Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics

As the Athletics await resolution on their stadium situation, they’ll look to restore outfield depth and improve their weak offense.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Contract Options

Michael Wuertz, RP: $3.25MM club option with a $250K buyout; no Elias Ranking

Free Agents

The Athletics are in limbo, waiting for MLB’s assessment of their stadium situation and confronting the possibility that Billy Beane could leave the Bay Area for another GM job. With so much uncertainty and the worst attendance figures in MLB, it’s difficult for Oakland to make long-term plans. Spending decisions are temporarily on hold for the A's. 

Stadium and relocation issues aside, the front office has its share of on-field questions. All three of Oakland’s starting outfielders hit free agency along with their primary designated hitter and a starting pitcher. It seems likely that the A’s will seek offense to rebound from this year’s 74-88 record and make a push for the postseason. But as C.J. Wilson reminded Beane & Co. this summer, attracting free agents of any kind to the Oakland Coliseum makes luring fans there seem easy.

If the A's decline Michael Wuertz's option and tender contracts to all nine of their arbitration eligible players, they'll have committed about $40.75MM to next year's payroll (minimum salary players not included). Oakland's payroll has been in the $58-67MM range since 2009, so it won't be surprising if they're working with approximately $20MM this offseason.

The offense is the most obvious place for Beane to spend. Oakland's lineup featured little pop besides Josh Willingham in 2011 and ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored (645). Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus will be among the most sought-after free agent outfielders of the offseason, so re-signing them won't be easy, though the A’s appear to have interest in bringing Willingham and Crisp back.

The A's can obtain two draft picks for Willingham, who would obtain a raise from $6MM if he accepted arbitration from Oakland. It's an acceptable risk for the A's given the possible picks, Willingham's free agent prospects and the limited downside of a one-year deal. An offer of arbitration for DeJesus, a bounce-back candidate in 2012, seems less likely.

Without the organizational stability to spend aggressively or the ability to attract big-name free agents, the A's may turn to the trade market, where Ryan SpilborghsCarlos QuentinAngel Pagan and B.J. Upton could be available as alternatives to internal options such as Michael TaylorRyan Sweeney and Jai Miller. Oakland's pitching staff is a definite strength and it could be the currency Beane uses to acquire outfield help and address minor needs.

It appears likely that designated hitter Hideki Matsui will return on a one-year deal. Matsui generates revenue and won’t command more than a few million, but most teams look for more than 12 homers and a .696 OPS from their designated hitter. David Ortiz would provide more offense, but he’ll be significantly more expensive than Matsui.

Scott Sizemore’s impressive 2011 performance (.249/.345/.433 with 11 HR in 355 plate appearances) has earned him a shot at the everyday third base job. Joining him on the infield will be promising 24-year-old second baseman Jemile Weeks and shortstop Cliff PenningtonDaric Barton (recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder) and a collection of minimum salary players – Brandon Allen Chris Carter, Kila Ka'aihue and Adam Rosales – round out the infield. Even if the A's believe in Sizemore and their collection of first base candidates at the corner positions, they'll need to add bench depth after parting with multiple infielders last season. 

Few teams would be comfortable relying on such an inexperienced group of position players. Allen, Weeks, Pennington, Sizemore, Taylor, Sweeney and Miller have combined for fewer MLB plate appearances than Matsui (4953 vs. 4677), and he played in Japan until he was 29.

The A’s didn’t score much in 2011, but their run prevention was better than average (sixth in the AL), even though they only got three starts from Dallas Braden and 13 from Brett Anderson. Both left-handers could return in 2012: Braden, now recovering from shoulder surgery, is a possibility for the Opening Day rotation (assuming Oakland tenders him a contract) and Anderson could return from Tommy John surgery midseason. They’ll join Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Guillermo Moscoso in a deep rotation that could include Tyson Ross or Josh Outman, if necessary. 

