You kind of wish there was a way to make the A’s acquisition of noted Swiss Army Knife Ben Zobrist a direct attack on the Giants’ hegemony in the marketplace.
Of course, there is. You just have to be comfortable making stuff up for the sheer sake of making it up.
The Giants and Zobrist have been linked for weeks, mostly by people far more upset that the Giants’ offseason has been so megameh. He would make the terminally twitchy fan base feel better about the days since the parade cleanup.
Instead, the A’s grabbed Zobrist and the equally 30-ish shortstop/throw-in/take-him-or-the-deal-dies Yunel Escobar in a five-player deal Saturday that netted the Tampa Bay Rays catcher John Jaso and minor league outfielder Boog Powell and shortstop Daniel Robertson, plus $1.5 million in cash, coupons and food vouchers.
It fills one A’s middle infield hole, maybe a second if Escobar can be rehabilitated and it leaves the Giants further bereft in the off-season action department.
That, of course, isn’t Billy Beane’s motivation. He gutted a lot of the framework of the three-playoff team and did this deal to help re-establish Oakland’s postseason contender bonafides. He used the standard Beane-tastic arguments to explain the deal, including several versions of the usual “this is the price of doing business with low overhead,” but it has the added benefit of slightly mollifying fans who had buried him and upper management for seemingly dragging them through yet another tiresome and annoying rebuild.
It is, for the moment, a mid-winter victory for a team that could use one.
For the Giants, though, this represents another round of the noise you make when you stick out your tongue and exhale through pursed lips. Try it at home. It’ll kill a few minutes.
It also shows how thin the club’s margin for market forces truly is. To get Zobrist, they would have had to surrender not just muscle but marrow and maybe even a little bone, and Brian Sabean’s farm system has produced enough players to feed the major league team (three parades) but not enough to also be used as trade bait (normally low grades from Baseball America).
And it may even serve to chap Larry Baer’s already reddened mood, after the United States Olympic Committee selected Boston rather than the Bay Area as its candidate for the 2024 Summer Games. I mean, it’s one thing to be told no by a bunch of suits in Colorado Springs, but to be rejected by a bunch of suits in Tampa is an entirely different matter.
Then again, it may not bother Baer at all. We may simply be trying to light a fire here with wet wood, but the offseason has been so under-underwhelming for both sides that a little cross-bay fist-shaking could only help.
Instead, we must simply acknowledge that this deal was made simply because the A’s had what Tampa wanted, and the fact that the Giants did not really had nothing to do with it. Time will tell if it was an overpay, but the A’s have been in such a frantic offseason mood that anything seems normal. Anything except “Well, we screwed the trophy freaks on that one.”
Well, okay, maybe there was a little tiny bit of something like that. Just not enough to carry these two needy fan bases through until the start of spring training.