Monday, November 10, 2008

Why the Matt Holliday Trade Works

So it appears that the inevitable trade of Matt Holliday has finally happened. But shockingly, Holliday was not traded to Cardinals, Yankees, or any other "big market" club. Instead, it was the small market Athletics that shocked the baseball world by acquiring Holliday. It's easy to see the negatives here: Holliday's home/away splits, the contract, giving up lots of talent; but I like this trade. And I love what Billy Beane is doing. Here's why:

1. the contract
-While so many look at Holliday's contract and think rental, I look at it as an opportunity. Holliday is not only a great player, but a great asset to have. As we saw with CC Sabathia, teams can still get a premium package for a guy if they move him in the middle of the season. Given the desperation of teams in the middle of the season, Beane should have no problem moving Holliday...if that's what he chooses. In the current market, it would be much easier to start a bidding war for Holliday's services in the middle of the season rather than at the start of free agency. The market is more likely to be barren and Holliday could be the final piece to any championship puzzle.

2. He makes the team better
-The Athletics offense sucked big time last season. They were last in batting average, total bases, slugging percentage, and most surprisingly, OBP. Holliday hit .321 last season with 25 homers and 88 RBI with an impressive .409 he would obviously be a great fit here, especially with his high OBP. The A's become instantly better with Holliday in their lineup and who knows, maybe they can actually compete in 2009, especially if they add another hitter or two.

And if anyone wants to scream at me about Holliday's stats away from Coors Field, I will immediately point you in the direction of Holliday's 2008 road stats.

BA: .308
HR: 10
OBP: .405

While those numbers aren't ridiculous, they are still great stats, especially for an Athletics team that needs all the help they can get. This guy can hit, plain and simple.

3. Maybe they can sign him
-Depending on who you read/listen to, the Athletics could be pretty serious about signing Holliday long term. If this is the case, then this trade would make even more sense and would give the Athletics the bonafide star they are missing thanks to the demise of Eric Chavez. By acquiring him early, the A's are giving themselves are better chance to make a run at Holliday should they decide that they do indeed want to sign him long term.

Is it a shock that this story came out today? I think not. A potential new stadium would go a long way into giving the Athletics the loot to go after Holliday. Get it done Mr. Wolff.

(Note: This would be a tremendous change of pace from the fiscally conservative Athletics. I would love to see them sign Holliday, but at the same time, I would be saddened. Giving Billy Beane more resources to work with would be a travesty. MONEYBALL!)

4. What are they really giving up here?
-First off, I love Carlos Gonzalez. He has more tools than most guys will ever dream of and has stardom written all over him. There is a reason why he was the centerpiece in the Dan Haren deal. He's that good. But if there was ever a position where the Athletics had both depth and a need to upgrade, it was in the outfield. On top of Gonzalez, the Athletics have Aaron Cunningham, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Ryan Sweeney, Travis Buck, Rajai Davis, and Chris Denorfia. What do those guys all have in common? They are all young and somewhat unproven. The Athletics could not afford another season of Russian Roulette in the outfield and Holliday gives them a power bat who is well established in the league. If there was a position where the Athletics could afford to deal and needed to upgrade at the same time, its in the outfield.

-And if people are gonna cry about losing Greg Smith then there is something wrong. Smith was alright in his first major league season, but will he be able to sustain that in the future? I doubt it. Smith walks too many hitters and declined rapidly after May. Keep in mind that the Athletics also have Josh Outman, Sean Gallagher, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez, all of whom have potential and can replace Smith. Depth, depth, depth, depth, depth. Greg Smith is a good pitcher, but he is replaceable.

-And I'm not sure if Hutson Street is the third player included, but if he is, this would be another loss that would be mitigated by the Athletics depth. Between Brad Ziegler, Santiago Castilla, Andrew Brown, Jeremy Blevins, and Joey Devine, the Athletics have more than enough arms to replace the inconsistent Street.

So yes, the Athletics are giving up several talented players to get Holliday, but the their depth, which has been accumulated from past trades of Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and Joe Blanton allowed Billy Beane to pull the trigger on this deal. Once again, nicely done Billy.
(Photo: Forbes)

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