Offseason In Review: Oakland Athletics

The Athletics restocked their farm system and restored outfield depth this offseason, but their future in Oakland remains unresolved.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Manny Ramirez, Brandon Moss, Jason Pridie, Edgar Gonzalez.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Draft Picks Gained or Lost

  • Obtained 34th, 62nd overall selections for losing Willingham. 
  • Obtained 47th overall selection for losing DeJesus.

When the offseason began, it was clear that the A’s would have to assemble a new outfield and weigh offers for their controllable young pitchers. Billy Beane didn’t hold back, adding six outfielders and trading away as many experienced arms. The result: a new-look Athletics team whose future in Oakland remains undetermined.

After ranking sixth among American League teams in runs allowed a year ago, the A’s decided to part with a ton of pitching: Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Craig BreslowAndrew BaileyJosh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso. One man who didn’t change teams was the one doing the trading. Beane reportedly attracted interest from clubs with GM openings this offseason, but he stayed put in Oakland. Parting with so much pitching was difficult, but the A's viewed the trades as a necessary step.

“There was a need to infuse a quantity of talent into the system,” director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told MLBTR. “And when you’re looking to do that, you have to be willing to give up your best assets. You have to start from the top in terms of guys you’re willing to shop.”

As unpleasant as it must have been for the A's to part with Gonzalez after back-to-back 200 inning seasons, I can see why they made the move when they did. Gonzalez is getting expensive via arbitration, he's prone to walks and good luck appears to have deflated his ERA to an extent since 2010. Still, any team would miss a pitcher of his caliber.

The Bailey trade was equally defensible given the $3.9MM salary he'll earn in 2012, his past health concerns and Oakland's other bullpen arms. Some consider Josh Reddick a fourth outfielder, so it's not as though the Athletics obtained a sure thing in return for their former closer, but perhaps it’s time to temper expectations when it comes to trades involving relief pitchers. Teams haven't always obtained much of substance in return for relievers in the past year. Reddick will get the chance to prove the naysayers wrong as the club's everyday right fielder in 2012.

The decision to trade Cahill, a durable, young ground ball pitcher who's under team control through 2017, was more puzzling. Jarrod Parker, under team control for the same period, showed promise in Double-A last year, and he appears to have more top of the rotation potential. But he's just nine months younger than Cahill, and he's a season removed from Tommy John surgery. This deal makes the A's cheaper for the next few seasons, but I'm not convinced swapping a young 200 inning starter for a prospect makes them better.

There's no denying that Oakland improved its farm system this offseason. Parker and A.J. Cole are consensus top 100 prospects, according to lists at Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and Brad Peacock and Derek Norris both appeared on two of the three prospect lists, an indication that the industry holds Oakland’s new prospects in high esteem.

Parker, Peacock and Tom Milone could get extended looks in the rotation behind Opening Day starter Brandon McCarthy. The A’s are hoping for more than three starts from Dallas Braden this year and Brett Anderson should return from Tommy John surgery midseason. Free agent signing Bartolo Colon provides depth for just $2MM. Though he faded down the stretch in 2011, this signing will be a bargain as long as Colon strings together half a season or so of quality outings.

Josh Willingham and David DeJesus signed multiyear deals elsewhere, as expected, so the A’s outfield seemed incredibly thin until Coco Crisp re-signed a two-year, $14MM deal. Although the A’s signed him to play center field, they may decide to move Crisp to a corner spot in favor of a new acquisition.

Yoenis Cespedes obtained $36MM from Oakland despite the fact that he’s never played affiliated baseball. The A's gambled that Cespedes’ power and athleticism will vault him to stardom in the American League. This was no impulse move, either. They'd been eyeing Cespedes for a while.

“We said ‘if we make one big financial investment this offseason, this would be the guy we would do it with,’” Zaidi said.

The move also serves as a reminder that the A’s rarely if ever outbid the competition for premium domestic free agents. Major Leaguers, particularly position players, don’t seem to have a strong affinity for Oakland.

