Billy Beane doesn't often go all-in. Oh, he makes trades; when it comes to moving players, he is as active as a freshly poked wasp hive.
Typically, though, he is moving players before their first big contracts because, after all, he is about maximizing assets while keeping overhead low. It's supposed to be all arbitrage in Oakland, after all.
But by reportedly moving prospect Addison Russell to Chicago for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, he has become a traditional general manager at last. He has worked so hard at setting the A's up for a distant future that people suspected the present would never come.
Now . . . well, now is finally now.
This is the blockbuster deal that starts the trading season, the one that takes Samardzija, the most coveted available pitcher, off the market, and the one that says the long-delayed future is finally now. It is the deal Theo Epstein, who is now with the Cubs, used to do with the Red Sox. It is the deal Brian Sabean did over and over in 2010 to win the Giants' first World Series. It is the deal that sometimes puts a team over the top and sometimes burns them, but it is the stock deal for a team with plans.
And Beane, who keeps a lower profile than he did as recently as three years ago, is now once again front and center, only this time by not trying to re-invent the wheel but upgrading the tires.
Samardzija, presumably, becomes the answer to the question that has stumped the A's in 2012 and 2013 -- "What do you do when Detroit sends Justin Verlander out for Game 5?" Verlander is not so Verlander this year, and the Tigers may not be the Tigers, but the point is the same -- the A's were always one move short, and manager Bob Melvin was always one drop-dead pitcher light.
Every team has a five-man rotation until the postseason, but the top four are what win or lose a playoff series, and the A's, who have mastered the one-and-done seven of the last eight times they have reached the postseason, are saying this is the year that they no longer have to overachieve to advance, but achieve as expected.
There are still 76 games to traverse, the other contenders have their own trades to make, and the 3-1/2 game lead over both Detroit and Los Angeles is profoundly surmountable. Beane has always fancied himself more the crafty counterpuncher and tactical contrarian; this deal says he is that no longer. This is the team he has tinkered so assiduously with for most of the past 16 years, and now he has dropped his tinker's tools for a great whopping mallet.
All he has to do now is make sure it is the deal that behaves the way it is supposed to, because being close becomes a cliche when it happens three consecutive times.
Plus, now that they have a lease, they can actually pretend like home is home. At least for awhile.