Rich Harden could re-sign in Oakland and provide the club with additional insurance. At this point, they don’t appear to need it, but every pitching staff encounters injuries. Plus, it’s conceivable that the A’s would listen to offers for Gio Gonzalez, who will earn at least $3MM as a first-time arbitration eligible player. The 26-year-old is under team control through 2015 and would instantly become one of the most coveted pitchers of the offseason, if Beane made him available.

The bullpen will feature Craig Breslow, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey again. It seems unlikely that the A's would commit over $3MM to Wuertz after such a disappointing season, so they'll probably decline his option and rely on the likes of Joey Devine (sidelined with a rhomboid strain), Jerry Blevins and Fautino De Los Santos to fill out the 'pen. The group was adequate in 2011 and should be as good in 2012, with most of its members returning.

As much as anything, Oakland's offseason revolves around the possibility that they'll move to a new stadium or city. Yes, the A's will patch up their outfield and tinker with their pitching staff, and next year's team will be much better if the offense improves and the pitching holds up. But for the long-term health of the franchise to improve, the A's need resolution on the stadium issue.


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51 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics"


Robert Slye Jr.
3 years 10 months ago

“confronting the possibility that Billy Beane could leave the Bay Area for another GM job”
uhhh no. I’ve read several recent articles where Billy Beane said there’s little to no truth to these rumors.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Correct, Beane has said multiple times, outright, that he is not leaving.

Tired_OF_FakeRumors
3 years 10 months ago

Plus sign David Ortiz

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Ortiz is a massively better option than Matsui….but he’s going to want more than the $2MM or so Matsui is going to get.

AmericanMovieFan
3 years 10 months ago

I think they have a chance to re-sign Willingham to a market-value contract that will be fair to the player and the team. Something in the $7-8MM per season range for 2-3 years.

As for attracting free agents- with Rafael Furcal’s example and Beltre’s you see it’s really nothing to do with money. They gotta do something though. I hope their “creativity” pays off for once, as they look good sometimes and I think they’re on the cusp of figuring it out (though people have been saying that since 2003)

woodmember
3 years 10 months ago

Great article.  Thank you. 

3 years 10 months ago

I mostly liked the way Beane put together the ’11 A’s, especially the OF. But the head-scratcher was the signings of Balfour and Fuentes. Was there too much change in the couch of the owner’s box and he couldn’t get anyone outside of the overpaid FA set-up brigade of ’11 to take it? Now he’s committed to $9MM for ’12 and will have a difficult time moving those contracts. There was an article in 06 in the SJ Mercury News lauding BB for putting together an effective BP on a shoestring budget. Why did he change course? With a possible payroll shrinkage in ’12 he may be hamstrung by those contracts.

3 years 10 months ago

What was wrong with the Balfour signing?
If I worked in the FO of the Orioles which I do not, I would gladly take Balfour in trade! Would you want Kevin Gregg’s salary instead? I doubt it!

3 years 10 months ago

 nice strawman

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Its not really a head scratcher: Beane’s targets were Beltre and Berkman and both of them said no. Due to revenue sharing, the A’s are required to spend the money, not pocket it. MLB has kept a close eye on both the A’s and Marlins (as I read on this site) to make sure they spend, so they look to trying to sign literally any FA who wants to play with them, and in last seasons case, Fuentes and Balfour were the only ones who wanted to.

3 years 10 months ago

I’m not a fan of the middle reliever FA market especially with Beane’s previous success.
As to Pete and Francisco’s comments I am aware of the revenue sharing scrutiny. However, why not offer a larger one year contract to a lower tier offensive player and gamble on an outlier than giving the money to the run prevention category? The revenue sharing expenditure is met.

Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Isn’t that what they did last year with Matsui? And the year prior with Crisp? Unfortunately those are the best types of offensive players they can attract right now. And the only reason they were even able to sign those two was because Matsui had no other offers on the table, and Crisp’s only other suitor was San Diego. It’s extremely difficult for them to find many high-upside offensive players who are willing to sign one-year deals with them right now, even if they overpay. The only offensive players who look for those types of deals are ones who are hoping to re-establish their value, and then hit the open market again the following year (like Beltre did in 2010 in Boston). And players like that are very rarely gonna come to a pitcher’s park like the Coliseum in hopes of accomplishing that goal. Pitchers always will (guys like Harden, McCarthy, Sheets, etc.), but not offensive players. It’s sad, but that’s the reality the team is currently faced with.

