Rebuilding A's continue dealing -- Swisher to White Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Billy Beane went into the offseason believing his Oakland Athletics could compete in the AL West again if they just stayed healthier than last year.

Six weeks before spring training opens, the general manager has changed his stance and is beginning a rebuilding project in Oakland.

The Athletics made their second major trade in three weeks, sending outfielder and fan favorite Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for three minor leaguers on Thursday.

The A's -- who dealt ace Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 14 -- received left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

By trading their best hitter and best pitcher for nine prospects, Beane and assistant GM David Forst have replenished a farm system that had grown thin in recent years.

"I got off the plane from the winter meetings, I said to David, 'Who are we kidding?'" Beane said. "We can't let hope be our strategy here. That's what we're doing. ... We can't waste another year. If this needs to be done, it needs to be done."

The A's will likely take their lumps this season after contending for most of the past decade. Oakland had eight straight winning seasons from 1999-2006, making the playoffs five times, including a trip to the AL Championship Series in 2006.

But when injuries hit Rich Harden, Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Huston Street, Mark Kotsay and many other A's last season, the team finished just 76-86.

After looking at the other teams in the power-packed American League, Beane didn't see much chance at a different result this season.

"Our status quo as we stood going into the season was mediocrity at best," Beane said. "That's my opinion. If anything we're taking a step back with the idea we have a chance to build something very good for a long time. ... The cost of indecision for us probably would be a bigger mistake."

The White Sox are hoping that the addition of Swisher will help them rebound from a 72-90 season and get back to the level they were at when they won the 2005 World Series.

The 27-year-old Swisher batted .262 with 22 homers and 78 RBIs in 150 games in 2007, his third full big-league season. He also drew 100 walks, ranking him sixth in the AL, for a career-best .381 on-base percentage.

Swisher's patience could be an important addition to the White Sox, who were last in the majors in 2007 with a .318 on-base percentage.

Swisher, whose father Steve was a first-round draft pick of the White Sox and played for the Chicago Cubs, said he was surprised by news of the trade.

"Oakland was a great spot for me. I have no hard feelings," Nick Swisher said. "Billy Beane gave me my shot and he's a genius. He knows what he's doing. ... He's got a game plan and going to stick to that."

Swisher's 80 career home runs were a franchise record by a switch-hitter, and he also set his highs for batting average, walks and doubles (36) in 2007.

Swisher said he's looking forward to playing an aggressive style under colorful White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

"I hope the walls are padded over there in Chicago," Swisher said.

General manager Ken Williams said Chicago's initial plan is to play Swisher mostly in center field, unless Jerry Owens -- who had the job at the end of last season -- has an impressive spring. That would mean Swisher seeing more time in left field. He can also spell Paul Konerko at first.

Swisher's outgoing personality, grind-it-out style and high on-base percentage is just what the White Sox were looking for.

"Everything that I've heard about Nick from a variety of sources, whether it be on the field or off the field, is that this guy fits in and fits in perfectly with what we are trying to do," Williams said.

The A's added three more minor leaguers after acquiring four of Arizona's top eight prospects in the Haren deal, according to Baseball America.

"I did not plan on paying this type of price, but I also did not plan on getting this type of player," Williams said. "Swisher was not a player on the market. Billy Beane did not want to move him. We had to make it attractive enough where they would engage in conversation."

The 21-year-old De Los Santos was ranked the top prospect in the Chicago farm system by Baseball Prospectus. The right-hander went 10-5 with a 2.65 ERA for Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem. He was picked as the South Atlantic League's top prospect.

Gonzalez, a 22-year-old lefty, pitched for Double-A Birmingham last year and led minor-league baseball with 185 strikeouts. He went 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 27 starts.

Sweeney, a 22-year-old left fielder, hit .270 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 105 games at Triple-A Charlotte last season. He also batted .200 with a homer and five RBIs in 15 games in the majors.