OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics refused to rest on
their recent surge up the standings, acquiring outfielder Jay Payton and pitchers Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick on Wednesday in
two All-Star break trades.
Oakland traded right-handed reliever Chad Bradford to the Red
Sox for Payton, a disgruntled Boston reserve, and cash
considerations. A few hours later, the A's shipped popular
outfielder Eric Byrnes and cash to Colorado for Kennedy, a
struggling left-hander, and veteran right-handed reliever Witasick.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to go play for the Rockies
and I'm sad to leave Oakland," said Byrnes, who grew up in the Bay
area and appreciated the fan support. "I'm going to miss everybody
in the organization. It's the only organization I've ever known.
The 24 guys in the clubhouse are 24 of my best friends, everyone
from the janitor on up. I can't thank them enough for giving me the
chance to play major league baseball."
The A's won 13 of their final 16 games before the break, taking
five of six from the league-leading Chicago White Sox along the
way. Oakland is just 4½ games behind Minnesota in the AL wild card
race -- but with an eye to the playoff race and the distant future,
general manager Billy Beane shook up his roster again.
"We still believe we have room to get better," said David
Forst, Beane's top assistant. "Certainly we've enjoyed the way
we've played. As far as chemistry, the winning is what guys enjoy,
and we feel like we made our team better."
Kennedy went 4-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 starts for Colorado this
season, but he'll join Witasick in the A's bullpen when Oakland
resumes its season Thursday against Texas. The A's have followed
Kennedy since his days in Tampa Bay, and they were impressed by
Witasick's performances this season for the lowly Rockies, where he
had a 2.52 ERA in 32 outings.
"The two pitchers we got were exactly what we were looking for
in terms of improving our pen," said Forst, emphasizing Kennedy's
prowess against lefties. "[Kennedy] is a long-term acquisition for
us. He certainly has a chance to ... get back in the starting
rotation. We have control over his contract for the next 2½
Witasick will be a free agent after this season.
The Rockies aggressively pursued Byrnes, finally closing the
deal on the same day they traded Preston Wilson to Washington.
Byrnes' energy and athleticism made him a fan favorite at the
Coliseum, but he has been surrounded by trade rumors since his
breakout performance last season.
"I'm looking at it as an opportunity to play," said Byrnes,
who was scheduled to fly to Cincinnati on Thursday to join his new
team. "As a baseball player and competitor, I want to be on the
field. I'm excited about trying to help turn things around in
Colorado. They have a lot of great young players there and I'm
looking forward to being a part of it."
Payton chafed in his backup role in Boston, and was designated
for assignment last Thursday. The 34-year-old hit .263 with five
homers and 21 RBI in 55 games for Boston -- but was traded to a
club with just as much outfield depth as Boston, with Mark Kotsay,
Bobby Kielty and Nick Swisher all enjoying productive seasons.
"I think there are enough at-bats to go around," Forst said.
Bradford has been on the disabled list since undergoing lower
back surgery March 7, but is expected to be activated before the AL
East leaders play the New York Yankees on Thursday night at Fenway
Bradford went 18-14 with six saves and a 3.34 ERA in 250 relief
appearances for the A's since 2000. The submariner, whose
unorthodox delivery has caused repeated back problems, was a
dependable setup man during Oakland's run to four consecutive
playoff appearances from 2000-03.
Forst said new A's owner Lewis Wolff was enthusiastic about both
deals, including the cash considerations necessary to make them
"The momentum that we've gained certainly helped us define what
we were looking for," Forst said. "No matter how we're playing on
the field, we're always looking to improve now and for the