After an Oakland run that saw them lose a devastating Wild Card battle and a Detroit ALDS that ended with a sweep at the hands of Baltimore, it’s time to hold the GMs accountable. After all, it was their bold trade deadline moves that put their respective teams in the World Series conversations, and it was those same moves that failed to get them there.
Yes, the very idea of critiquing the great Billy Beane is a scary thought, but this is the very mindset that is clouding the judgement of Beane apologists. With the 12-inning Wild Card heartbreaker, Beane moves to 0-7 lifetime in win-or-go-home games. His farm system is depleted, everyone is on the trade block, and his new ace is set to enter free agency with no expectation to even consider re-signing. Things are looking bleak in Oakland right now, and all fingers should be pointing toward Billy Beane.
At 67-41, the A’s were sitting at the top of baseball entering the 2014 trade deadline. A few minor upgrades would be all that was needed for a team that already looked extremely competent. Instead, Beane pulled the trigger on two blockbusters, one acquiring Cubs starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and the other snagging ace Jon Lester. From this information, it looks as if the A’s were a lock for the World Series, but they gave away their cleanup hitter Yoenis Céspedes in the Red Sox deal, and their top prospect Addison Russell in the Cubs deal. A shortstop prospect as highly touted as Russell comes along once in a generation, and frankly, the return of Samardzija (controlled through 2015) and Hammel were not worth it, especially considering the offensive struggles that haunted the A’s for the final two months of the season.
The A’s would go 21-33 following the blockbuster trades, with virtually no offensive production in a lineup decimated by the loss of Céspedes. Lester would pitch the Wild Card game and lose, thus ending his short tenure in Oakland. Céspedes was productive in Fenway Park, raising his average 13 points and now considering an extension in Boston under the tutelage of David Ortiz. Addison Russell is now a member of the Cubs’ future plans and projects to fill out an exciting infield of young stars in Chicago. Meanwhile, the A’s current shortstop, Jed Lowrie is set to hit free agency and has publicly stated that money will be the main factor in his decision, something nobody in the Oakland front office wanted to hear.
To sum it up, in the span of 24 hours, Billy Beane has brought the A’s from the most fearsome team in baseball to a late-season collapse with little offense and a dark future ahead. There is no doubt that Beane has done great things in Oakland and should be admired for putting a consistently competitive team on the field with a minuscule budget to work with, but Oakland has to wonder when and if their current GM can put it all together for a deep playoff push.
Frankly, things in Detroit aren’t too much better. Baltimore easily plowed through an atrocious Tigers’ pen en route to an effortless sweep in the ALDS. After watching the bullpen implode for 11 earned runs over the three game series, Tigers fans should be questioning GM Dave Dombrowski and his recent moves.
Even more talked about than the A’s trades was the Tigers’ game-changing move to acquire ace David Price from the Rays. In return, Detroit gave up lefty Drew Smyly, center fielder and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, and their #3 prospect, shortstop Willy Adames. With the Tigers, Price was good, but quite at the same level he was on with Tampa. He posted a 3.59 ERA over 11 starts with a strong 77.2 IP with Detroit. However, that pales in comparison with Smyly. After joining the Rays’ rotation, the 25-year old went 3-1 with a sparkling 1.70 ERA over 7 starts, striking out 44 and walking 11. Additionally, the loss of Jackson not only created a noticeable hole in center field, but his offensive production was missed at the top of the lineup. His departure shifted everyone in the lineup up one spot, which disrupted both the balance and the depth of the Tigers’ offense. Of course, one could make the argument that Price was acquired for his playoff experience and his “big game” mentality. Well in the decisive Game 3 of the ALDS, Price went eight strong innings but allowing two runs that caused him to end up on the losing end.
One could also say that Price is under team control through the 2015 season, so it wasn’t all bad. That is true, although with Max Scherzer hitting free agency this season and questionable to re-sign, it was clear that Dombrowski made the deal for Price for his contributions this year, when he could line up with Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello to make a fearsome playoff rotation. If Scherzer doesn’t elect to re-sign in Detroit, Price would have to match Scherzer’s 18-5 record and a 3.15 ERA to make the deal a net neutral.
The bullpen had been a lingering issue for the Tigers all year, and to his credit, Dombrowski certainly tried to improve it. He signed closer Joe Nathan in the offseason and added former Royals closer Joakim Soria midseason in effort to make the biggest weakness a strength. However, Nathan posted an abysmal 4.81 ERA, an unusually high number for someone who retained the closer’s role for the entire season. His K/BB ratio was a horrendous 1.86, and after a season with Texas in which he put up a remarkable 297 ERA+, that number plummeted to just 83 this season (league average is 100). And come playoff time, Joakim Soria’s ALDS ERA was 45.00, allowing 5 ER in his one inning of work.
The Tigers’ moves would allow them to barely squeak by the Royals in the division race, and then led to their early demise in a three-game sweep to the Orioles. Worth it? No.
With their respective teams’ collapses in 2014, it has finally reached the point where normally-untouchable GMs Billy Beane and Dave Dombrowski have to be put on the hot seat and take the blame for their failures. Both GMs overreached at the deadline, trying to make a good situation even better and winding up falling flat in the end.