Many teams sit by and don't pull the trigger on trades hoping that the retained players some day will turn into winners.
Not the A's.
The A's felt that Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Mark Kotsay, Dan Johnson, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher, Chad Gaudin and Marco Scutaro would not bring another division championship to Oakland.
Pitchers Justin Duchscherer, relievers Huston Street and Alan Embree are good candidates to follow the others out of town.
Shortstop Bobby Crosby and second base partner Mark Ellis are more than likely headed out of town at some point, too.
The A's drafted infielder Jamile Weeks in the first round of last month's amateur draft. They acquired infielders Eric Patterson and Adrian Cardenas (scouts say he is a sure fire major leaguer) in the Harden and Blanton deals.
The question becomes will remaining pitchers Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, plus minor league hopefuls Trevor Cahill, James Simmons, Gio Gonzalez, Henry Rodriguez and Brett Anderson form the nucleus of a championship pitching staff in the future?
Without some starting pitchers that have proven track records (30 starts in three consecutive years) a tremendous burden is placed on the major league pitching rotation. It's difficult for young pitchers to learn how to win in the majors without some veterans (peers) to teach them the art of pitching to major league hitters.
Assuming the pitching staff will be in good hands, the real problem that plagues this team now and in the immediate future is scoring runs.
Many baseball people feel it takes 3-4 years for a young hitter to establish his credentials in the majors.
How does one truly evaluate the future impact of outfielders Carlos Gonzalez, Jack Cust, Travis Buck, Ryan Sweeney plus first basemen Daric Barton and Wes Bankston?
When the A's were in the playoffs in the early 2000's, there was a nice blend of players with 4-5 years experience to meld with the young players coming up.
The game has changed and the A's as always are blazing the trail. Many teams are shying away from signing high-priced free agents in their building efforts choosing instead to trade veterans for prospects. The A's are the first to entirely rebuild their team with top prospects from other organizations in addition to recently drafted players.
Winning organizations still stress good pitching and defense as the cornerstones to success.
You can build your team through a blend of veterans and younger players or go all out with a youth movement as Oakland is doing. Neither method is a guarantee of future success.
The rich teams such as the Mets, Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox and Tigers have constructed their teams by paying top dollar for veterans.
When one chooses to build with veterans two things may happen: one the veteran players will give a more predictable performance and actually play winning baseball, or, two, they flop and their salaries become an albatross to the organization.
The teams that go young have predictable results too. First the young players are truly unpredictable going from outstanding rookies one season to struggling second- and third-year players the next.
Teams can get in the thick of the race right away if their young players come through, thereby giving false hope for the future.
Colorado and Arizona are prime examples of two teams that failed to meet 2008 expectations based upon 2007 results.
The Rockies' rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki played like an MVP in 2007. This season his batting average (while the shortstop has been healthy) has been stuck around .160. Young pitchers Franklin Morales, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez were world-beaters down the stretch in '07. This season Morales is in the minors and Jimenez has been inconsistent from opening day while Francis is on the DL sporting a losing record.
Arizona counted on second-year players centerfielder Chris Young and right fielder Justin Upton to duplicate their 2007 success at the plate. Hasn't happened. Third baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop Stephen Drew continue to play inconsistently in the field and at the plate after productive seasons in '07. Starting pitcher Micah Owings' pitching ups and downs are taxing the 'pen.
In the NL West, the Dodgers also have young players who haven't played consistent winning baseball. Catcher Russell Martin is the only one who has given veteran manager Joe Torre dependable play. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney are all good for a few days, then unfortunately fall back into mistakes at the plate and in the field.
Any limited success for the teams in the NL West can be traced to the more experienced players. The Diamondbacks have found success with pitchers Dan Haren, Brandon Webb and Brandon Lyon. The Dodgers rely on veteran Derek Lowe, second baseman Jeff Kent and rejuvenated shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The Rockies rely on proven hitters Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe.
The best teams in baseball over the first half of the 2008 season were the Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies, White Sox, Rays and Angels.
The Rays are a good case in point as to the perils of relying on young players to lead the way. Pitchers Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza are on the cusp of establishing their credentials as big-time major league pitchers. One can only guess what starters Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnenstine will give manager Joe Maddon down the stretch. Rookie Evan Longoria has struggled recently. Carlos Pena, B..J Upton and Carl Crawford are also close to establishing themselves as hitters. These players might lead this surprising team to the playoffs this fall, but who knows what to expect next year.
The Cubs, Angels, Phillies, and Red Sox have a good blend of young players too. When one scrutinizes their rosters carefully, one realizes the core of these likely playoff teams comes from strong veteran players who have been down the stretch before.
The Yankees, Mets, Tigers, White Sox and Brewers also have a good blend of young players and veterans.
Where does this leave the A's?
The front office has a plan. An entirely new team is being crafted in Oakland. The plan is an all-out youth movement. There is little reason to believe more seasoned players will be sought until the young players establish exactly who they are. Why trade for a center fielder if Gonzalez will be a star middle outfielder in three years? Why bring in a new catcher if Kurt Suzuki will make the grade in the next two years. Why trade for more starting pitching if Eveland, Smith and Gallagher will be the new big three?
When will this new team achieve the consistency necessary to become a winning ballclub?
If and when this core group becomes legitimate major leaguers, the A's must be ready to add the veteran players to lead the way. These young players will take the fans on a roller coaster ride each day until they gain the necessary experience it takes to be a winning team.
Get ready! Oakland's all-out youth movement brings great hope for the future, but it will also bring many sleepless nights for all those who follow the fortunes of this club, unless some impact veteran players are brought in simultaneously to ease the transition to a roster dominated by first- and second-year players.