Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, is one smart guy. In fact, he's gotten a bit of a reputation as the smartest executive in baseball, as he's steered the A's to the postseason the past four years with a payroll the size of the Yankees' catering budget. This reputation was certainly helped along by Michael Lewis' Moneyball, which cast Beane as the best in the business. Beane might be the smartest guy in baseball, but that's like saying you're the tallest midget in the world--there's a surprising lack of competition for the title. Beane has recognized that certain skills, such as getting on base, are undervalued in the market for talent, and he should be commended for that.
That's probably why he went out yesterday and traded Ted Lilly to the Toronto Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty. Kielty has a nice OBP, and will be an upgrade to what was the worst outfield in baseball last season. Beane's got a lot of pitching in place, and perhaps the thinking was that Lilly, without Rick Peterson tending to his mind and body, would regress to the pitcher he's been most of his career, and not continue to be the stud he was down the stretch and into the playoffs in 2003.
But Beane has made is share of mistakes, and none of them looms larger than signing Terrence Long to a four-year, $12 million contract extension in August 2001, after which Long became about the worst regular in baseball. Beane is so desperate to get that contract off his hands that he's apparently close to trading Long and Ramon Hernandez to the San Diego Padres for Mark Kotsay.
Kotsay will make $5.5 million each of the next three seasons, which seems like too much for the A's. Could it be that Beane has another move lined up? If not, I don't understand the Kotsay move -- why not just cut Long and keep Hernandez? We'll have to wait and see where Beane is headed this offseason, and if he can keep his reputation intact.