It’s been a few months since I wrote a blog article, but as I did last year, I’d like to bring you up to date on the roster moves that Billy Beane and Co. made during the offseason.
Comings – New Faces Abound for 2011:
OF David DeJesus came over in a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Nov 10th for RHP Vin Mazzaro and LHP Justin Marks. DeJesus, 30, batted .318 with 5 HRs and 37 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals in 2010, but missed the last two months of the season after surgery on his right thumb. He played primarily in right field and has a 241-game errorless streak dating baci to Sept 15th, 2008.
RHP Brandon McCarthy signed as a free
agent on Dec 14th, (Texas Rangers),
recurring shoulder problems, $1Million 1-yr deal laden with performance incentives.
DH Hideki Matsui signed as a free agent on Dec 14th (LA Angels), $1.25M 1-yr deal, a pure hitter with 20-25 HRs/season potential and a career batting average of .290, should hit 3rd or 4th in lineup (a HUGE upgrade from Jack Cust!).
OF Josh Willingham came to the A’s in a trade with the Washington Nationals on Dec 16th for RHP Henry Rodriguez (100+mph) and OF prospect Corey Brown. Willingham, 32 in Feb, has 7 years in the majors, averaging 20 home runs and 66 RBIs over the past 5 seasons, and is another middle-of-the-order hitter.
He had surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee last August, but says he’s fully recovered. He made $4.5M last year and is going to arbitration unless a deal is made today (Jan 17th), and will probably earn more than $4.5M in 2011.
RHP Rich Harden signed as a free agent on Dec 21st (Texas Rangers), a 1-yr deal worth $1.5M+incentives. No stranger to the A’s (2003-08), he has been plagued by injuries most of his career, but has lights out stuff when he’s healthy. He’ll be vying for the 5th starter slot with Brandon McCarthy.
RHP Grant Balfour signed as a free agent on Jan 14th (Tampa Bay Rays), a 2-yr $8.1M deal with a club option for 2013, to bolster the bullpen.
LHP Brian Fuentes (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent on Jan 16th, a 2-yr deal expected to yield him $5M+/year (details not yet announced). Fuentes is a 4-time All-Star, who has averaged 31 saves over the past 6 seasons with the Rockies, Angels and the Twins. Last year he recorded 24 saves, a 2.81 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP*.
He will also have to pass a physical, most likely today or tomorrow. If Andrew Bailey is healthy, Bailey will probably still be the closer, but Fuentes gives Manager Bob Geren the option of going with a left-hander to close out a game.
Stayings: Some Familiar Faces Re-signed:
2B Mark Ellis: The club exercised it’s option for 2011 and will pay Mark $6M for the year. Ellie led the A’s in batting in 2010, hitting .291 in 124 games. He also has the 2nd-best fielding percentage (.990) among 2nd basemen with over 750 or more games. Always a fan favorite, he’ll be back in the lineup for one more year.
OF Coco Crisp: The A’s also excercised their club option for 2011, and will pay Coco $6M. When Coco was healthy in 2010, he hit .279 with 8 HR and 38 RBIs in 75 games, and stole a career-high 32 bases. To put it in perspective, he finished 2nd on the A’s in steals (to Rajai Davis), 3rd in triples (4), and 5th in homeruns, despite missing over half the season!
Goings: Chavez’ Option not Picked Up:
3B Eric Chavez, who spent his whole career in the Athletics organization, including 13 seasons with the A’s. He is a .267 career hitter with 230 HRs and 787 RBIs in 1,320 games, and holds numerous A’s records, ranking in the top 10 in nearly every category. He also won 6 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2001-06. He is reported to be working out with teams (Dodgers, for one) in hopes he can find a place to play in the majors in 2011.Contracts Not Tendered or Players Released: DH Jack Cust (now with the Mariners), OF Gabe Gross (still unsigned), OF Travis Buck (Indians), P Justin Duchscherrer (still unsigned, but Yankees showing interest), OF Jeremy Hermida (Reds), P Russ Wolf (Pirates), OF Jeff Larish (Phillies), P Boof Bonser (Mets), P Justin James (Brewers), P Brett Tomko (still unsigned), IF Dallas McPherson (White Sox), IF Corey Wimberly (Pirates), and 3B Akinori Iwamura (Rakuten, Japan).
Traded: OF Rajai Davis (Blue Jays for 2 pitching prospects), P Vin Mazzaro (Royals, in the DeJesus trade), P Henry Rodriguez (Nationals, in the Willingham trade). We will miss his hustle and that great smile. I hope he has the opportunity to play everyday in Toronto. He deserves it.
I haven’t mentioned that the A’s won the right to negotiate with Hisashi Iwakuma, for which they had to pay $19.1M. They had 30 days to negotiate with his current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles (the same team that Akinori Iwamura will play for in 2011). Negotiations broke down over the salary that the A’s would pay him (in addition to the $19.1M!) and Iwakuma will return to Rakuten to finish out his contract year there. The $19.1M was returned to the A’s, under the Japanese negotiating rules.