3 years 10 months ago

Yes Matsui and Crisp fit the profile. I am encouraging more of the same to find more run producers.

Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Your question was answered in the article. Big name free agents (especially bats) avoid Oakland like the plague. They tried their best to sign Adrian Beltre the last two offseasons, and they aggressively courted Lance Berkman last year (and in two of those three cases the A’s actually offered more guaranteed money than the teams that wound up signing them). But they couldn’t get them, so after acquiring Willingham and DeJesus via trade, and signing Matsui, all they could really do with what they had left to spend was bolster the bullpen. It’s not like they consciously neglected the offense at the expense of signing relievers; it’s just that not many players wanted to sign with them. And unfortunately it will remain that way until they can get into a new stadium.

Blake_HawksWitt
3 years 10 months ago

The Balfour signing was good. The Fuentes signing was not so good. I cringed every time I saw him warming up in the bullpen.

3 years 10 months ago

5 years, 66 million to Rollins?

not_brooks
3 years 10 months ago

 Why isn’t there a “Dislike” button here?

3 years 10 months ago

nope – try Sabean

candlestick22
3 years 10 months ago

That’s the Bay Area GM who actually has a World Series ring, right?

Steven Chuob
3 years 10 months ago

If I recall Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito did not help win in 2010. You know the GM that has a world series ring..

candlestick22
3 years 10 months ago

Not very much, but I think despite those 2 contracts you mention, the 2010 world series still counted, and I think the home grown pitching staff, and some key bullpen acquisitions and other signings that you forgot to mention did help that GM get his…you know, world series ring….sorry, I think I missed it, but did David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui help the A’s get to the playoffs this year??? Or to an above .500 record???

Okteds
3 years 10 months ago

Given Sabean’s track record over the years, I think it’s fair to say that the Giants won the world series “despite” their GM’s best efforts…

jpshark
3 years 10 months ago

If your going to come at somebody hard for a comment at least get your rebuttle straight…DeJesus and Matsui were hardly the reason the A’s failed to have a winning season this year. Losing Anderson and Braden for the year, and McCarthy for 6 weeks, all within a span of a couple weeks in May is what ended their chances at a winning season in 2011. Now, Matsui and DeJesus underperforming didn’t help the situation, but you can hardly blame Beane for that. Both guys were expected to play much better then they did, and if you remember right Beane tried at several other targers prior to settling for Matsui. Also, theres nothing I love more then a high payroll teams fan coming in and talking s*** on a GM who has a fraction of the resources available that their teams GM does. Give Beane a budget of a $100mm (payroll) a year to work with, and see what he does with it. He sure as hell won’t need to get lucky to grab that WS ring (which would be #5, not #1, for the Oakland franchice).

candlestick22
3 years 10 months ago

Got lucky??? I guess you don’t understand the concept of homegrown elite pitching…that actually performs. When you have arguably the best pitching in the majors, and a servicable league average offense as the Giants did in 2010 it’s hardly “luck.” And the Giants also don’t win the WS without key under the radar moves by Sabean such as Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, etc. I’m not saying he’s the best GM, but if someone is going to pick on the Zito (a Magowan move, not Sabean) and Rowand moves, then I can cherry pick Beane’s moves also as I please. If you want him to have a higher payroll, maybe the fans should buy tickets to the team’s games. And please turn the calendar from the 70’s and 80’s…it’s 2011.

tiduss
3 years 10 months ago

2010 is gone. Get over it. It took you over 50 years to get a ring. Welcome to the club for finally becoming a champion. If your precious Giants didn’t win last year your mouth would be shut in this post.

candlestick22
3 years 10 months ago

Yeah, 1989 has been gone for a while too. Maybe one day you can join the club of teams who have won it this century. Probably not though.

