I'm not going to get all worked up about the rumored Jay Payton-for-Chad Bradford trade until I hear the other shoe drop. This is not the first time these two have been involved in a trade rumor with each other; there was a similar rumor at the Winter Meetings when Payton was still with San Diego. That deal fell through, but we can guess that Beane indeed likes Payton. This is one trade rumor that does seem to have teeth, but it still doesn't seem that this is all that Beane has in mind.
Since Payton is a likely free agent at year's end (there's a team option), and since it's unlikely Bradford would have been around next year, either, on the surface this would be strictly a trade for 2005. Does this trade, on its own, improve the A's playoff chances?
Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero have a tight grasp on the A's RH set-up jobs, so Bradford would probably have been competing with Keiichi Yabu for playing time during mop-up duties, which would not have added much to the A's playoffs chances.
Jay Payton is essentially Eric Byrnes with better defense. But Byrnes isn't playing much, except against lefties, so just upgrading Byrnes doesn't help much. Would Payton replace Kielty or Swisher in the lineup? Unlikely; Payton's gone after this year; you'd still want to play the guys who are still going to be around next year.
The only thing that makes sense is if Payton pushes Kielty or Swisher to DH, and Hatteberg gets sent to the bench. That improves the A's offensive power and defensive range (at the likely expense of some OBP), yet doesn't kick any part of the A's future out of the lineup. Relegated to bench duty: Byrnes, Hatteberg, and Durazo (if/when he gets back from the DL), all of whom would be gone next year anyway, (as would Payton).
It would be an incremental improvement, but what's the point of that? The Angels are running away with the AL West, and there's a gazillion teams ahead of them for the wild card, including the Yankees and the Twins. Beane should be focusing on improving the team for the future, and if it also helps the present, too, that's a bonus.
Getting Payton gives Beane choices. He could flip Payton elsewhere, or keep him and trade Byrnes or Kotsay without appearing to give up on 2005. If they trade Kotsay, that might give them the money to exercise Payton's option, and he could play CF in 2006 while the A's wait for Javier Herrera to mature. Or whatever.
Payton-for-Bradford? Meh. Not bad, but not exciting. Payton-for-Bradford and then Byrnes/Hatteberg/Durazo/Kotsay for prospects--OK, wake me up when that happens.