weaknesses this season was the bullpen. Braves relievers have compiled a 4.36 ERA and a 1.40 WHP and have converted the fewest number of saves in the National League. Meanwhile, the reliever they gave up for Kotsay has arguably been the best reliever in the American League this season. If not for an elbow injury that kept Devine on the shelf in June and July, he might be in the running for several post-season awards. Through Tuesday, Devine was carrying a 0.60 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP in 44.2 innings pitched. Plagued by poor control and homeruns during his big league time with the Braves, Devine has yet to allow a homer and has walked only 13 while striking out 49 this season. He is 6-1 with one save, and his one loss came when Emil Brown lost a ball in the lights that should have been the inning-ending play and instead resulted in a game-winning hit. He has allowed only 22 hits, good for a .148 BAA.

Richmond spent the entire season with the Low-A Kane County Cougars and was the team's workhorse. He made 28 starts for the Cougars, working a team-high 163.1 innings. His pin-point control was as advertised, as he walked only 27. Richmond was named to the Midwest League mid-season All-Star team after posting a 3.74 ERA. However, he scuffled a bit after the break, as his ERA jumped to 5.79 and his K:BB ratio went from nearly 5:1 to roughly 3:1. Despite the late-season struggles, Richmond, who will be 23 next season, has likely done enough to be promoted to High-A next season.

Trade #4: Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin are dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton and Josh Donaldson

What We Said At The Time

"A's Deal Harden, Gaudin For Four Cubs"

"The Oakland A's, sitting six games behind the Los Angeles Angels, made a move to make their club younger on Tuesday, dealing right-handers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for six players from the Chicago Cubs. The package from Chicago is a mix of players with major league experience and minor league prospects."

What Transpired

Rightly or wrongly, this trade is currently known as the deal that undid the A's season. Only six games in back of the first-place Los Angeles Angels and sitting with a record seven games over the .500 mark, the A's dealt their top starter and valuable swingman and watched their record plummet to as low as 14 games under the .500 mark before a late-season resurgence has brought the team to their current mark of seven games below sea-level.

Thus far, the Cubs have gotten exactly what they hoped for from Harden. The oft-injured right-hander has missed only one start (although he has often worked with extra days' rest) and has gone 5-1 with a 1.66 ERA and 85 strike-outs in 65 innings for the Cubs. He will form a formidable one-two punch at the top of the Cubs' rotation in October when Chicago goes into the post-season.

Ironically, Gaudin, who was acquired as "health insurance" for Harden, has missed a lot of time with injury. The right-hander reportedly hurt his back when he slipped on a curb and fell into a dumpster when out-and-about after a game. He missed the first three weeks of September and has allowed four runs in 1.1 innings since returning from the injury. It isn't clear whether Gaudin will play a prominent role in the Chicago bullpen during the post-season.

Oakland's goal with the deal was to acquire young players under the team's control for several seasons. Gaudin is arbitration-eligible at the end of the season and Harden has an option year on his contract for 2009, an option the team wasn't that comfortable picking up given Harden's injury history.

The key to the trade from the A's perspective was the right-hander Gallagher, who stepped right into Harden's spot in the A's rotation. The 22-year-old has a good fastball and is a pitcher that the A's think has the ability to be a rotation anchor. Thus far for Oakland, Gallagher has been up-and-down. He pitched through a dead-arm period that eventually landed him on the disabled list and did a number on his ERA. In 10 starts for the A's, he is 2-2 with a 5.02 ERA and 50 strike-outs in 52 innings. He has also walked 35. Since returning from the DL on September 10, Gallagher has allowed four runs in 17.2 innings with 17 strike-outs and nine walks (six of which came in his first outing back). He figures to have a prominent role in the A's rotation next season.

Patterson and Murton were two veteran minor league players who had put up good numbers in Triple-A (and in Murton's case, in the big leagues), but hadn't been able to stick at the big league level with Chicago. Patterson was having an outstanding year at Triple-A at the time of the trade, and that continued when he arrived in Sacramento, where he hit .330 with four homers and eight stolen bases in 25 games. He was given a long look by the A's both at second base and in the outfield, but he wasn't able to recapture his Triple-A form. In 92 at-bats, he managed only a .174 average, although he did steal eight bases in eight tries. Patterson injured his hamstring in mid-September and is out for the year.

