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How the Holliday Trade Could Make More Sense

The ink hasn't completely dried on the Matt Holliday trade -- with e-mail and Blackberries and txt messaging is any ink even involved anymore? -- and physicals still need to be passed, but the trade already stands as one of the more intriguing and puzzling swaps in recent years. Here's why:

1) As Dave noted yesterday and this morning, the A's have a penchant for cutting costs, not adding to them. Just consider the litany of starting pitchers he traded away in their prime for prospects: Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton ... the list goes on and on.

2) Much has been made of Oakland GM Billy Beane's willingness to add individual high-priced free agents in the form of Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas the past three years, but can the A's really say those moves paid off? Piazza played in only 83 games in 2007, hitting .277 with a .313 OBP. Thomas hit .270 with a .381 OBP in a resurgent 2006 in which he drove in 114 runs. Then Bean tried to re-tap that magic in 2008 after the Big Hurt was cut from Toronto, and things went south fast. Thomas' 2008 numbers? Fifty-five games, .263 average and only 19 RBI. So why would Beane keep going to the well with high-priced, short-term assets (Holliday only has one year left on his deal) instead of building from within, as he always had?

3) The Rockies got three players from Oakland in the trade, and all are legitimate assets. Unfortunately for Colorado fans, GM Dan O'Dowd seemed to already have young options to fill two of those positions: center fielder Willy Taveras (they acquired Oakland's Carlos Gonzalez) and closer, where Manny Corpas is seen as the team's closer of the future (they picked up former All-Star Huston Street).

4) Why would the Rockies pull the trigger on a deal with Oakland so soon? There was legitimate smoke around a potential trade in which the Rockies were asking for Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick and Mitchell Boggs for Holliday. Even if the Rockies had to back off one of those prospects -- let's say Boggs for the sake of the argument -- and taken a Class B minor leaguer, wouldn't that have offered more upside than the Huston Street (established yet occasionally shaky closer)-Greg Smith (fairly pedestrian starter)-Carlos Gonzalez (outfielder with upside and power) package?

All of those questions certainly seem justifiable, yet there's reason to believe that this trade can't be judged on paper anytime soon. That's because the two teams may not be done dealing with the players they gained.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Rockies are nowhere near done dealing, with teams angling for Taveras, catcher Yorvit Torrealba and third baseman Garrett Atkins. If Taveras is moved, Gonzalez would immediately have a slot to slide into. Then again, Colorado might move Gonzalez along before he plays a single game in those sleeveless uniforms. The hometown Nationals are reportedly interested in bringing Gonzalez's bat over to Navy Yard, which would potentially give the Nats a complete outfield overhaul, with Lastings Milledge likely the only returning starter after Josh Willingham slots into his eventual role.

It seems unlikely that the Rockies would move both Taveras and Gonzalez, but you never know. If they get another strong outfield prospect in a potential Atkins deal, it might free them up to trade both young outfielders.

Then there's the Huston Street side of the deal. The Rockies have reportedly already told Corpas he's the team's closer going forward. That would seem to suggest Street isn't long for the mountainous Colorado terrain, and with the uncertain closer market -- both Francisco Rodriguez and now-departed Rockies closer Brian Fuentes are holding out for huge paydays -- a team looking for a more cost-effective solution could enter the fray for Street, who is only 25 and thus under team control for two more seasons. He'll make good money in arbitration -- Dave has him pegged for about $5 million via negotiations and potential hearing -- but would still be a lot cheaper than any of the top free agent possibilities, perhaps including former Nats back-ender Chad Cordero.

Amazingly, the A's can't even be counted on to hold on to their side of the deal. With Beane being the wheeler-dealer of Major League Baseball -- some of his past drafts and offseasons would make Harry Redknapp blush -- Beane could wait until Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira sort out their free agency and then offer Holliday up to the Dodgers, Angels (who don't need an outfielder but always seem interested in adding a bat during a quiet offseason), Yankees (Holliday would be a pretty big upgrade over Xavier Nady, huh?) or Red Sox (why keep a quartet without tons of power when you can trade Coco Crisp for pitching prospects and use oft-injured J.D. Drew and youngster Jacoby Ellsbury as a center field platoon?).

It's more likely that Beane will hold on to Holliday, play him during the regular season and, if he proves his numbers really aren't a product of the Coors Field bandbox and its altitude, Beane can then trade him to any of the aforementioned teams or other contenders (the Cardinals have already shown they're interested, the Giants could make a run if their pitching keeps them in contention or maybe the Blue Jays could angle to add Holliday's bat).

Of course, it's possible that none of these scenarios play out and this truly ends up being a 3-for-1 trade focused around a closer and former runner-up for the NL MVP. If that's the case, it really will be a fascinating and unexpected move, but with these GMs and their relatively fluid philosophies of building a team, you can't start to pass judgment until April 6.

By Cameron Smith  |  November 11, 2008; 4:19 PM ET
Categories:  Athletics , Rockies  
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With regard to the Nats overhauling the outfield, why Milledge and not Dukes? Is the conjecture that Dukes would not be a starter, or that Dukes would be traded?

Also, are the Nats out of the Holliday discussions? Beane and Bowden have dealt successfully before. Perhaps the Nats are still in the discussion for Holliday too. Or Taveras with the Rockies?

Posted by: natbisquit | November 12, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

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