The A's have traded Joe Blanton to the Phillies for three minor leaguers: second baseman Adrian Cardenas, pitcher Josh Outman and outfielder Matthew Spencer. I like Cardenas a lot--he's young for the Florida State League but has been very good there, and he's a former first round pick. But the Athletics' apparent decision to blow up their team seems like an odd one, since they're pretty much one Vladimir Guerrero back tweak from making their way back to the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus gives them about a 40% chance of making it. Outman and Spencer aren't particularly interesting, and none of the three players the A's got should be much help this year.
The more I think about this, though, the more I like it from Oakland's perspective, and it reminds me of something I've been talking about the past couple of days. A season in which you unexpectedly contend can cause you big problems if you take your eye off the ball. Maybe Billy Beane looks at this team and thinks that Justin Duchscherer and Greg Smith and Dana Eveland are pitching over their heads (even accounting for the solid defense behind them, they're not this good), and thinks that if he doesn't keep trading for players who might help him in 2011 or 2012 he might regret it once he gets there. And maybe if he keeps Rich Harden and Blanton and then Harden gets hurt, he won't have much of a team in 2009. And maybe Blanton's a good trade candidate anyway because Oakland's good defense makes him look better than he is, and it shouldn't be hard to find a replacement who can post a similar ERA with that defense.
What Beane is doing flaunts conventional wisdom in a big way, and I still don't think he got enough for Harden, but his patience may well pay big dividends in the end. If the A's finish this year way out of it and then Cardenas blossoms into a star--and both outcomes are possible--then Beane looks like a genius yet again.