Can you go through this deal and what Matt Holliday brings to the team and why you decided to do it?
Billy Beane: I’ve talked to Dan O’Dowd [Colorado GM] quite a bit and we actually talked quite a bit at the end of the year when it became apparent that they were going to consider moving him. Once the off-season started, we had more conversations and our thinking was that first of all we needed to upgrade our offense. That was obvious by watching us last year. But also there was some concern going forward with some of the young pitching that we’ve got coming to the major leagues that we wanted to give them every chance to develop in a situation that was fair. Matt fills a much needed spot in the order. He is a premium hitter in that third or fourth spot, wherever Bob [Geren, A’s manager] decides to hit him.
With Holliday’s contract being up at the end of the year, what is the likelihood that he stays with the team beyond this year or at least to the trading deadline?
BB: We’ll focus on the whole year. Matt is a premium player and I guess we will sort of cross that bridge when we get to it. There is no secret that he is going to command a significant contract. I guess I’ll say that when we get to that point, we’ll deal with it. Addressing it right now probably doesn’t make a lot of sense because it isn’t a unilateral decision from our standpoint.
How does this affect what players you might go after in free agency, or does it affect anything at all?
BB: I don’t think it has much impact on how we approach free agents. There are some that we might have an interest in, but ultimately, free agency, particularly in our situation, will come down to the economics of that agent. That has yet to be revealed because that process doesn’t start until Friday. There may be some guys that we are interested in. Whether or not we sign them still remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t say that this itself [has an impact], other than the money that we are spending on this player, other than that, I don’t know that it will have much of an impact going forward.
What does this do to the idea that you are rebuilding? Does this change the rebuilding process?
BB: I’m not PollyAnnaish enough to believe that you acquire one player and go from 75 to 95 wins. I think ultimately that we want to be better than we were last year and ultimately we want to continue to develop a young team. This is part of that process, as I mentioned before. And if you are to project into the future, if we were to carry this out, if Matt were, for some reason, to leave at the end of the year, then we would be compensated with two first round picks, which would fit right back into the long-term plan. This probably addresses our immediate needs and having to have some of these young pitchers develop and also stays in-line with what we are trying to develop long-term, which is to continue to acquire young players so that we can take advantage of situations like this. Our payroll was cut significantly last year and so we were in a position to acquire this player financially and also we were in a position to acquire him because we had a lot of young players.
With you having gotten this deal done in early November, do you feel like one of your biggest priorities for the winter has been taken care off, essentially?
BB: Yeah, definitely. Matt is an MVP caliber player, so to say that you are going to do better than this the rest of the winter wouldn’t be an accurate statement. It would be tough to do that. [laughs] It [offense] has been a major problem for us for the past couple of years, so to be able to address it this early in the winter, there is a certain amount of comfort in that.
Can you address the players who are being traded, especially Carlos Gonzalez, who was presented as the centerpiece of the Dan Haren trade last winter and now he is being traded in less than a year?
BB: Obviously, we thought very highly of Carlos, not just then, but we think highly of him now, but we also had some redundancy when it came to young outfielders. We also acquired Ryan Sweeney in the Nick Swisher deal and right now Ryan will move over into center. We still have Travis Buck, who we think highly of, and Aaron Cunningham and Chris Denorfia. In short, we had some redundancy and we felt like we were dealing from a position of strength. It doesn’t mean that we think any less of him now.
And what about Huston Street and Greg Smith?
BB: Same thing for Greg. For a rookie to do what he did in this league speaks volumes for him. But young pitching is probably the strength of our organization and we have some young pitchers who, at some point, we are going to be pushing through here in the next year. It was a position of strength for us.
In Huston’s case, at the end of the year with Brad Ziegler’s emergence and certainly Joey Devine’s, we had once again, an area where we felt like we could use these guys to acquire players to fill our needs because we had other players who were available who could fill those roles [i.e., the closer’s role].
Was there any sense of urgency from Colorado that this deal needed to get done before the opening of the free agency market?
