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A’s Beane defends deals he made

OAKLAND, Calif. — Billy Beane not only didn’t apologize Wednesday for the Yoenis Cespedes-Jon Lester trade gamble that ultimately blew up in a one-game wild-card loss, he also insisted the A’s wouldn’t have made the playoffs if he hadn’t made the deal.

Defiant in the wake of heavy criticism of his midseason moves that many believe undermined the A’s clubhouse chemistry — and in the end, didn’t work — the A’s general manager held steadfast and said he’d do it over again.

“Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” he said. “We made it on the last day, and if we don’t make that exchange, I don’t believe we make it.”

The A’s went 16-30 down the stretch after spending most of the first half of the season with baseball’s best record. But Beane intimated that any talk of the Cespedes trade wrecking team chemistry and ultimately leading to the late-season struggles is pointless.

“I would rather have production,” he said. “I think production ultimately creates chemistry.”

Beane maintained he saw trouble coming while things were going good.

“When we traded for (Jeff) Samardzija and (Jason) Hammel, I think one of the first questions was, ‘Why would you trade for two pitchers, you’re first in the league in ERA?’ ” he said. “We weren’t going to stay there. We knew it. Our job is to try and correct things before they become a problem, and some of the problems that we had we could see coming.”

One of those problems was the competition.

“The Angels were going to catch us,” Beane said. “They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point. If you go back to my quotes from when we made those trades, despite the fact of where we were, at no point were those trades made for the playoffs. I was adamant about it. I could feel the Angels breathing down our necks.

“What I didn’t reveal was that I was also concerned about us, which was the point of the trades,” the G.M. continued. “I have said this many times, it’s not where you are, it’s where you’re headed. And I like to think being here every day, I have a feel for where we’re headed.”

Manager Bob Melvin didn’t agree with Beane’s assessment that the Angels overhauling Oakland was inevitable.

“I look at it differently,” he said. “(Beane) is a big picture guy, and I’m grinding on the day. Even as poorly as we were playing and as well as they were playing, even when they passed us, I thought we would catch them based on the games we had. Of course, there was a point that I realized we probably weren’t going to win the division, and then I had to realize just getting to the postseason would be good.”

Beane was quick to point out that despite the bitter finish, he was proud that the A’s made the playoffs for the third straight season and the eighth time under his stewardship. He added that whatever people want to believe about the trades not accomplishing the ultimate goal of winning a World Series, and perhaps worse, setting the team back, is open to conjecture. He’s sticking to his guns.

“We can debate that all day long,” he said. “We made the playoffs. That was the goal. I don’t think we would have made the playoffs (without the trades). But we’ll never know, will we? We just know we did make the playoffs, and I made the moves.”

Several A’s players did say there was a certain degree of upheaval after the trades, and that it took considerable time to rebuild a collective alchemy.

“It’s just a reality,” said shortstop Jed Lowrie. “When you take a few guys out of the clubhouse and add a handful of new guys, as much as people think it isn’t a big deal, that we’re all professionals, that we’re all just out here playing a game, there’s something to chemistry and to having an identity as a team and as an offense.”

Outfielder Josh Reddick spoke specifically to the Cespedes trade, noting, “Anytime you lose a hitter like Cespy, you’re going to miss someone like that no matter who else steps up.”

Beane acknowledged that the A’s have a lot of work to do to retool for 2015, and that a number of the eight eligible free agents — Lester, Hammel, Alberto Callaspo, Jonny Gomes, Luke Gregerson, Geovany Soto, Lowrie and Adam Dunn — won’t be back.

Regarding the future, Reddick had a terse comment about how he hopes the A’s general manager goes about it.

“Let’s hope he doesn’t tear this team apart like he’s done in the past,” he said.