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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Billy Beane's Role In The A's Farm System Collapse

From yesterday's Jim Callis chat ($):
Both Haren and Swisher are young and productive, and they're signed to easily affordable long-term contracts that lock them up for at least the next three seasons. In short, they're exactly the type of cornerstones a rebuilding club would want to rebuild around. But Oakland's farm system had fallen into such a state of disrepair that the A's decided they had to shed Haren and Swisher to bring in some minor league talent for the future.

Billy Beane has proven himself to be one of the game's best general managers, but how he escapes blame for the collapse of his farm system is beyond me. Yes, big league promotions have thinned out Oakland's store of minor league talent, but with 19 first-round or supplemental first-round picks in the last six drafts, there's no excuse. Funny, I seem to remember reading a book a few years ago about how the A's were revolutionizing the draft.

Secondly, there's no guarantee that prospects will pan out. I love prospects as much as the next guy, but unless the three best pitchers Oakland acquired (Brett Anderson from the Diamondbacks, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino de los Santos) all pan out, I don't think the trades will significantly upgrade the A's in the long run. And we all know what injuries and attrition can do to pitching prospects.

I think this is probably too strong a position; I like their recent trades. Further, the A's had hit a hard limit on what they could reasonably do in the scope of their budget while in their final year(s?) at Oakland Coliseum, so they cut bait on 2008 and reloaded an admittedly thin farm system. This was not a surprise, especially considering how many seasons they spent at the top of the division early in the decade, and Beane's preferred use of prospects in that era.

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