- Winter Preview----Oakland Athletics:
Send out a search party for Billy Beane's missing genius. A big one.
What they need: A big time power bat at first base or the outfield; a solid, durable, veteran starting pitcher; a third baseman.
Free agents: SS Bobby Crosby; RHP Justin Duchscherer; INF Nomar Garciaparra; INF Adam Kennedy; RHP Brett Tomko
Both Crosby and the Athletics seem to have mutually agreed to part ways. Crosby's been atrocious over the past few years; doesn't have any interest in being a utility player in a retooling situation in Oakland; and should have offers elsewhere for his versatility and inexpensiveness. Maybe a change of scenery will wake up his bat.
Duchscherer missed the entire 2009 season with injuries and dealing with depression. He's been injury-prone throughout his career, but is in heavy demand on a short-term deal. People may not realize it, but Duchscherer has been an All Star twice----as a reliever in 2005 and as a starter in 2008. At age 32, he has time to rehabilitate his career. He'll move along to a better club with more of a chance to contend. (The Red Sox are said to be very interested.)
Has Nomar retired yet?
Kennedy had a fine year (.289 Avg; 11 homers; filling in admirably at third base----a position he'd never before played in the majors) after he was released by the Cardinals and dumped by the Rays. He's carving a new career for himself as a utility infielder and should find himself in a better situation (the Phillies?) with a decent contract maybe for more than one year. He won't be back in Oakland.
Tomko----a journeyman's journeyman who would make Kurt Bevacqua shake his head at the frequent changes of uniform----pitched reasonably well for the A's after he joined them in August. He'll be 37 in April and would be well-served to stay in Oakland.
Players available via trade: 1B Daric Barton; 3B Eric Chavez; DH/1B/OF Jack Cust; OF Rajai Davis; 2B Mark Ellis; OF Scott Hairston; RHP Michael Wuertz
People forget that the key to the Mark Mulder trade to the Cardinals was not Dan Haren, but Daric Barton. Barton's done almost nothing in the big leagues since an impressive audition in 2007; and he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer (he almost killed himself diving headfirst into a shallow pool in 2008). With that in mind, he's still only 24 so he could have some value on the market or if the A's really believe in him. I think their faith is wavering.
Chavez's back problems have ruined a player who was a rising star. He's got $15 million guaranteed through 2010 and it's just bad luck for the A's that he got hurt; there's no one to blame.
Beane should've traded Cust after reviving his flagging career in 2007. Now, he's arbitration-eligible; is due a big raise from his $2.8 million salary in 2009; and the holes in his game make him almost worthless to trade since there are so many better options in the flooded market. Cust strikes out too much; has a glove made of solid granite; and is slow and streaky. He's going nowhere.
I really like Davis. He can run and he's a better hitter than he's given credit for; but he's arbitration-eligible and the A's need a power bat more than they need Davis's speed.
Ellis is a serviceable second baseman; he has some pop and plays the position well. He's affordable ($6 million next year) and probably isn't going anywhere.
Hairston has some use and can hit the ball out of the park, but he didn't hit after the A's acquired him from the Padres and is arbitration-eligible. He might get non-tendered.
Wuertz is one of the more underrated relievers in baseball. The Cubs missed him terribly in their hideous bullpen last season and every year, he puts up the innings, appearances and strikeouts and does his job in a quiet fashion. He's arbitration-eligible, but the A's are crazy if they non-tender him. On the trade market, he'd be in heavy demand for contending teams like the Yankees, White Sox, Red Sox and a bunch of other clubs.
Non-tender candidates: Aside from Davis and Hairston, I don't see anyone for whom it makes even the slightest sense to just dump without trying to trade.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: 1B Adam LaRoche (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); 1B Chad Tracy (Diamondbacks); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); 1B/3B Aubrey Huff (Tigers); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); DH Vladimir Guerrero (Angels); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); RHP Vicente Padilla (Dodgers); 3B Joe Crede (Twins); 1B/DH Carlos Delgado (Mets); DH Hideki Matsui (Yankees); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); 3B Pedro Feliz (Phillies); RHP Brad Penny (Giants); 1B Russell Branyan (Mariners); 3B/1B Hank Blalock (Rangers); SS/3B Miguel Tejada (Astros); RHP Ben Sheets
Most of these names are players to plug holes; guys who may not have other options than to go to Oakland and rebuild their careers; or may slip through the cracks.
