2012 Oakland Athletics Team Preview
The A's continue to be a team in transition, electing more or less to throw in the towel until they are able to get a new stadium in San Jose. The A's sold off Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey for prospects in separate deals, similar to dealing away Dan Haren a few years back, and it's pretty clear that Billy Beane isn't going to make a big effort to compete in the suddenly-expensive AL West until he gets his new stadium. Until then, this is going to be ugly.
Re-signed free agent OF Coco Crisp to a two-year, $14 million deal.
Crisp was still available in early January, thanks largely to his poor .254/.314/.379 slash from 2011 despite 49 steals and a relatively healthy season by Crisp standards. A repeat of Crisp's .279/.342/.438 slash from 2010 would give the A's some return on their investment, though staying healthy over the course of the contract would be a huge shock. He does provide some roto value, particularly for those in non-OBP based leagues, with a nice mix of elite speed and the occasional homer along the way.
Traded Ps Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow for Arizona for OF Collin Cowgill, P Jarrod Parker and P Ryan Cook.
Cahill had his faults, including a poor K:BB rate over the course of his career, but is able to limit the damage with an effective sinker. How well that approach will play out of cavernous Oakland remains to be seen, but the A's were able to flip him for a prospect in Parker that they hope will be every bit as good as Cahill in a few years. Cowgill looked to be in line for a starting role in the A's outfield, but that was before the A's added Crisp, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith in a series of signings and trades.
Traded P Gio Gonzalez and P Robert Gilliam to Washington for P A.J. Cole, P Brad Peacock, C Derek Norris and P Tom Millone.
The Gonzalez trade didn't net the A's the projected elite prospect that Parker provided in the Cahill deal, but the trio of arms they netted have some real value. Peacock's fly-ball tendencies should play well in Oakland, and he could provide some decent roto value for a team that has managed to squeeze out some value from lesser arms (Guillermo Moscoco, etc..) in recent years. Millone projects as a decent swingman, and Cole gives the A's the type of electric pitching prospect that haven't seen since Rich Harden was rocketing up the ranks.
Norris hit just .210 at Double-A in 2011, but offers enough patience and power to have some roto value if he can manage to squeeze out a few more singles along the way. Kurt Suzuki is well-entrenched (or at well-compensated to make playing him a must), but Norris would be a capable fill-in should Suzuki depart via trade at some point over the next 18 months.
Traded P Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney to Boston for OF Josh Reddick, 1B Miles Head and P Raul Alcantara
Reddick doesn't fit the profile of a Billy Beane team, offering little patience, but the bar to replace Ryan Sweeney is a pretty low one. Reddick figures to be the A's primary right-fielder, at least until Michael Taylor is deemed ready. As for the kids received, Alcantara was dominant at times in his short-season campaign and will be a name to watch in his first full season at Low-A in 2012. Head is expected to begin the year at High-A, and his physical stature (short and stout) has the A's contemplating a move to third base.
Traded P Guiillmero Moscoco and P Josh Outman to Colorado for LF Seth Smith
Smith gives the A's an immediate power boost after losing Josh Willingham to free agency. While he's performed better at Coors than on the road during his Rockies' career as one would expect, Smith has shown the ability to hit well against right-handed pitching on the road and he'll be asked to do just that as the A's primary left fielder. The signing of Jonny Gomes later in the offseason adequately addressed the platoon splits present in the A's outfield.
Signed free agent P Bartolo Colon
Colon was one of baseball's biggest surprises in 2011, managing 164.1 largely effective innings for the Yankees, though he eventually succumbed to a leg injury that landed him on the DL and limited his effectiveness upon his return. A dig inside the numbers has Colon benefiting from called strikes more than just about any starter in the majors last season however, so don't expect a huge uptick in his numbers despite getting out of the AL East and into Oakland. He'll likely be solid for a few months at the top end of the A's rotation, at which point the A's can flip him to a contender before the inevitable injury hits.
