Next up in the 2007 Team Outlooks are the Oakland Athletics. They stand to possibly lose a couple of key players after this season.
Billy Beane's contract obligations:
C - Jason Kendall - $8MM
C - Adam Melhuse - $0.85MM
1B - Dan Johnson - $0.33MM
2B - Mark Ellis - $3.5MM
SS - Bobby Crosby - $2.5MM
3B - Eric Chavez - $9MM
IF - Marcos Scutaro - $0.34MM
IF - D'Angelo Jimenez - $0.75MM
LF - Nick Swisher - $0.335MM
CF - Mark Kotsay - $7MM
RF - Milton Bradley - $3MM
OF - Bobby Kielty - $1.85MM
SP - Rich Harden - $2MM
SP - Dan Haren - $2.2MM
SP - Esteban Loaiza - $6MM
SP - Joe Blanton - $0.327MM
SP - Kirk Saarloos - $0.354MM
SP - Jerome Williams - $0.38MM
SP - Jason Windsor - $0.327MM
RP - Huston Street - $0.34MM
RP - Justin Duchscherer - $0.3445MM
RP - Joe Kennedy - $2.4MM
RP - Jay Witasick - $1.5MM
RP - Kiko Calero - $0.85MM
RP - Santiago Casilla - $0.327MM
RP - Chad Gaudin - $0.327MM
RP - Brad Halsey - $0.346MM
RP - Ron Flores - $0.327MM
RP - Shane Komine - $0.327MM
The A's have roughly $60MM tied up, assuming some raises and such. That's about where they entered 2006 - Opening Day payroll was $62MM.
Depending on how you feel about Dan Johnson, the A's could use some help in the form of a 1B/LF/DH player (given that Swisher can play first. If you can say one thing about Beane, it's that he builds a versatile roster). 21 year-old top prospect Daric Barton missed most of 2006 with a broken elbow. Upon returning he strained his hamstring. He might have something to contribute in the Majors at some point in '07, even if the power doesn't arrive yet.
One could see Beane signing a Craig Wilson to fill the void. He could also go after Moises Alou or David Dellucci. There's also the option of one Barry Bonds, who would probably spend most of his time at DH.
Speaking of DH, will Frank Thomas return? Not an easy decision for Beane. Sure, Thomas re-established himself as one of the game's top sluggers. Still, he'll be 39 next May and could require, I don't know, a two-year, $20MM deal? Who knows what Frank will ask for. My gut says Beane lets him walk.
The A's have a host of disappointing players lccked up who probably can't help but play better in 2007. Kotsay, Chavez, Ellis, and Crosby have not impressed. Kotsay and Crosby will need very capable backups. Ellis's second half, at .271/.341/.442 seems more his level. Plus, his defense is top-notch. Chavez dealt with a hamstring strain, elbow and forearm tendinitis, back tightness, and even food poisoning this year. He's also got that chronically sore shoulder. The A's have no choice but to try to nurse him back to health after the playoffs.
Kotsay isn't a great bet at this point, but the outfield is at least average offensively. When he misses time, we'll see plenty of Kielty, maybe Hiram Bocachica, and position shuffling out there.
The pitching staff is long on options. If and when Harden misses time, the A's have a laundry list of decent options to start in his place. Jerome Williams has seen success at the big league level. Halsey, Gaudin, Kennedy, and Windsor can all fill in.
The difference will be that the A's won't have Barry Zito making 34 decent starts for them anymore. If Harden goes down, do you really want Saarloos and one of the aforementioned starters in the rotation for an extended period of time? The A's signed Loaiza last offseason when it appeared they didn't quite need him. Beane could make a similar signing this offseason if he has the budget. Ted Lilly has voiced a desire to return to the Bay Area, perhaps with the A's or Giants.
There's really no need to mess with the bullpen. Plenty of good arms there.
Perhaps the astute A's supporters can lend me a hand here, but I don't know how high the A's will take the payroll in 2007. If they bring it up to $75MM or so, Beane should have room to sign Thomas or a replacement and snag a mid-level starter.
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