At the risk of furthering a stereotype, I’ll admit that I follow the Oakland A’s closely. Because of Moneyball and sabermetrics, because Dan Feinstein left the Rays to rejoin the A’s, and because it’s like receiving a glimpse of the Rays’ worst-case scenario over the next seven-to-eight years.
The A’s recent run of mediocrity, spurred by an inability to acquire or develop impact talent, could happen to the Rays. It might be unavoidable. The A’s haven’t made the postseason since 2006. In the time since, they haven’t won fewer than 74 games in a season. They haven’t competed, yet they haven’t picked in the top-five, either. You could argue that they would be better off if they did, but that’s for another time.
The larger point here is that Billy Beane isn’t regarded as highly as he once was; therefore, he isn’t quoted as often. It’s a shame since I find myself thinking about new things every time I read an interview with Beane. Take this excerpt from one published in the spring:
-Q: Because you keep trading them before they’re free agents.
-BEANE: Yeah, the thing is, as the cost of salaries goes up, the time that you’re allowed to keep them is less and less.
If you look at the sequence, it used to be guys would go through free agency, the Giambis, the Tejadas. Then the Hudson, Mulders were four-plus, five-plus. Then the Harens, the Swishers were three-plus.
And now you’re going zero to two. So it just keeps shrinking and shrinking.
-Q: So you’re saying you have to avoid the deep arbitration years now, too?
-BEANE: No, it’s just the window is shorter because the costs in arbitration are higher and teams are willing to give up a lot less for players the further down, which is obvious.
But you used to be able to trade a five-plus player and get a good return. Now, very few people want to give up young players for that. Then it was four-plus, now it keeps shrinking and shrinking.
The key for us is to make sure we get some return…
I bookmarked the link when I first read it, and I stumbled on it again a few days ago. Ever since, I can’t help but think about trading Jeremy Hellickson.
Start with the service time concerns expressed by Beane. Hellickson entered the season with one year and 45 days of major-league time. Putting him at arbitration’s doorstep after next season. Hopes of a pre-arbitration team-friendly extension seem slim because Scott Boras represents Hellickson (and Desmond Jennings). You can look back at Rocco Baldelli firing Boras and negotiating his own extension with optimism, but the odds of Hellickson and Jennings doing the same aren’t great. You don’t hire Boras without wanting what he provides. It’s hard to see either signing an extension because it’s hard to see Boras advising them to sign a team-friendly deal, and it’s hard to see the Rays signing them to a player-friendly deal.
Hellickson seems to be the exact brand of pitcher the arbitrators will love. He won an award of significance, he has a shiny ERA, and his team wins when he pitches. Hellickson is going to get paid a good sum as soon as he gets the chance. That means the clock is already ticking—more so for Hellickson, given how the Rays have operated with pitchers in the past.
And then there’s the on the field stuff. It’s hard to figure out how Hellickson will pitch moving forward, and that complicates matters. As does the inherent injury risk pitchers carry with them.
Even so, this isn’t to say the Rays will trade Hellickson or that they should. Just that the case is there. It wouldn’t be surprising if, for the reasons Beane outlined and others, the Rays examine that case over the next year.
Correction: The original post erroneously said Hellickson might qualify for Super Two status. The projected time is 1.134, meaning Hellickson will fall well short.