Dickey: Haren deal shows Beane can see bigger picture

Because Billy Beane made the kind of trade Brian Sabean should have made, the A’s have a much better chance of returning to the postseason race in the near future than the Giants.

More than most general managers, Beane looks at the whole organization as well as the major-league team because he realizes that a healthy farm system has been vital to the A’s success. When he looked at this year, he saw two realities: 1) Even healthy, the A’s couldn’t compete with the loaded Los Angeles Angels; and 2) The minor-league system had been thinned out.

Beane had two trading chips, pitchers Dan Haren and Joe Blanton. Haren was by far the more attractive pitcher. Though he faded in the second half of 2007, Haren is regarded as one of the game’s premier pitchers.

Beane wasn’t shopping Haren, but he listened to offers. The best came from Arizona, with its prospect-rich farm system, and Beane pulled the trigger on a Haren deal for six Diamondbacks prospects.

The best is Carlos Gonzalez, a 22-year-old outfielder from Venezuela who batted .286 with 16 home runs and 75 RBIs in 120 games at Double-A Mobile. Promoted to Triple-A Tucson, he hit .310 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 10 games.

With the trade, the A’s have replenished their farm system with position players and pitchers who have a chance to help at the major-league level, this season or next. (Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster.)

The Giants had two trading chips, pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Sabean wisely rejected a proposed trade with Toronto of Cain for outfielder Alex Rios. But he also refused to use Lincecum or Cain as the bait in a multiplayer trade, which was not wise.

The blunt truth is that the Giants’ farm system has not produced good position players for many years, and the idea that they will in the near future is absurd. They badly needed a trade to jump-start their system, and especially to bring in hitters. As good as Lincecum and Cain can be, they won’t win big without much more run support than they have now.

Sabean’s hands were tied, of course. Though owner Peter Magowan doesn’t interfere with the day-to-day process, despite what you might read from other local writers, there is no question that the Giants look only at the present, not the future.

As a result, they’re trapped in the middle, not nearly good enough to compete, yet with little hope for the future. So, Sabean is limited to making a free-agent deal. Thankfully, he passed on the rapidly declining Andruw Jones, who signed for two years at $36 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ned Colletti learned about overspending from Sabean, of course. Eventually, he got Aaron Rowand on a five-year, $60 million contract. Rowand is a good player and a good acquisition, but the Giants need far more. As it stands, the 3-4-5 spots in the batting order will be Randy Winn, Bengie Molina and Rowand. Wow, that’s really going to scare pitchers.

I think that if the Giants were honest with their fans, they could say: “Give us a couple of years to rebuild and we can be contenders again.” But Magowan hates the idea of rebuilding as much as Al Davis does, and you know how that philosophy has worked for the Raiders.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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