BB: No. Speaking as a guy who has been in this situation, when you are a GM and you have a major decision to make and a winter ahead of you, it makes it easier to plan that winter when you’ve made those major decisions, but there wasn’t a sense of urgency, nor was there a deadline. I think one of the reasons that it was done so quickly is that Dan and I go back quite a ways and we talk quite a bit and that we have as many conversations as we do probably helped the process. We stepped up in terms of the players that we offered, as well. But by no means were we given a deadline and I never felt a sense of urgency on their end. Ultimately, on their end, and I don’t pretend to know their plan – and at that point all I cared about was acquiring Matt – but there wasn’t any anxiety on their end to have this done before a certain date. Once again, we were quick to the chase to get to this offering, and I don’t want to speak for them, but they made an evaluation from that point.
It’s a long winter. If you look at the Johan Santana deal last year, sometimes deals like that go on for so long that it sort of freezes you and you aren’t in a position to do other things. As GMs, we all want to take care of business as soon as we can, and I’m sure that this is a major part of their off-season game plan.
Matt is going to be going from a park that is offensive friendly to playing the bulk of his games at the Coliseum. What do you think his production will be?
BB: I think he will be just fine. Matt is, in our opinion and I think the numbers bare themselves out, an MVP caliber player. I’m not concerned at all about him moving from Colorado. You know, Colorado has changed significantly the last couple of years, too, as far as being a hitter’s park. Matt is in the prime of his career and there is no concern from our end as to how he will produce outside of that park.
How much of this is a vote of confidence for Travis Buck? I am assuming that he would be a front-runner for the position in right field if Ryan is moving into center.
BB: We still think very highly of Travis and there is no reason that we would have to give Travis a vote of confidence because we privately and publicly think very highly of him. After the concussion he had, he came out and performed very well, so we very much have Travis in our short-term and long-term plans.
Is centerfield for Ryan Sweeney something that you are completely comfortable with, or is that a less-than-ideal situation for him defensively?
BB: I think we are absolutely comfortable. I think you could put Ryan in any spot in the outfield and he would be an above-average outfielder. We are very high on Ryan, not just defensively but offensively as well. He got better every day that he went out there with every aspect of his game and we are very, very comfortable with him in centerfield.
This might be a question for closer to spring training, but with Greg Smith going out of the rotation, does this open up the possibility for Brett Anderson, Vince Mazzaro, Trevor Cahill, one of those guys, in the spring?
BB: I would probably defer that question to later. I think ideally you would like these kids to get their feet wet at every level. But once again, we’ll get a better gauge of that when we get [to spring training]. At some point, I think those guys are soon to break-through, whether it is spring, or whether it is April, May or June, we’ll have to see. I think our thought going into spring training is to try to prevent that, if that makes any sense, because I do think it is important that they get some time down there. Sometimes, the situation that you are in dictates the moves you end up making, but we will have to wait and see.
Earlier in the off-season you said you weren’t interested in veteran starting pitchers on the free agency market, but with this trade, since Greg Smith is leaving the rotation, might that change?
BB: Probably not at the level that you are thinking. If given the option between going with young, talented guys and maybe guys you are just trying to plug in there, ultimately, I would much rather go with the young, talented guys. We may sign a guy, but we also have some options with guys who have major league experience who are already in-house. This is not to say that we won’t bring in someone on a non-roster contract, but the idea that we would go out and bring someone in via free agency on a major league contract who is a starting pitcher is highly, highly unlikely.
Do you expect Matt to have an impact on the rest of the line-up?
BB: I think he should. He is a guy who competed for the batting title last year and this will probably push some guys into spots in the line-up that they are better suited to be in. Also, remember that we are anticipating Eric Chavez being back next year and that will also help. It was tough last year, there were times when we had guys hitting third who were in their rookie year and that may not have been the ideal spot for them. So, yeah, I think he’ll have an impact on everybody else.
What is your general reaction overall to the last couple of days and now being in Oakland?
MH: Originally, it was a little bit of a surprise considering I had never been traded before and I had spent my first 11 years in professional baseball in the Rockies organization. I think that any time that you make that kind of change, there is a little bit of an element of the unknown. But I am excited. I’m excited about the opportunity to go to an organization like Oakland and have a chance to go in and hopefully play well and help the team. I understand that it is a young, talented team, but I’ll try to do anything I can to help and try to win games. I’m excited about the opportunity.
