OAKLAND -- Most A's players were in shock Friday night. By the time they woke up Saturday, they were downright giddy.
Two of the first half's best pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, were shedding their Cubs uniforms and heading to Oakland. Trading season was underway, and the A's, already shouldering baseball's best record, were first to shake up things.
The magnitude of how they did so caught almost everyone by surprise.
"It kinda came out of nowhere, huh?" said Sean Doolittle. "Obviously both of their names had been popping up in a lot of trade rumors and stuff, but usually that kind of stuff doesn't heat up until the end of this month. I didn't even know it was a possibility they could come here, either one of them, let alone both. It's crazy."
But too crazy? Some think the A's gave up too much in trading away top prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, along with righty Dan Straily and a player to be named.
The future, though, isn't of immediate concern to a team that is working within the confines of a small window of opportunity for a potential big-time postseason run. Getting there won't be a picnic, either. The Angels and Mariners are playing their best baseball at the moment -- and "they're not going away," said Doolittle.
"There's nowhere to hide," he said. "No lead is safe. It's not over until you're in the clubhouse poppin' bottles."
General manager Billy Beane wasn't going to sit around willing it to happen a third straight year. That's why he struck as quickly as he did, ensuring an additional eight or nine starts combined from Samardzija and Hammel in advance of the July 31 Trade Deadline -- in an already envied rotation led by Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir.
Samardzija will make his A's debut Sunday. Hammel will start Wednesday.
"A hundred percent it's a statement," said Brandon Moss. "They just got rid of their top two prospects. Not very many organizations do that, regardless of contending or not. Usually when there are teams doing that, it's because they feel like they have an extremely special group that has a chance to do special things. It says a lot about the faith they have in us in this clubhouse, and it says a lot about the faith in the guys that they acquired, and obviously it took a lot to get them."
"It's a monster trade," said Derek Norris. "When you trade two recent first-rounders, it speaks volumes of what we're trying to do here. We're trying to take this good start we've gotten off to and make a good second-half push. I think it just takes us to a new level where, one through five, we have proven arms coming in and out."
Reaction around the league was immediate. Even Justin Verlander, responsible for knocking the A's out of the American League Division Series in Game 5 each of the previous two years, chimed in, offering, "I found it very interesting. Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind. If they want to win a World Series, they're envisioning that they have to go through us, and even though it's been two fantastic series, it's been heartbreaking for them the last two years."
A's players took the high road when hearing these remarks.
"It's too early in the season to be looking to October at potential matchups in the playoffs, especially when we've found ourselves in the best division in baseball," said Doolittle. "It's only July. We still have three months of baseball left, and it's looking like it's going to come down to who's playing the best at the end of the year. The goal is to win the division and get to the playoffs. Once you're there, anything can happen. We think we were built to make a little bit of a run, but none of that is even possible if we don't win the division.
"It seems like they're saying, 'You guys are right there. We're going to give you a little extra to put you over the hump and see if we can make a run at this thing.' It's just very encouraging to have the front office send you that kind of message."
"The deal speaks for itself," said manager Bob Melvin. "To get the quality that we did, you have to give up some quality. Based on where we are right now, to be able to pick up two guys like that here in early July is pretty fantastic. Hats off to Billy. When you're in a position like we are and in first place and striving to make the playoffs, these are the moves teams in our position make."
Few are as aggressive, though.
"You never see that. But we did it," said Norris." If there's one team that would do that, it's this team. It's exciting."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less