What in the world is Billy Beane up to?

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I was shocked when I saw on my twitter feed that Josh Donaldson was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Toronto Blue Bays for Brett Lawrie and prospects.  This deal in isolation is not so much the biggest surprise, but rather where things have gone since Billy Beane traded away Yoenis Cespedes.  I don’t claim to know as much about baseball as Beane does, bit the moves since July have been puzzling.  To recap:

1) Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester + Jonny Gomes.  Everyone knew Lester is a rental and Gomes is finished.  Cespedes was a great presence in the clubhouse and protection for Donaldson, and Moss in the batting lineup.

2) Dan Straily, Addison Russell, and Billy McKinney to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.  Samardzjia likely will be gone after 2015 to free agency.  Hammel’s status is unknown for 2015 as I write this.  In return, the Cubs got a lot of young top quartile talent.  With Joe Maddon in place as manager for the next five years, this trade will prove to be a genius move by Theo Epstein.

3) And lastly the Donaldson for Lawrie trade.  The A’s get an oft-injured player in Brett Lawrie, granted with great defense.  The Jays get essentially Donaldson’s offensive threat and control for the next four years.  Absolutely puzzling.  The middle of the lineup will have Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Bautista.  I like the Blue Jays chances to win the AL East.

At the time of the Cespedes trade, the Athletics were well in front in the AL West standings.  The rationale was that Beane was looking for pitching to take them deep into the postseason.  Gamble lost.

After all the dust has settled, Lester is gone and likely Hammel and Gomes are gone, leaving Samardzjia as essentially a rental for 2015.  Now that Cespedes and Donaldson have moved on, where will the offensive power come from in 2015?  Billy Butler and Ike Davis?

Looking quickly to where the Athletics’ significant contractual obligations will be for 2015: Billy Butler at $6.6M, Coco Crisp at $11M, Scott Kazmir at $13M, and likely a $15M+ payday for Samardzjia in arbitration.

There are two possible scenarios as the off-season continues.  Either Beane is rebuilding, assuming a $85-90M budget or he borrowed Jefrrey Loria’s reset button.  We shall see.

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