Is it kind of a strange thing for you that given your contract status, there has been speculation that this might be just a one-year thing?
MH: I’m not worried about that. Oakland obviously wanted me for a reason and I am focused on this coming-up season and doing the best that I can. I am actually in the middle of getting prepared for next season and I’m excited about it and can’t wait to get to spring training and meet some guys and get started and hopefully start a great season.
What are you taking away from your time in Colorado?
MH: First and foremost, I am taking away a lot of friendships and a lot of memories from 2007. I was able to win the National League and go to the World Series with some of my best friends and those are guys that I am going to continue to be close with for the rest of my life. So think you take a lot of memories, a lot of relationships, people that aren’t even with the organization any more. Guys that I worked with in the minor leagues. I think all of the relationships with those people is probably the hardest part about changing an organization, leaving behind teammates and friends and trainers and staff and all of the people that you get to know. Those are the things that I am going to take with me and I will be friends with those people until the day that I die.
What kind of adjustments do you expect to make playing your home games in Oakland?
MH: I can’t really do much about where the ball goes. I can focus on my swing and hitting the ball on the barrel of the bat. If I could aim the ball better, I would probably hit for a much higher average. As baseball players, we can only focus on hitting it hard and taking our chances from there. There will won’t be any change in my swing or any major adjustment. I’ll be just looking to square the ball on the bat and I’ll take my chances. I feel like I have a pretty good base of what I do hitting-wise, and I’m pretty sure it will work about anywhere I play.
What was your reaction to comments from the Rockies’ owner recently where he attributed the team’s fall-off to failed contract talks with your side? I know that you have taken the high road on this, but is it nice to be moving forward from all of that?
MH: You know, like you said, I’m moving forward and I’m not going to comment on things that have happened in the past. I appreciate my opportunity with the Rockies. I’ll take the memories and especially the 2007 season with me. I love my guys that I was able to play with and I had a chance to play with some amazing guys and some amazing friends and those are the things that I am going to focus on going forward into the 2009 season with my new teammates and my new relationships and trying to get my family adjusted to a new city. I’m not going to sit here and talk about what people said or didn’t say. I really care about how my friends, teammates and coaches think of me and how I handle my business, and that’s about it.
What are your impressions of the A’s?
MH: I don’t know a whole lot playing in the National League. We haven’t played at the Coliseum, I don’t think, so that will obviously be a little different for me. Watching from afar, the way that they have been able to compete, almost year-in and year-out, for an American League playoff spot and watching how they have put together their teams and the job that Billy has done assembling talented young teams, it is pretty admirable. I’m excited. Obviously, the history of the Oakland A’s is pretty cool with all of the Hall of Fame and great players who have played for the Oakland A’s is something that I am excited to be a part of. That’s basically what I know. Like I said, I haven’t played against the A’s a whole lot in my career, but I am excited.
Do you know many guys? I think you are friendly with Huston and maybe Jack Cust?
MH: I played in the Arizona Fall League with Jack Hannahan. There are a couple of guys that I know. My brother actually coached Joey Devine a little bit, so I know him a little bit. The other guys are pretty much just passing acquaintances that I met when we played them, I think, three or four years ago in Colorado and we play them a little bit in spring training. Just the common baseball courtesy, just kind of saying hello. But I don’t really know whole lot of guys.
Obviously you know Mike Gallego [A’s new third base coach and former Rockies third base coach] very well.
MH: Yes, and that is great [that he is with the club]. I’ve already talked to Gags a bunch of times and he is always been one of my favorite coaches and favorite people. He has been my BP pitcher for the past three years, so having him over there as a familiar face will be a little bit comforting and it will be nice to see him.
Have you had a chance to take a look at the line-up to determine what you think the team might be able to do offensively?
MH: I’ve looked at the roster a little bit. Billy or Bob might have a better idea of what the line-up might look like, but I have looked at the roster a little bit and I hope that Eric Chavez is healthy. I don’t know where his medical situation stands right now, but a healthy Eric Chavez would be a big boost. Other than that, I don’t know a whole lot about the team. I’ll be excited to get to spring training and take a look. I know that Billy is going to try to continue to improve the team and hopefully when we gather the team in spring training, it will be a little easier for me to assess.