Active A's winning Hot Stove war

December 28, 2009, 5:09 pm
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Increasingly closer to on-the-field irrelevancy in each year of the Bob Geren regime, the A's have done a nice job of keeping themselves in the news every offseason.Thursday's news &8213; reported by CSNBayArea.com &8213; that Oakland has been talking with uber-agent Scott Boras about free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, is the most recent example. It capped a busy pre-Christmas week for the A's, who finalized their deal with CoCo Crisp on Tuesday and essentially agreed to terms with Justin Duchscherer on Wednesday.Factor in the swap of top prospect Brett Wallace for fellow ascending star Michael Taylor as part of the Roy HalladayCliff Lee deal, and here's how the scoreboard reads thus far this winter:The A's have acquired a potential superstar (Taylor) by getting involved in a blockbuster trade; they've made a head-scratching gamble of a move by adding an outfielder (Crisp) coming off two shoulder surgeries; they've brought back a two-time All-Star pitcher (Duchscherer) assumed to be long gone; and they're toying with the idea of acquiring one of the bigger names (Beltre) on the market.The Giants, for the sake of contrast, have parted with their second-best hitter (Bengie Molina) and perhaps their third-best starting pitcher (Brad Penny); they've lost out on one of their top free-agent targets (1B Nick Johnson); and they've made several offers to other players who clearly are waiting for something better to come along. Were it not for reports that tell us their third-best hitter in 2009, Juan Uribe, is close to re-signing, the Giants would be looking at a Hot Stove shutout heading into the new year.And when it comes to the Giants, getting shut out in any sort of game has a distinctly familiar sting to it. Granted, pitchers and catcher don't report to Arizona for another seven weeks or so. Maybe Brian Sabean will stun us with as flurry of moves in the meantime. But for now, he's getting his butt kicked by Billy Beane in terms of giving frustrated fans any sort of hope.Credit Beane for that much, even if you don't quite understand what he's trying to accomplish with any given move. The Crisp signing still makes as much sense from this angle as did Shelley Long leaving "Cheers" to make movies like "A Very Brady Sequel" and "A Couple of White Chicks at the Hairdresser," but Beane, as the architect of teams that reached the playoffs five times between 2000-2006, has earned a certain benefit of the doubt over the years. There's no doubt that many A's fans are wondering what happened to the Midas touch Beane seemed to have for the bulk of this soon-to-be-done decade, but at least they have in recent memory the Oakland team that reached the 2006 American League Championship Series.Giants fans, on the other hand, are still struggling to get rid of the memory of the 2002 World Series loss. They want a new, winning memory with which they can replace the image of Dusty Baker handing Russ Ortiz the game ball in Game 6, and they'd prefer it be one starring Tim Lincecum &8213; backed by an offense that doesn't need an act of god or for the opposing starting pitcher to be the current version of Russ Ortiz to score more than three lousy runs.To nudge the Giants in that direction, Sabean needs to move boldly. If free agents are balking at coming to San Francisco, it's time to take another approach. That means trades, and big ones. And that means moving a big-name pitcher.Matt Cain? Jonathan Sanchez? Madison Bumgarner? Moving any of those three would scare me to death if I were the GM. But the only way to add big-ticket offense is to give up big-ticket pitching, and the Giants have some of the latter.Until then, CoCo Crisp and talking with Adrian Beltre tips the offseason scale in Oakland's favor. Not exactly a winter wonderland, is it?