By Will Kimmey
July 30, 2003
Athletics general manager Billy Beane has made his first deadline deal of 2003. It’s not his usual jaw-dropper, so there might be more to come. But he did take a step toward improving Oakland’s offense by getting Jose Guillen from the Reds for minor league righthanders Joe Valentine, Aaron Harang and Jeff Bruksch.
Guillen, 27, has been a revelation for the Reds after starting the year in Triple-A. He entered 2003 with mediocre career numbers (.260 average, .305 on-base percentage, .398 slugging percentage in 2,050 at-bats) and his once-promising career appeared headed nowhere. He had reached the majors at age 20 with the Pirates in 1997 but never recovered from being rushed. Outside of showcasing one of the game’s best outfield arms, he had little to boast about. But Guillen suddenly has blossomed, hitting .337-23-63 in 91 games and ranking fifth in the National League with a 1.013 on-base plus slugging percentage. Questions about his maturity and makeup have dogged him during his career, and he had a locker-room argument with former Reds manager Bob Boone over playing time earlier this year. Guillen, who’s making $500,000, becomes a free agent for the first time after this season.
Valentine, 23, came to the A’s in last December’s Keith Foulke/Billy Koch trade with the White Sox. Valentine was a 26th-round pick out of Jefferson Davis (Ala.) JC in 1999. He led the minors with 36 saves in 2002, tying the Double-A Southern League record. Valentine goes after hitters with a fastball that can reach 96 mph and a slider that can be untouchable. He’ll be ready for the majors once he masters his command, and he could battle Ryan Wagner to be Cincinnati’s closer of the future. Valentine was 1-3, 4.82 with four saves in 40 games at Triple-A Sacramento. In 52 innings, he had a 53-37 strikeout-walk ratio and a .222 opponent average.
Harang, 25, has split the year between Oakland (1-3, 5.34 in seven games) and Sacramento (8-2, 2.71 in 12 outings). A 1999 sixth-round pick by the Rangers out of San Diego State, he was traded for Randy Velarde after the 2000 season. He struggled in the majors this year because his slider wasn’t good enough to keep hitters honest. He likes to pitch up in the zone with an 89-92 mph fastball and also has a changeup. His overall big league record is 6-7, 4.97 in 23 games, with an 80-54 K-BB ratio and .281 opponent average in 109 innings.
Bruksch, a fifth-round pick out of Stanford in 2001, shared the career record for College World Series saves until Texas’ Huston Street broke it with his fifth this year. Bruksch, 23, works almost exclusively with an 88-90 mph fastball and changeup. In 23 starts at high Class A Modesto, he was 10-8, 5.13. He also had an 87-54 K-BB ratio and .293 opponent average in 126 innings. He projects as a middle reliever.