Signed free agent LF Jonny Gomes
Gomes figures to serve as the ideal platoon mate for Seth Smith, making him a worthy roto endgame value with the upside of 10 HRs in a limited role.
Lost OFs David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui, and P Rich Harden via free agency. Harden later had shoulder surgery and is out for the season.
You can see how the A's found themselves scrambling for warm bodies to put in the outfield. DeJesus' season with the A's was nothing short of terrible, but Willingham leaves the A's with a 29-HR season under his belt in tough hitting environs and being the lone source of power in the A's lineup for the bulk of his brief A's career. Matsui's lone season in Oakland was a continuation of a downward trend, and has him still available as a free agent as of early February.
Claimed OF Cedric Hunter, P Evan Scribner off waivers from the Padres. Outrighted both to Triple-A Sacramento.
Neither are expected to contribute to the A's in any form, though Hunter's first-round pedigree offers some hope that a change of scenery was needed.
Signed P Edgar Gonzalez, P Jim Miller, OF Jeff Fiorentino, OF Jason Pridie, OF Brandon Moss, 1B Wes Timmons, P Fabio Castro, P Merkin Valdez via free agency
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Traded OF Jai Miller to Baltimore
Miller was shipped to the Orioles after a �breakout' season at Triple-A Sacramento that featured 179 whiffs in his fourth year at Triple-A. He projects as nothing more than a typical �Quadruple-A' player and will have to pass thru waivers if the doesn't make Baltimore's roster in March.
Lineup (vs RH/LH)
1. Jemile Weeks 2B/Jemile Weeks 2B
2. Coco Crisp CF/Coco Crisp CF
3. Seth Smith LF/Jonny Gomes LF
4. Brandon Allen 1B/Chris Carter DH
5. Scott Sizemore 3B/Scott Sizemore 3B
6. Chris Carter DH/Josh Reddick RF
7. Josh Reddick RF/Brandon Allen 1B
8. Kurt Suzuki C/Kurt Suzuki C
9. Cliff Pennington SS/Cliff Pennington SS
As you can see, it's a lineup full of holes (particularly in the middle of the order) with neither cleanup candidate outlined above guaranteed of a spot on the 25-man roster when spring training starts.
1. Brandon McCarthy
2. Bartolo Colon
3. Dallas Braden
4. Brad Peacock
5. Tom Millone/Tyson Ross/Graham Godfrey
Dallas Braden should be ready to rejoin the rotation by mid-April at the latest after last year's shoulder problems. Brett Anderson figures to re-enter the picture by late July if he recovers well from Tommy John surgery.
CL: Grant Balfour/Fautino De Los Santos/Brian Fuentes/Joey Devine
The A's have yet to tip their hand regarding the closer's role following the trade of Andrew Bailey, though Balfour and Fuentes would seem to have the upper hand based on recent experience and performance.
Notes of import, fantasy and otherwise
What happens at first base?
Daric Barton and Brandon Allen are expected to battle for the job this spring, though Barton is expected to be limited when spring begins as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Allen figures to have the inside track on the job for this reason alone, though he was a disaster for the A's (.130/.193/.182 in 80 plate appearances with 34 Ks) in September. Allen gives some marginal power upside, though he won't make enough consistent contact to maintain much of an average.
Do Chris Carter and Michael Taylor get extended looks?
Both former top prospects have stalled at the upper levels, with Carter getting a decent look with the A's last year and a poor .167/.226/.254 slash in 114 at-bats in the majors thus far. Carter figures to have the inside track on the DH job as spring opens after a miserable showing in the outfield last season.
As for Taylor, he was singled out by GM Billy Beane prior to the A's additions in the outfield as the offseason waned as needing a "dominant performance" at Triple-A Sacramento before he'd be handed a spot in the A's lineup. With a seemingly full outfield ahead of him now, Taylor figures to begin the year at Triple-A Sacramento for at least the first few months.
