The A's made a bold statement on Friday, likely securing their stance as a team on the rebuild route, by dealing right-hander Trevor Cahill and lefty reliever Craig Breslow along with cash considerations to the D-backs.
In return, Oakland received prized pitching prospect Jarrod Parker, right-hander Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill in a deal that had been in the works for nearly a week.
"Once we got together, it sounded like Trevor was going to be the guy that would be a good fit for them," A's assistant general manager David Forst said. "And it was important to us that if we were going to trade Trevor, we were going to get a guy that has the chance to be a front-line starter back, and we feel like Jarrod is that guy. From that point, we went about trying to figure out which other pieces could help our Major League club in 2012."
Each piece, the A's hope, will help add up to a contending team as early as 2014. By then, the A's could be moving into a new stadium in San Jose. At least that's the plan if Major League baseball approves it, which many believe could happen in January at the next owners' meetings.
The green light would equate to a a handful of years defined by growing pains, while the A's look toward a future of several playoff runs in their new home. With that in mind, Friday's move may be one of many to come this offseason -- Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey still serve as trade bait -- and could ultimately conjure up memories of the one that followed the 2007 campaign.
The D-backs, coincidentally, were also prominent figures of Oakland's roster makeover that winter, as well. Arizona acquired hurler Dan Haren and, in turn, shipped six players to the A's, including Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Carter.
"It's kind of come full circle," Anderson said Friday. "I was in Jarrod Parker's shoes, looking toward the future. Now we're looking toward the future again.
"It's tough, especially with it being Trevor. You understand the business side but are torn because of the friendship side. I guess you have to do what's best for your club, but you never want to see one of your friends go. The A's are in an interesting situation right now, not knowing whether there's going to be a new stadium, so it's tough to know whether to play like we're gonna be in Oakland or if we're going to be in San Jose. Tough goings in Oakland right now."
After Anderson joined the A's in 2007, the club proceeded to grab hold of Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos from the White Sox in a swap for Nick Swisher that winter. Trades that sent away pitchers Rich Harden and Joe Blanton also followed months later.
This time, it's Cahill on the move. Just 23 and owed $29 million over the next four years in a deal that also includes two club options, the right-hander will surely fortify a strong D-backs rotation that helped Arizona to a National League West title this year.
After a career 2010 season, which included an 18-8 record and 2.97 ERA, Cahill took a downturn in 2011, collecting a 12-14 mark and 4.16 ERA. However, he made a career-high 34 starts and has made at least 30 starts in each of his three big league seasons.
"Kind of surprised," Cahill said of the news he'd been traded. "I heard a lot of other guys' names bounce around, and until the last couple of days, I never thought I'd be at least the first one to go.
"I think it's going to be good. I really liked Oakland and was comfortable over there, but it looks like the Diamondbacks want to win and I really want to compete and try to win a championship so I think it's good."
The 31-year-old Breslow is arbitration-eligible and has served as one of the game's best left-handed relievers over the past three seasons, most recently putting together a 3.79 ERA in 69 games this season. He's set to join a D-backs bullpen that includes submariner Brad Ziegler, traded by the A's to Arizona in July.
By reeling in Parker, a first-round Draft pick in 2007, the A's get a player who vaults to No. 1 on their list of top prospects. Following rehab from his 2010 Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old right-hander posted an 11-8 record and 3.79 ERA for Arizona's Double-A club this year.
He was called up to the big leagues for the first time in September and impressed greatly in just one start, tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings and earning a spot on the club's postseason roster.
"We saw him quite a bit this year and we like him," Forst said. "Before he had his surgery, he was probably one of the top pitching prospects in the game. We felt like he bounced back really well this year."
"I remember him having a tremendous arm," said Anderson, who played alongside Parker in instructional league while still in Arizona's system. "He was drafted in the first round for a reason. I know he had Tommy John surgery, but I saw he got back to the big leagues, and it looks like he's recovering from that."
Parker finished the 2011 season ranked No. 17 on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list.
Cowgill, meanwhile, batted .354 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in 98 games at Triple-A. He appeared in 36 contests with Arizona, hitting .239 with one homer and nine RBIs and nearly found his way to Oakland five months ago as a talked-about option in the Ziegler trade.
Forst noted Cowgill can play center field, which represented a rather big void on the A's roster before Friday. He'll be in the mix for a starting job in that spot come spring, and he can also play the corners.
Ryan, 23, combined for a 2.21 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 48 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Not one of the players acquired by Oakland on Friday are named Albert Pujols or C.J. Wilson, who signed with the divison-rival Angels just a day before. But Oakland, which figures to be at the bottom of the American League West for a few years while Los Angeles and fellow threat Texas duke it out for the crown, desires to be in that mix soon after.
To that end, they'll do whatever it takes to reel in young players with minimal service time who can help them get there. That means the likes of Gonzalez and Bailey, along with several other top players on the A's roster, are still for the taking.
"This doesn't change any of the other ongoing conversations we've been having," Forst said.