The Athletics' pitching staff is second in the AL with a 3.65 ERA, but their offense ranks 11th with 4.08 runs scored per game. It's time to find some bats!
A's assistant GM David Forst told ESPN's Jayson Stark on July 29th the team is considering "bringing back the same 25 guys next year." That approach doesn't make sense regarding the offense. Let's go around the diamond.
Kurt Suzuki is locked up through at least 2013. He hits pretty well for a catcher. If lineup changes are made, they'll happen elsewhere.
Daric Barton has been the regular first baseman, and he leads the American League with 68 walks. His job appears safe, though he does not provide traditional first base power. Forst told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle last week that Barton "really established himself at first base," one reason top prospect Chris Carter has been playing left field recently.
The A's retained second baseman Mark Ellis and center fielder Coco Crisp at the trade deadline. Both players have club options for 2011 – $5.5MM net for Ellis, $5.25MM for Crisp. Both are defensively-talented players with extensive injury histories. They generally lack power, though Crisp is flashing some pop in a limited sample this year.
Ellis figures to be paired up with shortstop Cliff Pennington again next year. Pennington is not playing badly, and it's not as if shortstops are in abundance. Still, bring him back and you've locked up yet another lineup spot with a slugging percentage of .400 or less.
Non-tendering third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff must be considered. Can the A's really give him a raise on this year's $3.1MM salary despite a .266/.299/.400 batting line? It'd be tough to pursue free agent Adrian Beltre again now that he'll be coming off a great season, but there has to be a way to get offensive production at third base. Perhaps the Cubs and Diamondbacks will entertain offers on Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds this winter.
Jack Cust has been a bright spot at designated hitter. It'd be wise to bring him back for around $3MM again, though the A's have jerked him around a bit the last few years. It shouldn't be that difficult to find a free agent DH type who can slug .450 or better.
The A's have tons of outfield corner options, most of them lacking pop aside from Carter. Will the A's go with Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis again, given the lack of power from other lineup spots? The A's were surprise suitors for Matt Holliday a couple of years ago. If they don't want to pursue big names this winter maybe they can get creative and put together a Cody Ross-Jim Edmonds platoon or something of that nature. The A's haven't put together a lineup with multiple 20 home run bats since 2007. Even a middling offense might put them in the playoffs in 2011.