With yesterday’s shipment of Mark Kotsay to Atlanta following prior winter trades of such Oakland fixtures as Dan Haren and Nick Swisher, A’s fans can be excused if they suspect ownership has already given up on 2008. Owner Lewis Wolff insists to the SF Chronicle’s John Shea, however, “I’m expecting much better than a .500 season.” (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s where you finish, but you’ve got to have a platform to get there,” Wolff said. “Last year was a disappointment for me, not because the players didn’t try, but we had so many things that didn’t work out.
“I think we’ll do better in ’08 than ’07. If we stayed with what we had, on paper it might have looked terrific, but then you’re doing nothing; you’re not proactive. We’ll be very competitive and, with a little luck, will win more games than people are anticipating.”
Wolff was in a mood to vent. He read the columnists and peeked at the fan posts on general manager Billy Beane’s rebuilding binge, which were more negative than positive.
In contrast, Wolff welcomed the trades and called Beane’s moves “brilliant” for helping to replenish a barren farm system and possibly begin filling holes as soon as this year. Haren and minor-league pitcher Connor Robertson were dealt to the Diamondbacks for six prospects, and Swisher went to the White Sox for three more.
Haren is due $4 million this year, Swisher $3.5 million. Wolff vehemently denies it’s a fire sale, insisting Beane isn’t disassembling the team. The payroll approached $80 million last year – “we were in the middle of the pack even though some of our fans think we spent only 50 cents,” Wolff said – and it’s currently just north of $60 million and is budgeted for $72 million, though Wolff claims he’d be willing to go higher.
That would leave money for Barry Bonds, right?
“Well, certainly, he’s a fantastic player,” Wolff said. “If you go through our proprietary program, he comes out extremely high among players. I don’t think we’re heading in that direction. We don’t judge guilt until somebody else does. But right now, I think the idea is to build a younger club. Billy may change and feel differently, and that would be up to him.”
Oakland’s farm system was “pretty much in the bottom 10” before the trades, according to Wolff, who now says, “This moves us in the top 10, and that’s important when the system provides your flow of players. It was re-established overnight. Though I hate to lose Dan or Swish, some of those (acquired) players are going to help us this year.
“We didn’t want to have another year with the very same people and just hope and cross our fingers that nobody was going to be hurt. It was very depressing last year.”
Wolff insists the trades weren’t made with Fremont in mind. In November, the A’s filed plans for their “ballpark village” to include a 32,000-seat ballpark, and it would make sense for the team to be firing on all cylinders if/when it opened a new yard, but Wolff said that’s not part of the equation.
“Forget about the venue,” he said. “We’ll have to have a ball team whether we have a new venue or not.”