Oakland Athletics off Season Report

Season Wrap Up

It seems that general manager Billy Beane has no problem finding pitching for his team and even when he trades away his best pitchers, he always has some waiting in the wings. The problem for Beane is finding proven hitting that can produce on a daily basis without needing much in the way of a paycheck. The team finished 75-86 which was good enough for third place in the AL West. Beane once again attempted to find a way to conquer the larger market teams with his 28th ranked $47.9 million payroll last year. It’s hard to tell where the team would have gone if they were not mired with injuries throughout the season. While they were not producing on the field, they were setting records off of it, as they sent players to the disabled list an amazing 25 times during the course of the season. While manager Bob Green tried many different line-ups throughout the season, the team could never find its stroke and finished the year last in the AL in runs scored and batting average. Despite the turnover, the pitchers still found ways to impress as they ended the season fourth in the league with a 4.01 ERA.

Holes to Fill

While it’s hard to see the A’s doing much on the open market this off season with their lack of spending power, they do have many holes that need to be filled in their everyday line-up. Their defense wasn’t terrible in 2008 as they posted a .984 fielding percentage which was good enough for seventh in the league, but since there is no telling how many games their lack of offense cost them, they may need to sacrifice some of that defense next season in order to add some pop to their line-up. The team will attempt to get their stat heads together this off season and try to find a gem in the free agent market whose statistics are riding just under the noses of other front offices around baseball. It is conceivable that Beane may be able to find one of these in a corner outfield position hidden in the market, but with almost all teams employing at least one person who uses the averages that Beane became famous for, singling out that player and getting them for less then market value, may be harder than ever. At this point in the off season, Beane is really lacking any names that would spark serious interest in the trade market in order to woo a bat away from someone else. Although the A’s do have a lot of young talent throughout their system, as always, they may be reluctant to give three or four of these players up to receive just one bat in return. Whether they do this will probably depend on how close Beane deems the team to being able to compete for a playoff spot next season.

Free Agents

At the beginning of the off season, the Athletics had four players who entered free agency in relievers Alan Embree and Keith Foulke, outfielder Emil Brown and designated hitter Frank Thomas. Early in the off season, the A’s made their decision on Embree as they decided not to pick up his club option for the 2009 season. This was probably a good move for the team as they are stocked with pitching and can probably get more (or about the same) production for less cost. Thomas did not help himself once he got to Oakland as he had just 19 RBIs in 55 games. If someone is going to give him another chance in the league, it certainly isn’t going to be the Athletics who pride themselves on production. Foulke will probably not be back either for basically the same reasons Embree’s option was not picked up. This would be the same tune for any veteran free agent pitcher the A’s would have during almost any off season. Brown will likely face the same fate as the other three players as he will probably be offered a deal that is far more than the A’s will want to pay on the open market.

The Outlook

While the A’s are probably not going to be able to catch the 100 game winning Angels, they could move up a spot in their division if Beane is able to work his magic yet again this off season. In the past year, the A’s have shipped some big names around the league including Marco Scutaro, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Dan Haren. While some of the talent they received in return is producing throughout their system, this has perhaps left the Athletics with a lack of real trade bait this off season. Bobby Crosby may be a name that pops up in trade talks as his contract will be up after the 2009 season, and the A’s will probably not make an offer to him, unless for some reason he really wants to stay in Oakland. They have already probably made the most publicized trade of the off season when they acquired Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies for a deal that was focused around closer Huston Street (who lost his job at the end of the bullpen last season to one of Beane’s young and talented arms). Holliday could provide some of the pop that was missing from a line-up that was starved for runs last year. While he probably won’t hit like he did in Denver, because no one does, he will still bolster Geren’s everyday line-up. As always, the A’s have a number of kids in their system who are almost ready to start contributing at the big league level. They played 21 different rookies during the 2008 season, and it doesn’t look like that trend will be slowing down any time soon (although they would be hard pressed to reach a number that high again). Even though some of the players acquired in the deals mentioned above did not statistically perform like the team thought they would, Beane’s thinking is usually that they just need more time with his coaches and that they will be ready once they get the call from the big club. One has to wonder how successful Beane would be if he had more money to spend. With a new stadium not to far down the road, that may provide some extra revenue for the coming seasons and allow the team to actually keep some of the talent they have spent so much time grooming.

Bill Jordan is a contributor to BaseballReflections.com and can be reached by e-mail at BillJordaniv@yahoo.com.

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