Murton was a reclamation project, of sorts, for the A's. The right-handed hitter posted three solid seasons for the Cubs in 2005 (907 OPS in 51 games), 2006 (809 OPS in 144 games) and 2007 (790 OPS in 94 games), but he couldn't get into the line-up for Chicago in 2008 and struggled in limited time. In 40 at-bats, he hit only .250 with a 586 OPS for the Cubs. He also struggled some at Triple-A Iowa for Chicago, hitting only one homerun in 191 at-bats. Murton got a shot with the A's right after the trade, but his struggles with Chicago carried over. He had only three hits in 30 at-bats with Oakland before being sent back to Triple-A. With the River Cats, he had only one homerun in 130 at-bats. The A's will have a difficult decision to make this off-season about whether Murton can be the player he was from 2005-2007 or if his struggles in 2008 will cost him a 40-man roster spot.

The biggest surprise in the trade package for Oakland was the least-known player in the deal: catcher Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, a 2006 supplemental first round pick, was struggling mightily for Low-A Peoria at the time of the deal (.217 BA with a 625 OPS). The A's decided to get Donaldson out of the Midwest League after the trade and sent him to High-A Stockton, where he flourished. In 47 games, Donaldson hit .330 with nine homers and a 955 OPS for the Ports. His defense behind-the-plate is still a work-in-progress, but even if he has to return to his natural position of third base, Donaldson's bat is looking like it could be a major asset for Oakland.

Trade # 6: Joe Blanton is dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer

What We Said At The Time

"Blanton Dealt To Phillies For Trio"

"After six months of speculation, the Oakland A's have finally dealt right-hander Joe Blanton. Blanton, who was rumored to be on the move throughout the off-season, was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for three prospects: Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer. … The Kentucky alum has never missed a start because of injury since joining the A's rotation in 2005. Blanton was the final member of the A's Moneyball first round draft class still in the organization. He is in his first year of arbitration-eligibility this year. In return for Blanton, the A's have added three more prospects to their ever-increasing bounty of talented players."

What Transpired

Despite his first-half struggles (a 5-12 record and a 4.96 ERA for Oakland), Blanton was attractive to Philadelphia because of his status as a workhorse who could be counted on to throw six innings or so every fifth day. In that respect, Blanton has lived up to expectations in Philly. He has made all 12 of his starts and has averaged 5.1 innings per outing for Philadelphia. His other stats have been somewhat mediocre. Blanton is 3-0 with Philly, but his ERA is 4.45 and he has walked 30 while striking out 47 in 64 innings. The walks are unusual for Blanton, who had issued only 35 free passes in 127 innings with the A's before the trade. His 65 walks this season are the most he has allowed since his rookie season, when he issued 67, and his strike-outs (109) are down by nearly 30 from the year before. At the end of the day, however, Philly phans will likely judge this trade on how Blanton fares for the Phillies in the upcoming post-season.

The A's, thus far, have to be pleased with what they got in return for their Opening Day starter. Cardenas was the highest ranked prospect involved in the deal at the time, and he played pretty much according to expectation when he came over to Oakland. The A's first sent the 20-year-old infielder to High-A Stockton, where he hit .278 in 72 at-bats before he was promoted to Double-A Midland. In 26 games for the Rockhounds, Cardenas hit .279 with a .392 OBP despite being one of the youngest position players in the Texas League. He showed increased defensive versatility, playing shortstop for Midland after spending much of his professional career at second base. Cardenas will get to show his stuff again this fall against some of the game's top prospects at the Arizona Fall League.

Outman impressed the A's brass immediately when he came over in the trade. The left-hander flashed a mid-90s fastball with regularity with Double-A Midland, Triple-A Sacramento and now in the major leagues with Oakland. He split his time in the A's chain in both the bullpen and in the starting rotation, and he is currently getting a long look as a starter with the A's. He has a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 big league innings thus far for Oakland and he will join Cardenas at the Arizona Fall League this October as Oakland continues to weigh whether his future is as a starter or a reliever.

Spencer, in many respects, was the Josh Donaldson of the Blanton trade. Despite his many tools, Spencer was batting only .251 with a 686 OPS for High-A Clearwater at the time of the trade. He was sent to High-A Stockton, where he immediately turned his season around. In 41 regular season games with the Ports, the outfielder/first-baseman hit .333 with eight homers and a 935 OPS. He stole seven bases in eight tries, drove-in 27 and had a .560 SLG. The only mark against him during his time with the Ports was his K:BB ratio, which was an ugly 39:6. He will need to improve that mark to continue to rise in the A's system, but his power to all fields and athleticism are very promising. Spencer will be 23 next season.


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