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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Moss couldn’t have ignored the trade rumors involving his name if he tried.
By the time the A’s made it official Monday that they were dealing the All-Star first baseman to Cleveland for a minor league infielder, any shock about the news had long since worn off for Moss. In fact, he was able to apply some rational perspective on things.
“The Oakland A’s gave me an opportunity when no else really would,” Moss told CSN California in a phone interview Monday. “My whole goal when I signed (in 2012) was to go to Triple-A and do well and get a chance to go to Japan. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the three years that I had. Obviously I pretty much owe everything about where I am to the A’s. I played well, but without the opportunity it didn’t matter.”
A journeyman whose career blossomed with the A’s, Moss’ gratitude toward his former team is understandable. The feelings aren’t quite so warm and fuzzy for many A’s fans, who have watched the front office trade away two middle-of-the-lineup All-Stars in less than two weeks. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was shipped to Toronto for a four-player package Nov. 28.
In exchange for Moss, the A’s received second baseman Joe Wendle, a 24-year-old prospect who was Cleveland’s 2013 organizational position player of the year, but one who didn’t crack Baseball America’s most recent top-10 list of Indians prospects.
After a slew of win-now moves characterized Oakland’s winter last year -- those aggressive moves continued into the 2014 regular season -- it’s clear that general manager Billy Beane is charting a different course now by dealing away some of his best (and most popular) players in exchange for younger, cheaper players with an eye toward the future.
Many fans have expressed their displeasure via Twitter in recent days, but closer Sean Doolittle took issue with those who assume the A’s are ticketed for the American League West cellar in 2015.
“It’s still early in the offseason,” Doolittle said. “There’s a lot of garbage on social media right now -- that we’re rebuilding, fans saying they’re not coming to games. But we still have a pretty good team. I think it’s an insult to guys who are still here and busting their ass to get ready for 2015. As of now, we still have a really, really good pitching staff. It’s still an obvious strength we have. I don’t think anybody should be ready to raise the white flag just yet.”
Nonetheless, it’s astonishing to consider the amount of offensive firepower the A’s have unloaded. Including last July’s trade of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland has now dealt three hitters who accounted for 71 homers and 246 RBI in 2014.
The last time the A’s made these kind of moves was the winter before the 2012 season when they dealt three pitchers with All-Star resumes – Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Among the crop of young players they got in those moves was catcher Derek Norris, who came over from Washington in the Gonzalez deal. Norris admitted it’s weird to now be an A’s veteran and see others shipped out.
“Obviously the Blue Jays came at Billy with a pretty tempting offer (for Donaldson), and we know that with something like that, Billy never shies away from it if he can get a (big) return,” Norris said.
Norris emphasized the positive – that trades like these simply open up opportunities for other players to emerge. Doolittle said the A’s are at their best when they feel like they’e got doubters to prove wrong.
“I think it fits the identity of this team a little better to have that underdog mentality that we embraced in 2012 and 2013,” he said. “Last year it was different and new for us to hear people in the media talking about us (being postseason favorites). I think if we get back to that mentality and staying hungry, I think we’ll be all right.”
That doesn’t mean it’s easy for Doolittle to watch teammates be sent packing. He and Moss had lockers next to each other in the A’s clubhouse, and the playful verbal jabs between them never stopped. Knowing the A’s penchant for dealing, Doolittle is keeping an eye on the continuing trade rumors and speculation.
“We have a very close-knit unity,” Doolittle said. “You’re looking at some of those (rumors) because some of your best friends may be on the trading block.”