Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics

Next up in the Offseason Outlook series, the A’s.  Here’s how they might line up in 2009:

C – Kurt Suzuki -$400K
C – Rob Bowen – $410K+
1B – Daric Barton – $400K
2B – Eric Patterson – $400K
SS – Bobby Crosby – $5.25MM
3B – Eric Chavez – $11MM
IF – Jack Hannahan – $400K
IF – Cliff Pennington – $400K
LF – Aaron Cunningham – $400K
CF – Carlos Gonzalez – $400K
RF – Ryan Sweeney – $400K
OF – Rajai Davis – $400K
DH – Jack Cust – $410K+

SP – Justin Duchscherer – $1.2MM+
SP – Greg Smith – $400K
SP – Sean Gallagher – $400K
SP – Dana Eveland – $400K
SP – Dallas Braden – $400K

RP – Huston Street – $3.3MM+
RP – Brad Ziegler – $400K
RP – Joey Devine – $400K
RP – Santiago Casilla – $400K
RP – Andrew Brown – $400K
RP – Jerry Blevins – $400K
RP – Josh Outman – $400K

Other outfielders: Travis Buck – $400K, Chris Denorfia – $400K, Matt Murton – $400K

Other starters: Gio Gonzalez – $400K, Dan Meyer – $400K, Vince Mazzaro – $400K, Trevor Cahill – $400K, Brett Anderson – $400K

The A’s opened the ’08 season with a $48MM payroll, down $31MM from the year before.  They have roughly $29MM committed for ’09, plus arbitration raises to Bowen, Cust, Duchscherer, and Street.  They’ll surely come in under $40MM, and could trade Duke or Street.

Oakland’s pitching has been strong once again, and their fourth-ranked ERA holds up even after you subtract Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, and Chad Gaudin.   Lack of offense is the problem – the A’s are dead last in baseball in OBP, SLG, and runs scored.

Cust and Suzuki made positive contributions offensively; Sweeney was OK.  The infield could be an area to upgrade this winter (second base would require a stopgap solution due to the minor league depth).  Chavez will figure in if he can come back from shoulder surgery, but he may be incapable of playing third base.  The A’s have tons of outfielders, but no real trade surplus.  Given Billy Beane’s success developing and finding pitching, that’s the surplus.  He could deal Duchscherer or Street or attempt to swap young pitching for young hitting.

The A’s could target third basemen such as Edwin Encarnacion or Kevin Kouzmanoff, though neither player is an offensive monster.  Young shortstops are more difficult to find via trade.  Dan Uggla could be an interesting target for second or third base.  The A’s probably aren’t in the market for a first baseman, though Prince Fielder might be available.  That’d make for an amusing storyMike Jacobs could be a more feasible target.

Shrewd free agent signings might be a better and more likely pathJason Giambi, Rafael Furcal, and Casey Blake could help.  The outfield market is strong, if the A’s don’t mind pushing various youngsters further down the depth chart.

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