Jemile Weeks (2B) - Weeks enjoyed a solid rookie season with the A's after being called up in early June, swiping 22 bases and hitting .303 in 406 at-bats.� Adjustments weren't an issue as witnessed by a nice .323/.358/.455 slash in 24 September games, and there's 30+ steal upside here with a full season of at-bats. Be careful going too far though, as he has a pretty lengthy injury history that had curtailed him up to this point.
Kurt Suzuki (C) - Suzuki seems to be settling in as a .240-type for those in traditional 4x4 or 5x5 leagues and an absolute killer for those in OBP or SLG-based leagues. His .237/.301/.385 slash in 460 at-bats is a team killer in the latter format, and his poor average puts a serious dent in his value in traditional leagues despite decent counting stats. He's a solid bet to be the next veteran jettisoned from the A's given his hefty paycheck if Derek Norris gets off to a good start in the minors.
Tyson Ross (P) - Ross was a trendy sleeper pick in 2010 and was generating some nice returns as an injury-replacement for Dallas Braden with six solid starts to begin the year. An oblique injury sidelined him thereafter, and poor results at Triple-A Sacramento (52 hits, 22 walks in 36.2 innings) upon his return to health kept him buried in the minors for the remainder of the year. He wasn't very good in the AFL either, but he's shown the ability to miss bats against advanced hitting in the past. Given what the A's have been able to get from lesser arms in Guillermo Moscoco and Brandon McCarthy in recent years, there's upside with Ross here with a rotation spot earned as a result of a good spring.
Fautino De Los Santos - Control remains an issue despite a conversion to a relief role, walking 12 batters in 19.2 innings at Triple-A Sacramento and 17 batters in 33.1 innings with the A's. He did manage 43 Ks in first exposure to major-league hitter, continuing strong career trends, and should have a larger role in an Andrew Bailey-less bullpen. It's unlikely that he'll begin the year as the A's closer, but there's some nice value here if he can wrestle the role mid-year if the A's further jettison some veterans.
Michael Choice (OF)
Choice led the California League in homers in his full-season debut, and has made some adjustments to cut back on his whiffs in interest of some average leading to some hope that he's not another Chris Carter in the making despite eerily similar numbers at the same level and same age. How well he performs against Double-A pitching will be one of the stories to watch in 2012, but his initial exposure to more advanced pitching (.318/.423/.667 in 66 at-bats in the AFL) was promising. He projects as a cleanup hitter with plenty of power going forward.
Jarrod Parker (P)
Parker made a nice recovery from Tommy John surgery, showing improved control and command as the season progressed, and could get an extended look with the A's this year if he pitches well from the outset at Triple-A Sacramento. The A's have never been shy about promoting their pitching prospects, and there's room at the back of the rotation to stash Parker if he proves capable. He projects as a Trevor Cahill-type, getting lots of groundballs and his fair share of strikeouts.
A.J Cole (P)
Cole has the highest ceiling among A's pitching prospects with 108 Ks in 89 innings at Low-A in 2011. He'll get a good test in the California League this season, but he's a #1 starter if he can refine his offspeed offerings a bit without sacrificing his electric fastball. His emergence in the majors would dovetail with a new stadium in San Jose if the A's have their say in the matter, and it's hard to imagine any new digs being as pitcher-friendly as the current ones. He's the type that figures to succeed regardless of the park though.
Brad Peacock (P)
Peacock figures to graduate from prospect to player in 2012, as he's expected to be a piece at the back end of the A's rotation for most, if not all, of the season. A 41st round pick, Peacock has added velocity to his already solid control in recent years and could put up solid WHIP and ERA numbers from the outset given the home park.
Sonny Gray (P)
Gray was aggressively placed at Double-A Midland for his professional debut after being the A's first round pick in the June draft. He more than held his own, posting a 0.45 ERA and 18 Ks over 20 innings, and should see plenty of time at Triple-A Sacramento in 2012. His size (just 5'11") may prevent him from being more than a #3 starter down the road.