Wow Schuerholz, you really did it this time. In case you haven’t heard, JS just pulled off his biggest deal since the acquisition of Gary Sheffield. After an agonizing several day wait for this rumor to come true, the Braves finally obtained the 2005 services of Tim Hudson for Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, and Charles Thomas.

According everything I’ve read, Meyer was the key figure for Billy Beane in this deal. Brad at No Pepper has Meyer as the Braves top pitching prospect now that Jose Capellan is with the Brewers. Last year between Greenville and Richmond the 23-year-old left-hander posted FIP ERAs of 1.30 and 3.74. His 2005 ZIPs projected ERA is 4.27. Word from the A’s is that they expect Meyer to join the rotation in 2005. The big upside to this deal is that the A’s get a ready prospect who will be cheap even as he enters his prime. That’s if he pans out, which leads me to the Juan Cruz.

Cruz is hardly a throw-in. In case you are confused as to whom Juan Cruz is, he more commonly goes by the first name of “Free.” While showing plenty of potential with the Cubs for 3 seasons the 25-year-old righty posted the best ERA of his career with the Braves, 2.75 (What a surprise!). Interestingly, Cruz really did not pitch much better in 2004 than in 2003, when he posted an ERA of 6.05.

2003 61 7 28 65 6.05 3.94
2004 72 7 30 70 2.75 3.77

I’m not sure what Beane has in store for him. I don’t see much improvement, but he is already good. I suspect he’ll have a more prominent role than he had in Atlanta, where he was commonly used for mop-up duty. Between Meyer and Cruz I think one of the two will certainly stick as a solid Major League starter. Sweet liberty for Juan Cruz!

The inclusion Charles Thomas in this deal is a little surprising, but I think provides a good lesson for the jackasses out there who misinterpret the “Moneyball” philosophy. Beane clearly sees something valuable in this guy. I think the Braves could have just as easily parted with Langerhans in the deal, who has higher potential as an offensive player and is no defensive slouch. But instead, Beane took Thomas. Interesting. Moneyball is not about high OBPs and ignoring defense. While this is clear in the book, some people need reminding. Thomas is clearly not valued by his ability to get on base via a walk. It took Thomas over 100 PAs to earn his first Major League walk that was not intentional. In fact, 9 of his 21 BBs in 2004 were IBBs. Although I must add a positive note that though he’s quick, he sure is slow to get out of the way of inside pitches. He was hit 9 times in only 267 PAs. Couple this with the acquisition of Kendall, and maybe Beane’s latest undervalued statistic is HBP. In any event, the real reason the A’s got Thomas is that this cat can play defense. Yes, Moneyball teams value defense — remember the Red Sox. I saw a quote somewhere (of course I can’t find it now) stating that Thomas rated very high in the A’s defensive evaluation system. A note to A’s fans, Charles Thomas should be referred to as “Chucky-T.” Adopting this convention may come in handy if Mr. T starts stinking it up; simply change his nickname to Sucky-T. However, I am going to miss him. He really is a fun ballplayer to watch, and you can’t help but cheer for this guy.

Finally, what about the Braves bringing Hudson on board? He’ll be cheap this year, under $7 million for one of the best pitchers in baseball. Though he’s only tied down for a year, I think it’s still a good move. If you are going to rent a player for one year, make it a good one. While the prospects forgone may turn out to be good, we know Hudson is good. Couple this with some financial flexibility by moving Eli Marrero, the Braves ought to be able to afford an outfielder who can help fill out the corner spots until Francoeur and Marte are ready.

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