The libelous and conjecture-filled off-season is in full swing and the Dutch Ovens are steaming! From every good Hot Stove comes a delicious Hot Knife, guaranteed to make your thinking hazy and unclear. There is a chance that Hot Knives will mess you up like a bad accident.
We here at Walkoff Walk will pack the hole in our crystal ball with some gum and electrical tape and look beyond the Hot Stove. The Hot Knives Report will evaluate the on- and off-field impact of trades and signings (both real and conjured) to teams too busy with their new toys to worry about the cost.
Today: Matt Holliday. Specifically, what on Earth does Billy Beane have up his devious sleeves?
No matter what Billy Beane is plotting, this is an exciting turn of events for A's fans. A big name in the prime of his career on the way in to Oakland? A measure of success that can only be matched by the dizzying heights of a Cakie binge.
Despite the horrible stink of Coors Field Effect that lingers on everything Dan O'Dowd touches, Matt Holliday is the real deal. Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs points out that his fancy ballpark-adjusted numbers (WPA/Li) are excellent, ahead of sluggers like Chase Utley and Carlos Quentin. That doesn't mean Holliday won't rue the day he passed on a big contract extension, because agents love big sexy home run totals. But Matt Holliday will certainly contribute in Oakland, either endlessly crushing doubles into those vast power alleys or slamming his chin into cheap beer at 924 Gilman Street. First one to punch Jello Biafra wins!
The contract extension that never was brings us to the real reason Billy Beane made this bold move: Holliday is a free agent at the end of next year. While Beane swears he won't flip Holliday like a cavalier homeowner now drowning in negative equity, he will be in a good situation to move Holliday as the trade deadline approaches, if not the before the season even begins as Jeff Blair coyly suggests. Should the A's compete for a playoff spot, Holliday stays and turns into valuable draft picks when he signs with the Red Sox.
Could the A's get their shit together and make a run at the playoffs? They scraped together a 75 win season in 2008 with a lineup of random and faceless replacement-level players that wouldn't look out of place at Burningman. Strong pitching and defense (i.e. stuff that comes cheap) that won't be hampered by the loss of one of their dozen soft-tossing lefties (Greg Smith), out-of-favour closer (Huston Street, who is somehow only 24) and a promising young center fielder (Carlos Gonzales). But their offense was so piss poor, even the addition of Holliday's 4 wins doesn't get them to .500. Rumours of Athletics ownership increasing payroll to the $80 million dollar range could bring another bat to partner with the plentiful cheap pitching.
As for the Rockies, they get younger and cheaper. They figure to send Street's pointy toes and chin pubes on their way before he even plays a single game in Denver, likely for someone else younger and cheaper. The Rocks hopes and dreams are tied up in Troy Tulowitzki and Manny Corpas, signed to long extensions after their rookie seasons. Carlos "Niko Belic" Gonzales projects as an every day player in the National League, using his speed to roam the ample acres of Coors Field.
This trade makes plenty of sense of Billy Beane and his cadre of soulless pencil pushers. Hopefully it will give loyal A's fans a reason to take part in joyful acts in the upper deck, even for just one season.