MLB's Winter Meetings, The A's and the End of The Hot Stove Season
Major League Baseball's Annual Winter Meetings are held for four days every December. This years' meetings were held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida beginning on Monday December 9th and concluding with the Rule Five Draft on Thursday December 12th. The last day of the meetings is usually considered the end of what is called MLB's "Hot Stove Season." Transactions between teams can be and are still often made after this extravaganza that is attended by general managers and representatives from all 30 MLB organizations, more than 160 minor league teams, international players and of course the media.
In the week before the meetings Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics were on the move completing six transactions in nine days. Beginning with the signing of free agent and starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and continuing with five trades that brought the likes of closer Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles, OF Craig Gentry from the Texas Rangers and RHP Luke Gregerson from the San Diego Padres to the Oakland Athletics. Through those trades the A's did not send any big names to their opposition instead trading away some of their top minor league prospects like OF Michael Choice, catcher David Frietas and second baseman Jemile Weeks.
With all that activity leading up to the winter meetings it seemed that the Athletics might have a nice quiet four days ahead of them as has been their method of operation in recent years. Billy Beane, having just been voted MLB Executive of the Year by Baseball America for the second time (the first coming in 2002), is not known for enjoying the busy, chaotic, fast paced atmosphere of the winter meetings. Usually preferring to come late, leave early and keep as low a profile as possible for such a big name general manager. The 2013 winter meetings went a little differently for Beane who while still arriving late and leaving early managed to conduct two big trades in two days.
The first trade involved starting pitcher, southpaw Brett Anderson. The A's have quite a bit of depth to their starting rotation already with six guys competing for the coveted five spots. Anderson, 25, has been brilliant with the A's in the past and was even their opening day starter last season. Unfortunately the young pitcher has been sidelined much of his career with injuries ranging from requiring Tommy John Surgery to last season breaking a bone in his left foot while warming up for a game. He would be commanding $8 million from the A's this season. With an already packed pitching staff of mainly rookies on much lower salaries, Anderson seemed the most likely to go.
During the meetings talks about Anderson between the Athletics and the Colorado Rockies intensified quickly. Anderson was traded to Colorado along with cash considerations for left-hander Drew Pomeranz, 25 and Class A right-hander Chris Jensen, 23.
Pomeranz, also a big lefty similar to Anderson, went 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA with the Rockies last season though he spent more time in the minors with Class AAA Colorado Springs. He was a top prospect for the Indians, drafted in the fifth round in 2010 but has yet to take his strong potential and convert it to major league production. Still the A's believe he has time to come into that production as and the A's with the depth of their rotation have time to spare. Beane said,
"He's only 25 and a lot of people still think very highly of his abilities, and we felt it was a good time to acquire him. Guys like this aren't that easy to acquire -- this young with this kind of upside."
Rumors of moving Anderson had been heard a lot since the end of the 2013 MLB season but suddenly in a surprise move Beane traded famed Twitter extraordinaire and fan favorite left handed reliever Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals for their Minor League Player of the Year, speedy out fielder Billy Burns.
Blevins would seemingly be a huge loss for the Athletics' being one of the few left handers in their bullpen, their longest tenured player and the team's player representative. Yet since the A's acquired Pomeranz who can be a bullpen option and fellow southpaw Fernando Abad from an earlier trade with the Nationals their bullpen should still be one of the best in baseball. When asked about the trade Blevins, who made his MLB debut with the A's in 2007, took the news in stride saying,
"I'm kind of sad to say goodbye to Oakland but It's exciting to try National League baseball. Still the Oakland organization will always have a piece of my heart. It's bittersweet."
He even posted a photo on his Twitter account of him making what he called a "seamless transition" to the Nationals.
The picture was of him in a homemade Nationals uniform, a gray shirt and red had with the Nationals' logo pinned on. His close friend, fellow reliever and well know Twitter comedian, Sean Doolittle talked seriously of Blevins saying,
"You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who had more of an impact on my career than Jerry. Any questions, I went to him first. He was my throwing partner, the guy I learned how to prepare from, the guy I'd go over scouting reports with. We drove to the field together. There was definitely a bond there. ... For all intents and purposes, Jerry was like the dad in the bullpen, the leader."
Besides the loss of a fan and player favorite in Blevins the A's came out of the winter meetings stronger than when they went in. With most of the work apparently done in the nine days leading up to the meetings no one expected Beane to make two more trades and to do so in such quick fashion. Beane told reporters that the trades were made to strengthen the Athletics' farm system after having traded away a few of their highly touted top prospects like Michael Choice.
The A's are known for their stellar farm system and Beane apparently wanted it to stay that way. Burns should start the season at AAA Sacramento and could be a likely replacement for CF Coco Crisp after the 2014 season.Though the A's did not participate in the Major League phase of the Rule Five Draft, they did pick up RHP Tim Atherton from Minnesota in the Triple A Phase to help bolster their farm system,
There was talk from both fans and critics that Beane should have gone after a big bat that would help the A's get past the American League Division Series woes that have plagued them for over the last decade. But many forget that RF Josh Reddick played with an injured wrist most of last season. If he were to return to his 2012 form the A's should be just fine. In 2012 the Gold Glove winner finished the season with 32 home runs and 85 RBI.
Overall the Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics have come out of the last two weeks looking more than ready to win their third straight American League Western Division title in 2014.