Instead of trading prospective free agents Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen before Tuesday's non-waiver deadline, the Oakland Athletics elected Wednesday to build on their second-half momentum rather than break up the nucleus responsible for it.
"Everybody thought we'd be in a selling mode," Oakland General Manager Billy Beane said by phone. "It's always fun to fool the naysayers."
With baseball's best record in July and battling for the American League's wild card, the A's obtained power-hitting outfielder Jermaine Dye in a three-way trade with the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies.
In a deal similar to their three-way acquisition of center fielder Damon over the off-season, the A's got Dye from Colorado for three young players--second baseman Jose Ortiz, outfielder Mario Encarnacion and left-handed pitcher Todd Belitz--after the Rockies had obtained Dye from the Royals for shortstop Neifi Perez.
Dye, 27, is batting .272 with 13 homers and 47 runs batted in after reaching career highs with a .321 average and 33 homers last year.
"He fills a primary need as a big right-handed hitter behind Giambi," Beane said.
He also offers protection in another way. Because he is not eligible for free agency until after the 2002 season, Dye gives the A's a measure of offensive security and allows them to focus on the re-signing of Giambi at the probable expense of Damon.
"He's not a rental player," Beane said of Dye. "He's the type of player you'd want if you were in first place or last place. As it is, we have a pretty good team that's playing pretty well now and we think this makes us better."
Thus, Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen are definitely off the deadline block?
"That's a pretty good assumption, but I'd never back myself in a corner," Beane said. "With our payroll and revenue stream, nothing is sure and anything is possible. If there's a chance for us to get better from here, we'd have to consider it."
The Dye deal came as no surprise to the Angels, who have also had a hot July, moving to within seven games of the wild-card lead.
"We knew what the A's wanted to accomplish, and they seemed to have accomplished it," Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said, adding his own team has become a legitimate wild-card contender with the recent awakening of the offense but he won't be pressured into a trade for trade's sake.
"I'm having a lot of conversations, but I'm not pushing to get anything done before the deadline," Stoneman said. "We've said all year that the answer to our problems is right here, and it looks like our offense is starting to perform like we thought it would. There's a lot to like here and I'm not sure I want to tinker."
However, Angel center fielder Darin Erstad said it's difficult to minimize the message that a major trade sends to the clubhouse.
"I imagine that the attitude of the Oakland players was pretty upbeat when they got to the park today, but that's going to happen with any team making a deal like that," he said.
The A's, in position to deal prospects because of the depth of their farm system, had easy marks.
The Rockies, seeking to lower their age and payroll in the midst of a disappointing season, moved the talented Perez, 26, because they believe they have a replacement in Juan Uribe and had been unable to complete a multiyear deal with Perez, who makes $3.55 million this year and is eligible for arbitration each of the next two years.
Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this story.
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Trade at a Glance
Wednesday's three-way trade between Oakland, Kansas City and Colorado:
* A's receive: Royal outfielder Jermaine Dye
* Royals receive: Rocky shortstop Neifi Perez
* Rockies receive: A's outfielder Mario Encarnacion, infielder Jose Ortiz and left-hander Todd Belitz