RocknRollFan77
3 years 9 months ago

You can’t erase history! The A’s have 9 World Series titles, the Giants – not so many! And 3 of the A’s titles were against the Giants. The A’s have a richer, more winning history than your Giants. End of story!

green_and_gold
3 years 10 months ago

Billy Beane does have a World Series Ring, just not as a GM…

mondaymorninggm
3 years 10 months ago

i would dump gonzales to the yanks for offense. they desperately need pitching, u could certainly get montero plus others for 3 years of gonzales

not_brooks
3 years 10 months ago

If you could count on anyone else in the rotation, then it makes sense to trade Gio. But you can’t, so you don’t.

3 years 10 months ago

Not sure I agree with this.  Gio is cost controlled for another three years – this is extremely valuable to the A’s, not so much for the Yanks.  I seriously doubt the Yankees would offer enough *value* in exchange for Gio (the value he represents for the A’s). 

RocknRollFan77
3 years 9 months ago

Gonzales is turning into an elite pitcher. Those don’t pop up in your farm system every day. And at this point the A’s can’t compete for one in the free agent market.

Trading Gonzalez would be extremely stupid when you consider his age and that he’s not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2014 season. Oakland has several good hitters in the minors that will be ready in a year or two – or at least before a new stadium would open up (in 3 -4 years). The best of which is cf Michael Choice. He hit .285 with 30 Hr’s in 2011. He’ll be called up in late 2012 be or probably make the club in 2013. And Jai Miller just tore up the minors in 2011. He looked like he could handle big league pitching in his 2011 call-up, too. He’ll probably be starting in the OF on Opening Day. And then there’s ss Grant Green, who won the 2011 Futures Game MVP. He can hit and field better than Pennington. Didn’t Pennington lead AL ss’s in errors in 2011? Horrible!

3 years 10 months ago

CJ Wilson? Doesn’t this article mean to say that Adrian Beltre showed Beane & Co. how difficult to attract free agents? CJ Wilson wasn’t a free agent this past offseason! 

not_brooks
3 years 10 months ago

Is it that difficult to click a link?

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

You know, Logan Morrison could certainly put up similar, if not better numbers than Josh Willingham, and the A’s already have the other best twitterer, Brandon McCarthy. Having them both on board would certainly open up a potential sponsorship from Twitter itself, as well as providing lots of extra-ciricular entertainment and righteousness from that duo.

If LoMo is on the outs (and with Ozzie there, why would he even want to stick around?) joining a calmer, saner, younger team with excellent pitching looking for bats would be right up his alley, Logan Morrison should be Beane’s #1 target this offseason.

3 years 10 months ago

Gio available for the right offensive pieces?  I’d like to see him in Cincinnati and I feel Alonso (1B), Sappelt/Stubbs (CF), and Fransisco (3B) would inject some youthful offense into that Oakland lineup.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

That makes some sense, but Oakland has Barton/Carter/Allen/Kila at 1B depth so far. Maybe get a 3rd team involved who needs 1B depth to thin out those four?

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

1. Gio Gonzalez, Kurt Suzuki & Andrew Bailey for Brett Gardner, Jesus Montero & Joba Chamberlain. Yanks gets one of the best pitchers in the game, a young front line starter with powerful stuff; an excellent game calling catcher who would undoubtedly hit better in NY; and all star closer. Gardner gets to play CF and Montero gets full time playing time as a catcher. Joba gets a nice pitchers park to play in. Big win for both teams.   

2. I’m 100% unsure what the Marlins are looking for Morrison if he’s out of favor and suing the team. Currently with no new stadium planned, the A’s and Rays have the worst two stadiums and the Marlins are getting a new one, so would trading him to Oakland would be a form of “punishing” him? Would they take something like Josh Donaldson, Ryan Sweeney & Josh Outman for him? Rasmus didn’t get a really mind-blowing package and he’s the only comp I can think of for out-of-favor players. But like I said, I really don’t know. Please feel free to post what you think FLA would need from Oakland for LoMo.

3. I know Beane said “no signs” but I think they could afford a strong defensive backup catcher to support/teach Montero. Ideally Beane would target Edwin Jackson, Jon Papelbon and David Ortiz to really get them in the pennant race, but that’s too much money for a team in limbo.

