The A’s and Red Sox Love the Same Talent, and that Love is Spreading
The Oakland Athletics are a well-run ballclub.
They’ve been an A.L West force for three consecutive seasons now, which is no small task given that the competition is only getting tougher.
But that story isn’t new; General Manager Billy Beane has been behind the 8-ball in that way for his entire tenure. The guys around him have been making big, expensive, and splashy moves for the more than fifteen years that Beane has had to do “more with less”.
|Evan Longoria, 2008|
But that story isn’t new, either. That Beane earns his keep within the A’s front office has been well documented. When Brad Pitt is lighting it up on the silver screen with your portrayal, you’ve probably done something right (I mean, really, the guy only ever plays the hero). But there seems to be a common misconception that the crafty GM employs the same modus operandi as the similarly tight-budgeted Tampa Bay Rays, drafting and grooming their young club largely from their own farm (and trading those players away when they become too expensive, in order to restock said farm system). Nor has he generally extended young and unproven players to high risk, high reward contracts the way that the Tampa front office has, with guys as recently as Chris Archer (signed to a 6 yrs/$25.5 extension this season despite having five years of team control remaining and only one full season under his belt) or face of the franchise Evan Longoria (6 yrs/$17.5M during his rookie year in ’08, later tacking on another 10yrs/$100M in ‘12). Beane’s current 25 man roster, as of the end of the 2014 season, holds just two players that the Oakland A’s signed out of the draft.
That the A’s have been able to find so much success this year without having spent big money to sign proven and veteran free agents or draft their own top talent is remarkable, and only exemplifies Beane’s ability to adapt and find new ways to win. That trades have been his method of constructing this roster has been no secret, but when breaking down the current 25 man, one comes to find a common thread among quite a few players: Boston Red Sox find a way onto this team (for more on the history, check out last week’s series on the great players that have played for both franchises starting here).
|Coco Crisp, 2012|
As it currently stands, 6 of the 25 guys on Oakland’s roster have spent time in the Boston organization, two of which coming over as recently as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. What’s even more interesting is that these are some of the cornerstone players on the 2014, iteration of the team (and even the ’12 and ’13 A’s).
Coco Crisp, CF
Josh Reddick, RF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Brandon Moss, 1B
Jon Lester, SP
Johhny Gomes, OF
Guys that spent a significant amount of time in Beantown constitute nearly 25% of the everyday roster. I believe that both of these front offices have similar philosophies when it comes to player evaluation, but at the end of the day, Boston doesn’t need to rely on these guys to step up at some point, or be platooned in just the right way, as Beane and Bob Melvin have done so right recently. Boston can afford to sign a solid yet older Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, or Stephen Drew (a guy that only further proves that these two teams enjoy building similar rosters, as Drew left Oakland for Boston following the ’12 season).
It’s not surprising that many of the newer and younger faces among General Managers have attempted to build a system similar to Beane’s; with a “I can do more with less money” sales pitch, many front offices have given these executives a shot. What’s interesting is that Beane has noticed as well, and many organizations seem to be a favorite of his to trade with, as they employ a similar view in talent evaluation. Even Michael Lewis eludes to as much in his ever popular Moneyball in regards to a young Theo Epstien being an admirer of Beane’s tactics.
|Eric Sogard, 2013|
Just as many of the Athletic’s deals for former Boston players are now paving the way to sustained success for Oakland, so too may their deals with San Diego be laying a foundation for winning seasons. As it stands, the A’s hold 6 players on their 40 man roster that were acquired from the Padres or came up through their organization, a team that Josh Byrnes, another young face among front office executives, ran as GM until being fired late last June. And Byrnes just happened to be part of Epstien’s up and coming front office regime in the early 2000s.
Eric Sogard, 2B, SS (25 man roster)
Luke Gregerson, RP (25 man roster)
Evan Scribner, RP (25 man roster)
Kyle Blanks, 1B (40 man roster)
Nate Freiman, 1B (40 man roster)
Andy Parrino, UTI (25 man roster)
Most of these guys have only served in a limited amount of time with the A’s so far, aside from Sogard and Gregerson, who have been solid contributors at 2nd and in the 8th inning, respectively. Most of them seemed to have been given up on by their former team, much as a majority of their Boston counterparts. I expect to see a roster laden with former Padres in the next season or two, if Beane’s trade strategies and roster construction methods continue.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Longoria, Crisp, Sogard)