The ever-unpredictable Oakland Athletics have acquired slugger Matt Holliday from Colorado, sources with knowledge of the talks have confirmed to, CBSSports.com, pending the outfielder's passing a physical examination on Tuesday.
The Rockies will receive outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, left-handed pitcher Greg Smith and closer Huston Street in return, though they may not keep Street. One source said Monday that the Rockies are prepared to turn around and trade him -- though to which team he wasn't sure.
The early strike for Holliday is a bold move for an Oakland club that finished third in the AL West last year, 24 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels.
But the Athletics are attempting to win public support for a new stadium and are telling other clubs that they intend to increase their payroll significantly for 2009 in an effort to contend. The A's opened 2008 with a payroll of about $48 million.
In Holliday, who batted .321 with a .409 on-base percentage, 25 homers and 88 RBI, the Athletics almost certainly are gaining a one-year rental player. Holliday, due $13 million in 2008, rebuffed Colorado's attempts to sign him to a long-term extension and, with Scott Boras as his agent, he is expected to test the free-agent market after the 2009 season.
That, though, fits with some of Oakland's past strategy under general manager Billy Beane, who has mostly eschewed long-term contractual commitments to players because of the A's ever-present financial constraints. He has been aggressive at times, however, in acquiring high-end talent for the short-term.
Pitcher Kevin Appier (1999), outfielder Johnny Damon (2001) and Frank Thomas (2006) all fit under this operating philosophy, but the major difference between them and Holliday is that they were not acquired when the A's were this far off of the pace in the AL West.
Of course, the Athletics figure to have an out, too: If they fall out of the race before the July 31 trade deadline next summer, they'll have a valuable trade chip that Beane can flip for prospects.
While Oakland ratchets things up, clearly, Colorado is in transition mode. Losing Holliday -- general manager Dan O'Dowd informed the slugger of the trade earlier Monday -- leaves a big hole in the middle of Clint Hurdle's lineup.
The Rockies like Gonzalez a lot, but he's a different style of player than Holliday and much younger.
"He can play center field or right field, either place," one scout said. "He's a left-handed hitting prospect, he's only 23 ... he's got a chance to be pretty good."
As for Smith, the scout said, "He actually fits better in the National League, I think. He controls the running game, he's got a good pickoff move, and the guy can hit. I think he'll end up as a No. 5 starter or as a long man in the bullpen."