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A’s three trades of last winter paying dividends

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POSTED July 10, 2012 1:31 a.m.

OAKLAND (AP) — Just like that last winter, the Oakland Athletics traded away three of their best pitchers: All-Stars Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, and 2009 Rookie of the Year closer Andrew Bailey.

And in came a crop of new names few people even knew in Josh Reddick, Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker. Don’t forget rookie closer and surprise All-Star Ryan Cook is in that mix, too.

Seven months later, they are the face of the young A’s franchise — and nobody would argue that they exceeded expectations in the first half. Oakland (43-43) is .500 at the All-Star break and won five of its last six games with a cast of constant moving parts.

The A’s eight walkoff wins lead the majors.

Reddick is the team’s hottest hitter with 20 home runs. Parker and Milone have 13 wins between them. Can’t really question general manager Billy Beane’s moves now — even if fans often have a hard time watching their favorite players ever so briefly before they leave town.

Beane dealt Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow to defending NL West champion Arizona for 2007 ninth overall draft pick Parker. Then, Beane sent the fan favorite Gonzalez to Washington and received the left-hander Milone and catcher-of-the-future Norris. From Boston for Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney, the A’s got Reddick in return.

Three trades with great results.

“We traded good players — Gio, Trevor, Bailey, Sweeney,” assistant GM David Forst said. “We didn’t trade players we thought weren’t still good. Those guys are doing well, and we felt we got good players in return. Obviously the thinking outside the organization was that these guys weren’t going to impact the team right away, but I think if you look at mine and Billy’s thoughts publicly right after the trades, we were confident that these guys were going to contribute sooner rather than later.

“If you go down the list, Josh has been our most consistent offensive player, Josh has been outstanding as a starter, Tommy has fit right into the rotation, and on down. Derek is here. We didn’t make these trades for 2012 but we were hoping they would impact this year’s team.”

Oakland’s latest winning run included a three-game home sweep of the Red Sox last week in which A’s pitchers held Boston’s big boppers to five total runs in the series.

Reddick, left off the AL All-Star roster, is the first Oakland player with 20 homers by the break since Nick Swisher in 2006. Cook began the season with a 23-inning scoreless streak, the longest to begin a year for an A’s pitcher on the opening day roster since at least 1918.

Parker is 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts.

“We’ve done alright,” Parker said nonchalantly. “It’s not our job and it’s something we worry about, and we know it’s trades and guys bounce around. That’s just the business. When a trade’s made, both teams get the guys they want and that’s what a good deal is. Both sides are happy.”

Parker, Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill all were players the A’s envisioned could be in the big leagues this season when acquired from Arizona in December.

Parker only made his major league debut last Sept. 27, pitching 5 2-3 scoreless innings and allowing four hits against the Dodgers for a no-decision in his only start.

The Diamondbacks chose Cowgill in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. He had a .239 average with one home run and nine RBIs in 36 games in the majors last season.

Cook compiled a 2.21 ERA with 19 saves in 48 relief appearances at Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno in 2011. He also appeared in 12 games in the majors, going 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in 7 2-3 innings.

“I can kind of relate to both trades, given the fact I knew Tommy before,” Cook said. “What he’s done has not surprised me at all. Being that I played with Jarrod in the minor leagues, what he has done hasn’t surprised me, either. I think all three of us trusted our ability and kind of looked at it as the next chapter in our playing career and that these things happen. It’s obviously worked out great for all three of us.”

All of the rebuilding for the future came as a result of Beane and owner Lew Wolff’s insistence that they expected to hear from Commissioner Bud Selig whether the franchise would be allowed to proceed with plans to build a new ballpark some 40 miles south in San Jose despite the San Francisco Giants owning the territorial rights to technology-rich Santa Clara County.

Beane took to the trade route again — a common practice for the low-budget franchise that has watched its superstars leave for big money elsewhere over the past decade — though the A’s still have no idea whether they’ll ever wind up in San Jose.

This group of youngsters has given new hope to blue-collar Oakland, which hasn’t seen its baseball team post a winning record or earn a playoff berth since the A’s were swept in the 2006 AL championship series by Detroit.

“It’s showing that if you give us a little bit of playing time we’re going to go out there and do our thing and compete,” the 25-year-old Reddick said. “It was a different world for me coming to a new ballclub, but we’re a young club and that helped the getting along process. We seemed to all click on the same page from Day 1.”

While the A’s have said they aren’t ready to part ways with catcher Kurt Suzuki, Norris clearly is taking on more responsibility.

Milone is 8-6 with a 3.57 ERA and hardly looks like a pitcher in only his first full major league season. In fact, manager Bob Melvin compares him to someone with closer to four or five years of experience.

“I don’t know that you could envision some of the guys who are here now being here at the beginning of the season,” Melvin said. “Ryan Cook was fighting to make a job and now he’s going to the All-Star game. Derek Norris getting the amount of reps he’s getting behind the plate now and the of production he’s giving us, it’s phenomenal. If you look at all those trades and how many guys are giving us production from those trades right now, I think in spring training you’d certainly have been surprised to see Tommy Milone with eight wins, Jarrod Parker compared to Dwight Gooden and Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. It’s pretty exciting, it really is.”

Injured pitcher Dallas Braden hates not being able to be a part of it with this high-energy group — but he’s getting a kick out of watching them each day.

“When you talk about trades paying dividends, are we going to the World Series? Who knows? Are we going to win three world championships in a row because of the trades that we made? Who knows?” Braden said. “But I’ll tell you what we do know: It’s working out thus far, and these guys are only going to get better. They’ve literally hit the ground running, and they’re showing flashes of dominance at times. This isn’t a group of kids that has come up and are just trying to make their way and are just happy to be here. They want results, and they want them now. And they work for those results.”

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