Choice-Gentry trade shows mettle of Beane, Daniels
A's, Rangers GMs both make gutsy moves in intradivision deal of contenders
The Athletics and Rangers just made the kind of trade that only really smart, really confident general managers make. In this case, it was Oakland's Billy Beane and Texas' Jon Daniels. It's the kind of trade that reflects plenty of organizational swagger on both sides. To put it another way, these boys aren't afraid to fail.
Right around the time Baseball America was naming Beane its 2013 Executive of the Year on Tuesday, he was in the middle of a whirlwind of deals, making three trades to bring outfielder Craig Gentry and relievers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson to the A's. He also signed free-agent left-hander Scott Kazmir.
When Beane was done, he'd put the finishing touches on a bullpen that might be the best in baseball, upgraded an already good rotation and given manager Bob Melvin some flexibility with his outfield and lineup.
Beane's not done yet. He now has the flexibility to trade a starting pitcher as he searches for a middle infielder or a catcher. But the four deals can stand alone, too, and Beane has positioned the A's to win the American League West for a third straight year. Actually, he may have positioned them to do more than that, but that's a discussion for another time.
Now about that Gentry deal. It's one that speaks volumes about how the A's and Rangers do business. Beane surrendered arguably his best prospect, 24-year-old outfielder Michael Choice, for Gentry, a 30-year-old outfielder who has never had 300 plate appearances in a season. However, Gentry has the kind of skills that can impact a game in an assortment of ways.
Gentry is very fast and has one of the best outfield arms in the game. He also seemed to come of age after the All-Star break this past season, when manager Ron Washington wrote his name in the lineup every day. Gentry hit .338 after the break, including .354 in September.
Over those 2 1/2 months, Gentry looked very much like the player the Rangers once projected him to be, and there must have been a part of Daniels that simply wanted to put him in the lineup in 2014 and see how good he can be.
But the two hardest commodities to acquire are quality starting pitchers and home runs, and in Choice, Daniels got someone who may end up being a 20-or-more homer player in the big leagues.
Depending on what else Daniels does, Choice may open the season in left field for the Rangers. If that happens, Washington is going to have to be patient with him. Choice has had just 18 at-bats in the big leagues and almost certainly is going to have some tough times.
For a team like the Rangers in a win-now mode, being patient with young players is difficult. Texas and Oakland play six times in April, and every one of those games will be a recurring evaluation of the deal.
To trade within a division isn't the norm. Then again, no one has ever accused Beane of operating within the norm. In building all those playoff teams with a bottom five payroll means, he has had the ability to see the world differently for a long time.
Many clubs are reluctant to trade with a division rival because if the deal goes bad, they'll be reminded of it over and over. To do a trade like this one says that the Rangers and A's are extremely comfortable with their internal evaluations of Gentry and Choice.
In some ways, Gentry is as much of a projection as Choice, since he has never gotten more than 287 plate appearances in a season, and there's no guarantee he'll get more than that in 2014. The A's have three regular outfielders in Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, so Melvin may have to be creative in finding playing time for Gentry.
In the end, the trade will be largely evaluated by how much October baseball Texas and Oakland play over the next few years. If the deal doesn't work out for one team or the other, big deal.
Both guys gave it a shot. They trusted their judgment, shut out the noise and did what they believe is best for their franchises. And that's why they're two of the best.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.