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Holliday to Oakland (Update)

The Oakland Athletics, a team that is neither particularly rich nor particularly close to contention, were close to pulling off the first blockbuster trade of baseball's offseason yesterday, plucking away slugging left fielder Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in a stunning deal that would only enhance the reputation of A's General Manager Billy Beane for creative roster-building.

In return for Holliday, 28, the Rockies reportedly would get closer Huston Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The trade remains unofficial pending physicals for the involved players.

Holliday, on the surface, seems like a questionable fit for the small-budget A's, in that he is set to earn $13.5 million in 2009 -- roughly a quarter of the A's 2008 total payroll -- before reaching free agency, and there seems little chance the A's could lock him up to a long-term deal before then. He reportedly turned down an offer of four years, $68 million from the Rockies.

The majority of Beane's biggest deals have been veterans-for-prospects salary dumps, such as the ones that sent away Tim Hudson (2004), Mark Mulder (2004) and Dan Haren (2007). However, in recent years Beane has embraced the concept of one-year commitments to big-name players, including Frank Thomas in 2006 and Mike Piazza in 2007.

With Holliday, 28, Beane could attempt to position the A's for a run at the American League West title in 2009 -- they finished 24 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels this season -- or turn around and flip him for prospects, either this winter or next July if they fail to contend. If the A's, who scored the fewest runs in the AL this season, hold on to Holliday for the full season, they would stand to collect two top draft picks as compensation if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.

Also, the financial impact of Holliday's arrival in Oakland would be lessened somewhat by the departure of Street, who stands to earn around $5 million next season via arbitration.

Multiple other teams, including the Washington Nationals, had inquired with the Rockies about Holliday's availability, and at one point the St. Louis Cardinals appeared favorites to land him.

Holliday's true value is subject to debate. Although he is a two-time all-star and the runner-up for the 2007 NL most valuable player award, his statistics appear to have been inflated by playing at Denver's high-altitude Coors Field. For his career, his home OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.068 is more than 200 points higher than his .803 mark on the road.

By Dave Sheinin  |  November 10, 2008; 5:24 PM ET
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It would be great to hear that the Nationals at least TRIED to acquire Holliday by making a serious offer. This organization is trying my patience and I want to see some effort to improve the team at the major league level. Holliday would have made the Nats so much better. What a shame to see him go somewhere else. Can't wait to hear about CC and Sheets and other big names not falling our way....

Posted by: drobins7 | November 10, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

When does the new A's ballpark open? 2010? Maybe Billy is anticipating having the revenue bump to sign Holliday? Otherwise, he collected trading chip for midseason.

Posted by: noahhirsch | November 10, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Curious what he gave up. 2 arms (a prospect and Gallagher / Braden level) and a position player (Rajai Davis might be a good fit), my guess. They have some excess prospects after their deals last year. I don't see this deal putting them past LAA, so my guess is figures he can flip Holliday down the stretch (or perhaps again this offseason), and will settle for the two draft choices next year if he can't.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 10, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I posted before you posted the terms. Gonzalez should be a lot better than Rajai Davis, but the pitching is a bit less than I thought. Street is hurt too often, but, if healthy, he could close again. He was surplus on the As, so that was a nice move. Smith is less than Braden. The deal allows the Rockies to move Fuentes. Atkins to LF?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 10, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I am sure Holiday is less than pleased about this move. Then again, Oakland could surprise some people. Aside from this year, they are annual playoff contenders that usually get bounced in the first round.
Either way, this will be temporary. They will likely trade him for prospects before spring training.
The Nats have a big problem on their hands. No big name free agent will sign with them, even with a big contract offer, because they are so bad. The new ballpark is cool, but it's not enough for a guy like Manny to endure 100 losses per season. A guy will take a few million less and play for a winner every time. Soriano anyone?
The Nats only hope is to develop some of their home grown talent into a respectable team, like the A's of 2000 - 2003 or the Phillies of 2007-2008. Once they get a few winning seasons under their belt, they can land some free agents.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | November 10, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

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