LaRoche, Johnson and Delgado will have offers elsewhere, but the A's should keep tabs on them to see if they end up on the outside looking in and are available for a cheap, short-term, incentive-laden deal.
Crede's back issues are similar to those of Chavez, but he'd come on a cheap contract and is worth a shot if all other options disappear.
Penny's asking for a lot of money based on a brief, late-season hot streak for the Giants and might be in for a rude awakening as the winter shakes itself out. Beane has a tendency of pouncing on situations like that and getting useful pieces cheaply.
Tejada had a good relationship with Beane while he was with the A's early in his career. Would he come back to play third base? Maybe.
Via trade: 3B Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays); 1B Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); 3B Jhonny Peralta (Indians); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); 2B/1B/DH Dan Uggla (Marlins); OF Milton Bradley (Cubs); 3B Garrett Atkins (Rockies); 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
Encarnacion has a ton of talent and is arbitration-eligible. Overbay is available too and is due a cheap $7 million next year.
The Tigers are desperately trying to move Jackson for reasons no one seems to understand. Teams might get scared wondering why they want to trade a pitcher who's young and looked like Dave Stewart early last season before a heavy workload tired him down the stretch. Beane may not be a genius, but he's not afraid to make bold moves.
Peralta's shift to third base makes him attractive to a team like the A's. Atkins is out there for the taking and the A's and Rockies have a trading relationship after the Matt Holliday blockbuster last year.
Uggla's getting traded and is a prime candidate to move to first base.
Yeah, I know. Milton Bradley. But he was with the A's before and performed and behaved himself----mostly. The A's could get him for nothing and the Cubs would pay most of his salary.
Amid all the ridicule Beane received last year as the A's collapsed following an off-season in which they were a trendy pick to win the AL West, they're not that far away from contending. They have a load of young pitching up and down the staff. If they get a couple of bats, they could surprise. Beane, while not being a "genius" on the level of the idiotic implication of Moneyball, is still one of the top GMs in baseball and could replenish his club and his image with a couple of bold, smart moves this winter.
- Echoes of Johan:
It's almost eerie how history is repeating itself with Roy Halladay as the latest news comes out that he won't okay a trade anywhere after the winter----ESPN Story. And that history is almost identical to what happened with Johan Santana in 2007-2008.
Santana knew he wasn't going to be back with the Twins; he knew he was going to get traded; and he asked for it to be completed before the season started. Halladay is being a little bit more aggressive in his attempts to get out of Toronto.
I called this weeks ago.
After Halladay quietly requested a move at mid-season and then-GM J.P. Ricciardi bollixed everything up as if he was trying to get himself fired (it worked), Halladay looked royally pissed for the rest of the season. He wants out. And if the Blue Jays and new GM Alex Anthopolous are going to mess around, Halladay's going to play hardball.
If this is the case, if things are going down this road, the Blue Jays had better get something done and quick. The Yankees and Red Sox were going through the motions for Santana. They didn't really want Santana for the packages the Twins were demanding and then have to face the prospect of signing what was essentially a free agent contract with the pitcher. Now, it's happening again with Halladay.
Is Anthopolous going to overplay his hand as Twins GM Bill Smith did in getting literally nothing for Santana? Unless something's done in the next couple of weeks, that possibility will come closer and closer to reality. Cooler heads prevailed with Santana and while the Yankees and Red Sox are chasing Halladay not just for his brilliance, but to keep him away from the other team, they're not going to mortgage the farm to get him. Might it be enough for either club just to get Halladay out of the league and away from their divisional rival? The Angels and Dodgers are in on Halladay too as are the White Sox; but as the days pass what happened with Santana might be happening again right before our very eyes.
The Mets are lurking.
GM Omar Minaya was rebuffed by the Twins in his initial discussions for Santana and famously told his bosses on the QT, "it's gonna come back to us". Is he saying the same thing now with Halladay?
Anthopolous had better trade Halladay when he gets an acceptable offer. Or else the Mets "weak" farm system may not look so weak after all as D-day approaches with Halladay.