Hearing the rumors for months didn't make it any easier when the news came that Byrnes would be leaving the organization that drafted him out of UCLA in 1998. He'll get a chance to play more as the Rockies also moved center fielder Preston Wilson on Wednesday, but Byrnes made it clear he will miss Oakland terribly.
"I'm as sad as can be," said Byrnes. "It's really a sad day for me, but I'm happy for the opportunity I'm going to get to play every day.
"I'm going to miss all the fans who had all the love and support for me through all the ups and downs and I'll miss all the players I sort of grew up with, because they're all like brothers to me."
On a pure baseball level, for a team that struggled to start the season but has lifted itself back into the American League Wild Card derby, the two trades showed an eye on the present as well as the future, A's assistant GM David Forst said.
"Our short-term goals may be a little different now, but both trades have long-term implications beyond 2005," said Forst, the right-hand man to A's GM Billy Beane, who was traveling on personal business Wednesday night.
But on a more emotional level, Forst says the A's decision-makers are obviously well aware that in Byrnes they're losing a true fan favorite, famous for his reckless dives for fly balls and infectious enthusiasm.
"He certainly made an impact on the team and the fans here," Forst said. "It's tough to lose a player like that. But we're looking to put the best possible team on the field. ... We got a bunch of good players to add to a team that's playing well."
Byrnes' name has been out on the rumor mill really for years now, but especially since the last offseason. But Forst says that was a function of other teams' interest more than Oakland's desire to move him.
"We were never trying to trade Eric," Forst said. "He made himself visible and available with how he's played on the field."
In Kennedy, the A's are getting a 6-foot-4, 245-pound lefty who at age 26 has a 31-46 record with a 4.95 ERA since breaking in with the Devil Rays in 2001. He was 4-8 with a 7.04 ERA in 16 starts for Colorado this year, and has made 115 Major League starts but only 10 relief appearances. Forst said pitching coach Curt Young will begin working with Kennedy out of the bullpen to begin his A's career with an eventual return to starting the goal.
In Witasick, the A's get a 33-year-old right-hander who'll be playing for his sixth team, having previously pitched for the Royals, Padres, Yankees, Orioles and Rockies, compiling a 29-40 career mark and a 4.60 ERA in 321 career appearances, including 56 stats. This year, he has been the Rockies' primary setup man, going 0-4 with a 2.52 ERA and he'll be doing much the same thing ahead of rookie closer Huston Street with Oakland.
"The two pitchers we got are exactly what we were looking for in terms of bolstering our 'pen," Forst said.
Payton, meanwhile, is a veteran outfielder who had a big season when he was with Colorado in 2003, with career highs of 28 homers and 89 RBIs. Since then, he had a rough year in San Diego before being traded to the Red Sox last winter. Payton is a .283 career hitter with 82 home runs and 321 RBIs in 770 big-league games.
Payton, 34, was batting .263 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 55 games with Boston when he was designated for assignment on July 7 in the wake of a dispute over playing time with manager Terry Francona.
The A's remain a four-man outfield with Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher and Bobby Kielty on board along with Payton, but Forst believes Payton will get plenty of action in the Oakland outfield.
"Honestly, I think there are enough at-bats to go around," Forst said.
The A's received cash in the deal with the Red Sox but sent some cash to Colorado. While Witasick is on a one-year deal and Payton's contract has a club option for 2006, Kennedy is under control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2007.
Bradford, 30, began the season on the disabled list following March 7 surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. He began a rehab assignment on June 24 and made a total of nine rehab appearances. In four seasons with the A's, Bradford was 18-14 with six saves and a 3.34 ERA in 250 appearances.
Quintanilla, who was selected as a compensation pick following the first round (33rd overall) of the 2003 First Year Player Draft, was batting .296 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 78 games for Double-A Midland this season.
Losing Byrnes cut the deepest in many ways.
In his six seasons in Oakland, Byrnes batted .270 with 45 home runs and 164 RBIs in 442 career games, but his presence was marked by much more than just numbers. His hustle on the field and pep in the clubhouse and dugout were a big part of what made him such a popular player, not only with his peers but with the fans.
"What you saw on the field was what you got everywhere else," Forst said. "He's a lot of fun to be around."
The 29-year-old Byrnes was batting .266 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 59 games for Oakland this season, including 52 starts. He had started just 13 of the A's last 30 games heading prior to the All-Star break, and he had some disagreements with manager Ken Macha and Beane toward the end of his tenure.
"I've been there so long it was kind of like a marriage," Byrnes said. "We had our ups and downs and times when Billy Beane and Ken Macha and I didn't see eye-to-eye there at the end. But in the end I love them both and I enjoyed playing for both of them.
"While I was there, it didn't always seem perfect, but when I look back on it I just might think it was perfect."