The Athletics were coming off another good season, which unfortunately ended without a berth in the postseason despite being tied for the AL West division lead with 3 games to go and the other team in the lead, the Angels, coming in for the last 3 games. The Angels took the first 2 games, and clinched the division. With a 91-71 record, the team was now forced to start looking at the hard fact that one of their aces, Tim Hudson, would be eligible for free agency after the 2005 season, and the team was highly unlikely to be able to afford the ace. From AthleticsNation.Com’s Tyler Blezinski, from before the trade:
So, I’m on record saying that Tim Hudson will not be wearing an A’s uniform in 2005. It’ll be tragic to lose Huddy, but if Billy gets young, cheap talent in return which vastly improves our offense and a starting pitcher, it improves the long-term outlook for the green and gold (since it sounds like the A’s cannot afford to keep Hudson after the next season). Beane may back out at the last second because trading a talent like Hudson can come back to haunt you, but I don’t think so. Billy is going to do what’s right for the long-term health of the franchise. And with the budget restrictions Oakland has, spending the majority of your payroll on three players (Chavez, Kendall and possibly Hudson) doesn’t make much sense.
The Braves finished the 2004 season with a 96-66 record and a division title (I know, huge surprise at that point, right?) The team lacked a true top flight starting pitcher, and would lose 2 different free agents out of their starting rotation after the season. Clearly, they were in need for a high-caliber starting pitcher.
The Moving Pieces
In Atlanta, Tim Hudson was slotted into the #2 spot in the rotation behind the return to the rotation of John Smoltz. Hudson signed a contract extension not long after being traded, at least in part due to his growing up nearby.
In Oakland, Juan Cruz was slotted into the bullpen in Oakland. Charles Thomas was kept in Oakland as well, but was a bit of a role player/4th outfielder at the start. In Sacramento (the A’s AAA affiliate), Dan Meyer, BA’s #43 prospect coming into the 2005 season, was slotted into the starting rotation.
What Happened Next
The Braves got everything that they could have hoped for out of Hudson in his first season in Atlanta: 14-9, 3.52 ERA and 192 innings pitched. He helped to stabilize the rotation for the Braves, who won another division title in the NL East. In his one postseason start that season, Hudson gave up 5 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings, taking the loss against the Astros and Andy Pettitte.
The Athletics were in a semi-rebuilding mode, going 88-74 in 2005 and finishing 2nd to the Angels again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that close, and the players they received in the trade really had no impact at all on the performance on the field. Juan Cruz was completely ineffective, posting an 0-3 record with a 7.44 ERA in 32 2/3 innings pitched in 2005. Thomas played in only 30 games in the Majors that season, posting a brutal .109/.255/.109 line with 1 RBI. Meyer spent the entire season in AAA, posting a 2-8 record with a 5.36 ERA in only 89 innings. Injuries derailed his season as well.
The Net Moves
Braves – First Level
- Tim Hudson has posted a 68-44 record with a 3.55 ERA in his time in Atlanta. Currently with the organization, he has thrown 967 2/3 innings pitched, struck out 580 and posted a 1.285 WHIP.
Athletics – First Level
- Juan Cruz only spent the 2005 season with the Athletics, posting the awful line listed above. He was traded to the Diamondbacks on 3/26/2006 for P Brad Halsey.
- Dan Meyer made another appearance in the Majors with the Athletics in 2007 and 2008, but was unimpressive. He posted an 0-6 record with a 7.98 ERA in 44 innings pitched over 17 appearances (7 starts). He was selected off of waivers on 11/3/2008 by the Marlins.
- Charles Thomas only spent 2005 in the Majors with the Athletics, but was with the organization in the minors until 2007, when he was traded to the Brewers for C J.D. Closser
Athletics – Second Level
- Brad Halsey was with the big club for 2006, posting a 5-4 record with a 4.67 ERA in 94 1/3 innings pitched. He posted a poor strikeout-to-walk rate with 53 K and 46 BB, and spent 2007 in the minors with the Athletics. It appears that he was not tendered a contract after the 2007 season, and is out of organized baseball.
- J.D. Closser did not play in the majors for the Athletics, and left (although I’m not sure how exactly) after the 2007 season
They can’t all be winners for Billy Bean, now can they? Cruz has become a very good reliever, evening earning Type A status before his last contract. It just didn’t happen in Oakland. It’s hard to say whether or not Thomas fizzled because he wasn’t given a fair shot or because he wasn’t good enough. His success in the minors really appears to have been entirely in the 2004 season, where he hit .358 in AAA Richmond, but with little power or speed. The key piece in this trade was Dan Meyer. From Baseball America’s Bill Ballew, in a chat shortly after the trade:
Q: Mike from Manassas VA asks:
Where would Dan Meyer rank on the Braves list?
A: Bill Ballew: top five, with serious consideration for the top 3
Clearly, he was pretty highly thought of, but just didn’t pan out the way that it was hoped would happen. Sometimes this happens with prospects unfortunately. This one is a definite win for the Braves, both now and then unfortunately. Amazingly, it didn’t really impact the Athletics as poorly as you would think given that they moved a top starting pitcher in Hudson. As I’ll look at next week, it wasn’t the only one that got moved that offseason.