Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics

The A’s must address the left side of their infield this offseason.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

Back in Spring Training, when fans, writers and analysts were compiling lists of offseason winners, the A’s weren’t mentioned nearly as often as teams like the Marlins and Angels. As it turns out, GM Billy Beane did just fine last winter. The A’s won their division in 2012, improving their record by 20 games and establishing themselves as a contender in the American League.

Grant Balfour - A's (PW)

As the 2012-13 offseason approaches, Beane finds himself facing some familiar challenges. The Athletics’ future in Oakland remains unclear and their payroll remains modest. Plus, Oakland needs answers on the left side of the infield to repeat as AL West winners in 2013.

Beane started making offseason moves early, sending Cliff Pennington to Arizona in the deal that brought Chris Young to Oakland. This move makes lots of sense for Oakland, since they obtain an up-the-middle player with some offensive skills. That said, it didn’t address any of the Athletics’ primary offseason needs — in fact it heightened the team’s need for a shortstop.

The primary challenge for Beane this winter appears to be finding a shortstop. Now that Stephen Drew has hit free agency, there are no guarantees he’ll return. If the scarcity of free agent shortstops leads to a bidding war for Drew’s services, it’s hard to imagine the A’s winning. And even if Oakland does outbid other interested teams, Drew could spurn them for another city. It wouldn’t be the first time a free agent position player has resisted overtures from Beane & Co.

This year's free agent shortstop class doesn't include standout players besides Drew and former Athletics infielder Marco Scutaro. At this point it seems likely that Scutaro will re-sign across the bay in San Francisco, which means Beane must also explore the trade market.

Acquiring Elvis Andrus from the Rangers won’t be easy for any team, especially one that recently unseated Texas atop the AL West. Yunel Escobar figures to be available, and Jhonny Peralta could be moved. I think it also makes sense for the A’s to inquire about players such as Jed Lowrie, Josh Rutledge, Asdrubal Cabrera and — why not? — Jose Reyes

While Beane recently expressed confidence in Josh Donaldson as a long-term option at third base, the A's could consider going outside of the organization at the position. Donaldson, a converted catcher, has a .232/.280/.386 batting line at the MLB level, so the A's must be realistic about what he can offer to be sure they're not looking for third basemen midway through the 2013 season. It's hard to imagine the A's trading for any of the prominent, high-salaried third basemen who could become available this offseason. Instead, they should watch the Cardinals on the off-chance Matt Carpenter becomes available. The left-handed hitting 26-year-old could complement the right-handed hitting Donaldson and provide Oakland with depth.

When the A’s engage other teams in trade talk this offseason, the topic of Oakland’s outfield depth will surely arise. However, Beane maintains that he's not looking to make a trade, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The A's have four outfielders for three spots, and that’s not counting designated hitter Seth Smith or first baseman Brandon Moss. Coco Crisp could appeal to teams such as the Mets, Indians and Orioles. Or Beane could do what he did last offseason and trade highly-regarded, controllable players such as Josh Reddick or Yoenis Cespedes. At this point it’s easiest to envision a deal involving Crisp. Bay Area native Jonny Gomes figures to sign elsewhere in free agency given the composition of Oakland's roster.

Assuming the A’s expect some combination of Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks to handle second in 2013, they have solid internal options at every position except shortstop and third base. The pitching staff also seems strong, though more depth never hurts.

Beane already signed Bartolo Colon to a one-year contract — a depth move that makes sense considering the reality that injuries strike every year. The A’s say they’re still interested in re-signing Brandon McCarthy, even after agreeing to terms with Colon. While that may well be true, McCarthy could become prohibitively expensive if rival teams overlook his health issues and offer multiyear deals. It's not easy to win bidding wars with one of the league's smallest payrolls. 

Oakland exercised Grant Balfour’s 2013 option, so the Australian right-hander will be back for another season. Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto and Sean Doolittle will return to what projects as an above-average bullpen for 2013. The A’s won’t have to spend on free agent relievers the way they did two winters ago, at the time they signed Balfour and Brian Fuentes.

The team's class of arbitration eligible players includes two players — Daric Barton and Adam Rosales — who could be non-tendered. There's also a chance Beane could complete a trade involving Barton, who led the American League in walks two years ago. Though the group doesn't include any clear extension candidates, the A's could explore multiyear deals with pre-arbitration eligible players. They've made a habit of extending starting pitchers early on, so Tommy Milone or Jarrod Parker could be next.

The A's might not be any closer to resolving big picture questions about their home city and stadium, but at least their roster seems strong. It lacks balance now, with questions on the infield and an abundance of outfielders. Expect Beane to restore some balance in the months ahead.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


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41 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics"


2 years 9 months ago

Johnny Gomes has earned the right for a full year somewhere starting. I really hope he gets it and I have felt he should start for a long time. Still wishing the Cubs would have went harder after Yoenis……….

