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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Daniel Robertson, ss|
|2. Franklin Barreto, ss|
|3. Matt Olson, 1b|
|4. Matt Chapman, 3b|
|5. Renato Nunez, 3b|
|6. Kendall Graveman, rhp|
|7. Sean Nolin, lhp|
|8. Dillon Overton, lhp|
|9. Raul Alcantara, rhp|
|10. Chad Pinder, 2b/ss|
Take your pick of obligatory card-game metaphors. General manager Billy Beane went all in. Or maybe he said “hit me” when he already had 18 showing. The bottom line is that the Athletics raised the stakes significantly on their 2014 season, but came away with another early exit form the postseason.
The A’s already had one of the best, most balanced teams in baseball through the first half when Beane upped the ante on July 4 by trading for Jeff Samardzija, one of the most sought-after arms on the market, and Jason Hammel from the Cubs. To do so, he sacrificed the organization’s two highest-ranked prospects coming into the season, shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney.
Russell had been Oakland’s most prized prospect, its supposed future at shortstop, and the trade deprived an already middle-of-the-pack farm system of two first-round talents.
Beane made another headline-grabbing move, though it didn’t affect the system, at the July 31 trade deadline when he dealt Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 supplemental second-round pick to the Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.
All the A’s have to show for these and other moves is an epic second-half collapse. Lester and Samardzija did pitch well, and the rest of the staff mostly held up its end of the bargain, but the A’s offense fell apart.
The A’s went just 29-38 after the all-star break, the worst second-half record of any team ever to make the playoffs. In the process, they plummeted from having the best record in baseball to barely clinching their postseason berth as the second American League wild card team on the season’s final day.
Oakland’s relief—there wasn’t much joy to be had by that point—at landing a third straight playoff trip was short lived, for the A’s blew a four-run lead in the wild card game against the Royals, eventually losing 9-8 in 12 innings.
Beane stuck to his guns after the season, saying the trades were necessary or else the team wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all. Say what you will about Beane, the GM is not one to sit on his hands. True to form, he didn’t waste any time after the season, dealing all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie and three prospects—shortstop Franklin Barreto, righthander Kendall Graveman and lefty Sean Nolin—to bolster what had been a very thinned out system.
Within a 13-month span from July 2013 to July 2014, Beane traded five of the six players Oakland drafted in the first round between 2008-13. Aside from 2014 top pick Matt Chapman, only Sonny Gray (2011) remains with the organization from among its last 10 first-rounders.
The bulk of the frontline prospects Oakland still has in its system played together at high Class A Stockton in 2014 and will graduate to Double-A Midland in 2015, led by shortstop Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matt Olson. The system is thin particularly in the outfield and in starting pitchers, the latter of which the A’s worked to address in the 2014 draft by taking pitchers with nine of their first 12 picks.
The system won’t provide much help in 2015, but then it didn’t in 2014 either. Gray and closer Sean Doolittle were the only players drafted and developed by Oakland to make meaningful contributions. If the A’s are going to compete again in 2015, they’ll once again be a team built from without.