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When it Comes to Winning Now, Prospects are Just That

Billy Beane is out to win and had to send away top prospects to land a can’t-miss starter in Jeff Samardzija. Now it’s time for other teams to join the fray.

Addison Russell
Addison Russell

Addison Russell. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It happens every year.

Publications publish their top 10 lists of prospects for each team in preview magazines. Fans flood talk radio saying their favorite team’s top prospect is untouchable and must not be moved any circumstance.

Then comes the July trading season and your favorite team finds itself in a position to make a trade to upgrade an area. It’s either an area that’s good and can be better or an area that really needs to be fixed.

It’s the issue posed to many general managers every year around that time. The first one to really experience that was Billy Beane when he swung a deal with Theo Epstein to acquire pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. The price that he paid was shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.

Russell and McKinney are regarded as the top prospects for the Athletics despite their youth while Straily is an extra pitcher for an already good pitching staff.

Based on prospect reports, it’s a fair trade. The Cubs get two potential contributors in their lineup while the Athletics get two pitchers that can help them win now. The operative words being potential and can since nothing is guaranteed.

That being said, it’s a trade Billy Beane had to make. Not only did it solidify the rotation that was already good but it also gets the bidding out of the way early and gives both pitchers more time to contribute to the best team in baseball.

It’s not just Oakland talking about prospects. It’s virtually every other team that has struggled with production, among them the Yankees. We heard a lot of things about Jesus Montero and saw a glimpse of it for the final month of 2011 and then he was traded to Seattle for Michael Pineda, who in three years with the Yankees has made four starts.

In other words if you’re a general manager with an opportunity that Oakland has, it’s time to go for it. Live in the present and trust that your scouting staff has cultivated more prospects similar to what has been given up.

Oakland has had plenty of good teams in the past but in many of those years they were running into heavyweights from Boston and New York. Based on what we’ve seen so far, their main competition might be from Detroit, the Angels, and whoever wants to win the East, though it likely won’t be Boston and might be a weakened edition of the Yankees.

There will always be regrettable trades. That’s just the nature of the trading business. The Red Sox would have loved to have Jeff Bagwell back or the Cubs would love to have Lou Brock back.

The job of a GM isn’t to deal with hypothetical results. It’s to win and sometimes the cost has to be accepted to get the results.

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