1B: Barton
2B: Weeks
SS: Pennington
3B: Sizemore
C: Montero
LF: Morrison
CF: Gardner
RF: Taylor
DH: Matsui

Rotation: Cahill-McCarthy-Braden/Joba/Moscoso/Anderson/Ross/Gray
Bullpen: Devine-Fuentes-Breslow-Balfour-DeLosSantos-whoever loses the SP battle.

Looks a lot better than this year.

3 years 10 months ago

Joba Chamberlain had Tommy John Surgery. He’s out till at least AS Break in 2012.
Why would the A’s want him? If I were you, I would be happy with Gio Gonzalez.

As a side note Gio G & Balfour for Brian Matusz LOL

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

I am happy with Gio, but Beane’s strength has always been finding the “right” pitchers who can find sucess in Oakland, as an example this year McCarthy & Moscoso were amazing for the A’s, Gio is perhaps the most valuable trade piece the A’s have and if they could get a couple of everyday regulars for him, that would mean a lot in terms of extended success. I don’t think there’s an A’s fan alive who wouldnt want Gardner and Montero in the everyday lineup, if it costs Gio & Bailey so be it.

3 years 10 months ago

Joba he is hurt?  No way.  the A’s could get a better package than Montero since he is a DH and can’t catch worth anything.  Bailey is worth a good prospect back.  The Phillies would trade a few prospects for him. 

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

The Phillies have one of the worst farms in baseball, after Pence they are cleaned out. No way do they have enough to get Bailey.

3 years 10 months ago

A’s will never amount to much in the Bay Area.  Most fans are and always will be Giants fans.  They need to move to an area that can support them.  The Bay Area is by far the smallest 2 team region in all of MLB.  They’d do much better in Sacramento, Portland, or Vegas.

baycommuter
3 years 10 months ago

And even better in San Jose, that’s why they want to go there and the Giants don’t want them there. Note that the Sharks can command double the secondary-market ticket prices of the Warriors and still sell out.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

Thats a lie: the Giants had no fans until they moved to Pac Bell Park in 2000. The A’s had the bigger fanbase until that precise moment.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

The Phillies do not have any prospects whatsoever. The Yankees are a much better match.

cupponoodle
3 years 10 months ago

There is a big difference between sharing an NFL stadium than a move to San Jose by the A’s.  First of all, there are only 16 games, and 8 home games in football, and both teams that share that stadium aren’t going to have problems with fan attendance.  Baseball on the other hand plays 162 games, 81 home games.  Till, the unions and the players ruined MLB, baseball was America’s pastime, baseball is not the #1 fan based sport.  Simple economics tell you that it is the media market where the money is made. Simply said, simply put, the a’s while in the bay area, oakland, san jose, etc., will never compete in the free agent market.

cupponoodle
3 years 10 months ago

innsain kudos to your comment, right on every point

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

@standtall: why can’t all Giants fans be like you? The large majority have some superiority complex against the team who has bought 3 more rings to the Bay than they have. I like your attitude, and the A’s do belong in SJ more than the Giants deserve a “presence” there. The Giants ballpark is even further away than the A’s one to SJ.

corey23
3 years 10 months ago

I agree standtallyouregiants…. I think it’d be good for both teams if the A’s move to San Jose.  There will always be fans who jump ship… note the new giants fants of 2011 who are already leaving bc they didn’t repeat.  But fans have their teams, and there are enough people in the bay area to support both teams. 

It would lead to healthy competition and probably increased revenues for both teams.  If the Raiders/Niners get a new stadium, and the A’s get a new stadium, with the Warriors getting new owners we could see 6 teams in the bay area actually competing, tell me how that wouldn’t be good for everyone involved.

It’s really time, the bay area was the powerhouse of the late 80s/90s in baseball and football, and its time to bring it back!  I don’t even care where the a’s build a stadium now, i just want one built so they can be competetive.

cupponoodle
3 years 10 months ago

on the button with everything innsain, many kudos to you