Understading the Moneyball A’s in Trades and Free Agency

In my last article, I talked about how the Oakland Athletics have the best GM is baseball, Billy Beane who has used the draft to improve his team every year and develop those draft picks into big league stars. In this article, I will focus on the trades that Beane has made that have improved his team and given them that late season push to make the playoffs. I will also look at cheap free agents he has picked that have improved the A’s.

Around the time at the All Star break of the baseball season, there are always trades occurring with players getting dealt to new teams. Every year one of the most active GMs in trades is Billy Beane. Beane talks non stop on his phone until he is finally able to make a deal to improve the team.

Some of the best trades Beane has made involves landing superstar players. In past years he has brought Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye to the A’s for practically nothing. Not only that, but he usually gets the other team to pay for the player’s salary as well since the A’s generally cannot afford that player. In making these deals Beane usually involves another team as a 3rd party trading partner. Beane will offer a mediocre player from the farm system for another player who has been deemed unwanted by his current team. That team is usually set on trading the person to get rid of them and their contract and Billy Beane is all the more willing to trade with that desperate team. In involving a 3rd team, he is able to give up very little for the player. Sometimes he will trade a superstar player on his own team that is entering an off season of free agency.

Beane knows that a free agent, while he would like to keep him on the A’s, realistically cannot afford the player with the low team budget the owner has. So he trades the player for equal talent plus a draft pick or another player that can greatly help the team out. Beane has done this with pitcher Keith Foulke and Octavio Dotel. Beane has a theory that the saves category is vastly overrated since any reliever can come in and pitch a scoreless 9th inning and get a save for it. Beane has traded 3 of his team’s closers in past years for draft picks and other good players.

Beane also has an interesting philosophy regarding soon to be free agents. Players in the last year of hteir contract he hangs onto. Then whichever team takes him in the off season, the A’s are given that teams’ draft pick. If the player is considered an elite in his position, the A’s are given that teams’ 1st round draft pick. Thus the A’s usually have multiple draft picks. When the Yankees signed Jason Giambi, the A’s got the Yankees first round pick. Since the A’s draft very well the draft picks become very important in restocking the farm system for big leaguers to play for the A’s.

Beane realizes that under baseball rules, a team can only hold a player under contract for a few years in the minors and big leagues before his contract is up. The A’s make good use of that rule since they cannot afford to resign their players.

Finally, Beane picks up free agents that are unwanted by other teams and come cheaply for the A’s. Player Scott Hattenberg was deemed as a bad player who could no longer catch or play first base because of his deteriorating arm. However Beane still liked Hattenburg because he could draw walks and get hits to get on base. With a small salary, Hattenburg paid big dividends in his statistical results.

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