2 years 9 months ago

Gomes can’t start because he doesn’t hit right handed pitching

Murderers' Row Boat
2 years 9 months ago

If Cespedes keeps progressing you’d think by 2014 or 2015 he’d be traded for prospects, because that will be a monster free agent contract.

Frankvego
2 years 9 months ago

doubt he is going anywhere. I see a contract extension coming

Ben Brown
2 years 9 months ago

Not likely. The main reason Oakland was able to sign him in the first place is they went four years….so Cespedes would conceivably hit free agency at 30 and be in line for a huge multiyear contract. He has no reason to sell himself short following a very successful year.

withpower
2 years 9 months ago

Does he become a free agent when the four year contract expires or is still beholden to the 6 years of service time rule?

Snoochies8
2 years 9 months ago

he becomes a free agent, no arbitration

2 years 9 months ago

No way the A’s extend cespedes, Ben brown is right, he only came here because we gave him top money for less years. He’s looking for that big payday, and given the way he’s played so far, he’ll likely deserve it. No way we give somebody 18+ million a year, but that’s what he’ll be asking if he produces over the next 3 years.

DerekJeterDan
2 years 9 months ago

If Eric Chavez doesn’t retire, Oakland should consider bringing him in at third. He wouldn’t require a big contract at all, he isn’t always healthy so you can still try young guys at the position if he gets hurt, he would bring some early excitement to fans going to the stadium, and he proved with the Yankees this year that he can get his hits when used effectively. I think Oakland would benefit having Chavez back. (.281 Avg with 16 Homers)

stl_cards16
2 years 9 months ago

I like Eric Chavez and all but I don’t think he’s the type of player that “would bring fans back to the stadium”.

DerekJeterDan
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t mean it as fans by the boatload I just mean it would give fans excitement on their way to the stadium that they’re getting the chance to see Chavez back. They can promote his return and everything. His brother still works in the A’s organization. Oakland has a need and Chavy would fit.

Iconoclast17
2 years 9 months ago

Forget Chavez. He essentially stole money from the A’s for years and last season he dissed the team. Stay in NY Eric.

Frankvego
2 years 9 months ago

No need for him. Donaldson/ Sizemore platoon at 3b and 1b is crowded as well. Where would he play?

DerekJeterDan
2 years 9 months ago

The article written above says the A’s could consider going outside the Organization for another option at third base. This year they filled that role with Brandon Inge, having someone like Chavez come in would be even better. Sizemore also figures to get time at second base.
Over the course of a 162 game season, you always need depth. Sizemore was just injured all year you shouldn’t 100 percent rely on him. Explore all possibilities. Chavez is a sound option (.845 OPS) for Oakland.

Snoochies8
2 years 9 months ago

The A’s have Donaldson/Sizemore, and if he plays himself up, Grant Green to man 3B, it’d have to a fairly big upgrade for them to go outside of the organization

@CaliforniaJag
2 years 9 months ago

Yep, I think Donaldson will be just fine.

Iconoclast17
2 years 9 months ago

Agree.

I think Crisp is on the block and that might help bring in a major league SS.

Iconoclast17
2 years 9 months ago

You have two posts calling for Chavez? No dice. They A’s have gotten along just fine without the always-injured Eric.

2 years 9 months ago

You don’t platoon guys that bat from the same side of the plate…

letsgogiants
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t see Chavez returning. In fact, he criticized Oakland this year for celebrating too much after hitting home runs and he wasn’t pleased when the A’s booed him this year at the Coliseum. As for the fans, I think there would be mixed results if he did come back. True he was one of the top players for the A’s in the early 2000’s in what was one of their best stretches in team history, but after he signed the big contract with the A’s after the 2004 season, he was a disappointment as he only had one stellar year after signing it, followed by a bunch of injury plagued years that derailed his career. His lack of playing time between 2007-10 was one of the reasons why the A’s didn’t contend during that time, as they lacked the big bat in the middle of their lineup that would have helped their strong pitching staff. As for Chavey, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to go from hitting in one of the hitter friendly ballparks in Yankee Stadium to one of the worst in Oakland.

JaysGLawrie
2 years 9 months ago

I think you may have linked the wrong Chris Young

stl_cards16
2 years 9 months ago

Carpenter would be an interesting fit for the A’s. Only problem is both teams basically have the same strengths. I guess a little more pitching depth never hurts.

2 years 9 months ago

Cards have no other current backup for Freese at 3rd. Plus Carp has proved to be a valuable player who can hit for average and play multiple positions. Cards would have to be blown away to trade him now unless part of a package for a top notch ss.

