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May 23, 2002

Prospectus Feature

The Daily Prospectus: The Trade

by Joe Sheehan

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I know I'm supposed to write about the Jeremy Giambi trade. It's one of the strangest moves we've seen in a while, it involves a GM whose praises we've been singing for years and a player whose abilities we've promoted. Acquiring John Mabry makes no sense from any standpoint for the A's, a fact I'm sure Chris Kahrl will address in the next Transaction Analysis.

The fact is, I don't have much to say beyond that. Any "analysis" I might provide wouldn't be much above the "Is Mike Piazza gay?" speculation we've been subjected to this week, and I've spent much of the last few years railing against just that kind of writing. It doesn't add anything to the discussion, and it causes problems for the subject.

Do I believe this was a baseball deal? No, but all I have to go on is Little G's pot bust back in December and the lackluster play of the A's in recent weeks. I can't draw a line between these events; that's probably a weakness of my "informed outsider" position, and one I have to live with. I'm reasonably sure that there is more to this trade than the stated reasons for it, and I'm curious to see what the next few weeks bring.

Yesterday certainly was an odd day, though. I was pretty convinced the thing was a hoax at first, as I'm sure many of you were. Even as the day went on, and it became clear the trade had actually happened, the whole situation had an eerie quality to it.

Did anyone else think of "The Stepford Wives" when they read Billy Beane's quotes? "Jeremy was off to a good start but we were concerned he was too one-dimensional." "It was apparent we needed to improve our defense, and we wanted to give [Adam] Piatt some at-bats."

Really, all that was missing was a shot of him holding that day's paper up to the camera and saying, "I am fine, and they are treating me well. Please listen to their demands so I can go home again."

If I have a concern here, it's that this trade is so obviously not right that it's going to invite speculation and, inevitably, more digging into the reasons behind it. If Beane had traded Giambi for bullpen help, it might have been dismissed as a bad idea, but a "conventionally" bad one. If Giambi had been dealt for the #3 starter for Clearwater, it could have been explained as a salary dump. Trading for John Mabry, who doesn't deserve a roster spot, is hanging a huge "LOOK DEEPER AT THIS" sign outside the door.

I believe that Beane knows this, and that's the part of it that bothers me: not that he might have had to trade Giambi for non-baseball reasons, but that he didn't, or didn't care to, make it look good.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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