On paper Seth Smith (.881 career OPS against RHP) and Bay Area native Jonny Gomes (.877 career OPS against LHP) could platoon in the DH spot and exceed Hideki Matsui's 2011 production. Gomes' ability to hit left-handed pitching will complement Smith and Reddick nicely.

The signing of Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract makes sense for the A’s given their offensive struggles in 2011. Ramirez faces a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy, and by the time he's eligible to play, the Athletics will have had many chances to evaluate his hitting skills. If Ramirez makes the club at some point, he could generate some buzz for a team that finished last in the Major League in attendance a year ago. More importantly for Beane and manager Bob Melvin, he might hit. Every American League team but the Mariners outscored the A's a year ago, so Oakland needs offense. Ramirez has never posted a full-season OPS below .870; why not give him a shot?

Scott Sizemore will miss the 2012 season after a promising 2011 showing, so the A’s are looking to Josh Donaldson and Adam Rosales at third base. It’s possible the club will look outside of the organization for help, and Brandon IngeJuan Francisco and Alberto Callaspo could intrigue the front office to varying degrees.

It doesn't appear likely that the A's will score significantly more in 2012 and their thinned-out pitching staff will make it difficult to maintain last year's level of run prevention. The A’s, a 74-88 team a year ago, got younger and cheaper this offseason, but I expect they're headed for a third or fourth-place finish and 70 or so wins in 2012. Until MLB, the A’s and the Giants settle the long-term future of the franchise, the A’s will need more than their share of health and good fortune to contend.

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10 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Oakland Athletics"

Jason Champion
3 years 6 months ago

Keep the A’s in Oakland!  

3 years 6 months ago

Keep the A’s sustainable by moving them to San Jose!!

3 years 6 months ago

Give the a’s and even bigger market like
Portland or vegas.

Jason Champion
3 years 6 months ago

If San Jose was truly an option, it would have already been allowed to happen.  This issue has been sitting stagnant for many years.  MLB and Bud Selig are unwilling to allow it to happen.  MLB ownership groups are unlikely to vote in favor of the move, for fear that it may set a precedent and put their home territory at risk in similar situations.  

The city of Oakland continues to pursue options to keep the A’s in Oakland.  It has been their home for decades, and there is a rich history of support for the team before the Wolff regime decided to choke all the life out of the franchise.  

I’m a fan and I live in Oakland.  I want to see my team stay here where I have been watching them all of my life.  Moving to San Jose would be the best of the worsts results.  

Options still exist to keep the team in the city of Oakland.  

Keep the A’s in Oakland.

3 years 6 months ago

Great review.  Let’s Go OAK-LAND!!!

3 years 6 months ago

Vancouver is the place to be.  

3 years 6 months ago

+1. Oakland is less than a minor league city at this point and it looks like the baby Giants will win out on SJ. Might as well go to Canada.

Jason Champion
3 years 6 months ago

How is Oakland “less than a minor league city”?  

3 years 6 months ago

-1 @Iconoclast. If you’ve been to Oakland recently, you wouldn’t say that. The city has definitely had somewhat of a renaissance over the past decade and many neighborhoods that were once on the outside looking in are traveled to by people all over the Bay – many of them coming for the amazing food (I.E. Uptown, Koreatown, Temescal, Dimond, Laurel, Old Oakland, and Fruitvale). Don’t do a disservice to the city of Oakland just because you don’t know much about it.

And the city of Oakland has already spent over $1 million dollars getting everything ready for the possibility of a new ballpark in Jack London Square. If A’s owner Lew Wolff wasn’t such a (bleeping bleep) at worst, he’s at best, the worst MLB owner. If he changes his mind and decides JLS is the perfect place to house a gorgeous stadium, the Oakland A’s will have a spot that will undoubtedly rival SF’s AT&T Park spot (JLS is already better than that whole area).

Keep the A’s in Oakland.

3 years 6 months ago

Let Oakland and the Dodgers go join the Nippon baseball league.  They are not even trying to put an MLB quality team on the field.