Joeypower
2 years 9 months ago

Sure put colon as arbitration too

2 years 9 months ago

Eduardo Nunez and adam Warren for Reddick??? Nunez could fix their SS issues. Nunez is good defensively if he STAYS at one position and doesnt get moved all over the place. and he has a decent bat. it could fix oaklands SS issue and fix the yankees RF issue especially since the yankees are thinking on using gardner as a 4th OF if they bring back Ichiro.

@CaliforniaJag
2 years 9 months ago

That trade favors the Yankees by a ridiculously wide margin

Snoochies8
2 years 9 months ago

That MAYBE gets you Smith…maybe

corey23
2 years 9 months ago

The A’s just got rid of a defensive SS that couldn’t hit, what makes you think we want another one of those?

not_brooks
2 years 9 months ago

Nuñez put up a .679 OPS in almost 3000 minor league plate appearances.

He’s a glove man, and that’s it.

2 years 9 months ago

Defensive SS? Glove man? Nunez was demoted to the minors last year because he was struggling so much in the field. Part of that was because he was asked to split time between SS and 3B, a position he was never comfortable at, and the errors seemed to get in his head. But he wasn’t a defensive wiz in the minors either.

The hope in the Yankees org is that his defense improves because he has all the tools to be good, and he also has the tools to develop into a decent hitter for the position. Add to that elite level baserunning and he has the makings of a nice young player.

It’s tough for him because he’s at an age where he should get a chance to be an everyday MLB player, but that isn’t going to happen in New York. He’d do well by a change of scenery, but probably to a non-contending NL team that could give him a few years to develop. Pittsburgh seems like a good fit to me.

Snoochies8
2 years 9 months ago

The A’s are fairly set because Grant Green is also in the mix for 2B and 3B, and Scott Sizemore could also man 3B if Josh Donaldson doesn’t carry over from the 2012 2nd half. Basically, if they don’t get an upgrade for someone of David Wright or Chase Headley’s caliber for third, they shouldn’t make a deal because of the depth they have there and the high upside depth with Green and Donaldson.

As for Josh Rutledge….no thank you! no pitch recognition and the power is probably very helped out by the fact he’s been playing in mostly hitter friendly leagues/ballparks (even in low-A) and Coors, pass on him. Asdrubal, I could see Beane going for, Jose Reyes would be awesome if Miami was willing to pick up a bunch of the tab. The #1 target though is obviously Drew since he won’t be signed for a long time (over 3 years) , won’t cost players/prospects, and he blended well with the team while producing well, as well as making it so that there’s no need to rush Russell, who should start the season in Low-A and perform himself out of there.

The pitching is pretty set IMO, with Peacock pretty much ready, Gray not too far behind, Blackley as an emergency starter, and now with Colon, Straily and Griffin will be the ones vying for the 5 spot. Maybe sign a couple starters to minor league contracts.

I think Moss makes Smith expendable since he is pretty much Smith with the ability to play 1st base, and Seth could be interesting on the trade market

@CaliforniaJag
2 years 9 months ago

Ben, I think you are underrating Josh Donaldson. He was not only outstanding defensively 14.5 UZR/150, 9.2 RngR), but was a different player with the bat following his recall from the minors in August. From the date of his recall to the end of the season he hit .290/.356/.489 with 11 2B and 8 HR in 176 AB.

We don’t know how much of those numbers are statistical noise and how much of them are talent, but I don’t see any reason Donaldson hasn’t proven himself good enough to have earned the starting job going into 2013. As an A’s fan, I’m not worried at all about third base.

Ben Brown
2 years 9 months ago

I have to admit he was fun to watch at the hot corner….made me forget he was a catcher. The guy is simply a gamer.

Snoochies8
2 years 9 months ago

Loved Slusser’s quote about having a catcher playing third, an outfielder playing 1st, a 1st baseman pitching, and a shortstop playing second

melonis_rex
2 years 9 months ago

And three center fielders! (Or three guys who can play CF).

drumzalicious
2 years 9 months ago

The Braves could be a suitor for Crisp. He fits their need for a CF/lead-off hitter.

burnboll
2 years 9 months ago

I think Beane will either look to convert a player from another position into SS, or possibly go to Japan, just out of the box. The SS market isn’t exactly booming, and looks to be overpriced.

Brendan Purcell
2 years 9 months ago

“Beane maintains that he’s not looking to make a trade.”

Lol you got Beaned.

tigersfan27
2 years 9 months ago

detroit should bring in brandon inge as a bench bat on a minor league contract if oakland doesnt want him back.

Mystery Man
2 years 9 months ago

So who is Chris Young because this site links to a NY Mets pitcher and when I search ESPN I also get the same results. How does a guy that gets paid 10.2 MM not have a player page?

Or has he been a pitcher the last 5 years and all of a sudden will be an outfielder?

Fishman27
2 years 9 months ago

Beane starts moneyball all over again:
Cepspedes and cook for Ruf colvin may valle and greene