My previous post in this space ranked the worst baseball trades of all-time, and I included a deal between the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals that netted Mark McGwire for three forgotten prospects. After hearing the news on Friday that the A’s and Cardinals had made another deal, this time sending Matt Holliday to St. Louis for three more minor leaguers, a thought occurred to me: In the baseball world, hindsight is 20-20.
As of right now, the talk surrounding this trade is that A’s general manager Billy Beane got three highly-rated prospects from the Cardinals for Holliday, including third baseman Brett Wallace, a possible successor for Eric Chavez (though that isn’t really saying much anymore– sorry, Eric.) Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports even suggested that Beane pulled off something of a coup in the deal. That statement may prove true two to three years from now. But it’s presumptuous at this point to call this a steal.
On paper, in fact, this trade doesn’t look all that different than the McGwire exchange, which proved a debacle. In that, the A’s also got three prospects, and because none of the three panned out and Big Mac went on to set the home run record in 1998, the deal is generally reviled. There’s something else worth considering, too. Because the A’s also had to give up three players to pry Holliday from the Colorado Rockies last November, this move essentially boils down to Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez for the three Cardinal prospects. That in itself isn’t even a great trade, in my book.
Generally, I like Billy Beane and he’s done a lot to keep the A’s relevant over the past decade. But his track record is uneven. For every one or two great transactions (Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Billy Taylor for Jason Isringhausen, Barry Zito for nothing), there’s been a headscratcher (i.e. Tim Hudson for Juan Cruz and two prospects that haven’t panned out.) And the jury’s still out on most of the decisions Beane has made in the last two years in jettisoning guys like Haren, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden.
It will be interesting to see where this latest big trade ultimately ranks.
On a side note, I predict that Holliday will be wearing Yankee pinstripes a year from now. Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray once wrote that everyone who can go to New York will and anyone who can’t winds up in Philadelphia. While it wouldn’t be a bad move for Holliday to join Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the Phillies lineup– though of course Murray didn’t mean this– I don’t see Holliday passing up the annual $100 million windfall that the Steinbrenner family seems to roll out to its targets.