Also, I didn’t mention that the A’s claimed Edwin Encarnacion on waivers from the Blue Jays in November, but released him back to the Jays in December.
That’s it for now. It looks like this will be an exiting year for the A’s and their fans. The new aquisitions, re-signings, and the players no longer on the team, have put the A’s in position to compete creditably for the AL West Division Title in 2011, if the injury bug doesn’t take a huge toll. Nevertheless, there is so much depth on this roster that very capable guys can step up and fill any holes if players go down. I can’t wait!
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*Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched (anything close to 1.0 is very good)
Young Pitching: The A’s young hurlers are having some successes and failures, and some of the good things don’t show up in the win column. We have to remember they are all under the age of 25, except the “veteran” Dallas Braden, who will be 26 on August 13th. These young guys are learning how to be professional ballplayers in the major leagues, not in the minors where pitchers typically spend 4 or more years before being called up.
Brett Anderson had a terrific complete-game 2-hitter against the Red Sox in Fenway, which was electricfying to watch.
Even the Sox fans acknowledged his feat with respect. The day before, Gio Gonzalez looked great in his 5-2 victory over Cy Young winner Cliff Lee in Cleveland. But those were the only bright spots since Dallas Braden beat Justin Verlander on July 1st in Oakland.
Trevor Cahill struggled mightily in Cleveland, lasting 3.2 innings and giving up 8 runs (5 earned). In Boston, he pitched well for 5 innings, but in the 6th gave up a solo home run to J.D. Drew and a 3-run shot to David Ortiz Maybe Bob Geren needs to pull these young kids when they first get into trouble (like after Drew’s solo homer) until they get used to facing tough major league hitting. In general, I think Geren leaves pitchers in too long.
Unfortunately, Vin Mazzaro pitched too well in his first 2 starts with the A’s. His luck has turned since then.
It didn’t help that twice he had to face the Giant’s Tim Lincecum who is having another career season this year. He has taken the loss in his last 4 starts, although he pitched well in his last outing but got no run support.
I won’t even comment on the Dana Eveland loss. I think the A’s need to cast him adrift or trade him. He has shown us over the last couple of years that he can pitch well at the Triple-A level, but falls apart in the majors. He just doesn’t fool major league hitting and I think the A’s need to wake up to that fact.
I hope that Dallas Braden does well today in Tampa. We need our “veteran” Ace back.
Silent Bats: Mention must be made of the A’s lack of situational hitting. A lot of the losses might have been wins if the A’s could have driven in maybe half of the runners they had in scoring position. It often seems as if the bats don’t come alive until the 8th or 9th inning when they are in the hole, sometimes a deep one. It’s too little, too late.
Jason Giambi has been a real disappointment to the team, the fans and himself. No one wants to win more than the G man. Unfortunately, it looks as if he’s a little late when he swings at fastballs and doesn’t make contact. But he’s not the only one who strikes out or hits into double plays. It’s been happening all too often up and down the lineup. Matt Holliday certainly isn’t helping his chances of being traded to a contender. In short, the A’s just aren’t getting the key hits when they need them.
Scott Hairston: To finish on a brighter note, the aquisition of Scott Hairston was a brilliant move by Billy Beane.
We control him through 2011, and he is a terrific hitter and can handle the center field position very well. Maybe he can ignite the lineup and they can score more runs to help out the young pitching staff. Time will tell. I haven’t given up on the A’s yet. I just hope they don’t finish in the cellar.
Yankee Series: After 3 games in Toronto, the A’s played a rain-shortened series in the new Yankee Stadium, losing both games to the Bronx Bombers. I won’t regurgitate the details of the games as they were painful enough the first time around. I will comment on Dan Giese, whom the A’s picked up on waivers a couple of weeks ago from those dreaded Yankees. He has the dubious distinction of giving up 2 walk-off homers to end extra-inning games in his first 2
appearances. He must be shell-shocked about pitching in extras by now. The sad thing about both outings was that he pitched 2 good innings before each walk-off, and the bullpen was depleted and Manager Bob Geren probably didn’t have a choice and had to leave him out there. Maybe he’s a 2-inning guy. We’ll see in the next month or so whether it was a good move to bring him over from the Yanks. The A’s will make up the rained-out game on July 23rd in New York.
10 MLB Teams Decline in Value: Forbes Magazine recently published an analysis of the value of the Major League Baseball Teams, and the results are interesting. The teams whose values declined the most are: the Nationals (down 12%), Braves (10%), and the Tigers and Mariners (9% each). You’ll be pleased to note that the A’s declined only 1%, while the Giants’ value is down 5%. In terms of dollars, the A’s are worth $319M and rank 27th in the majors. Only the Marlins, the Pirates and the Royals are worth less than the A’s.
At the top in terms of dollars is the Yankees ($1.5Billion! ), followed by the Mets ($912M), Red Sox ($833M), Dodgers ($722M) and the Cubs ($700M). The Yankees and Mets values were up significantly due to their new ballparks which opened this season. Interestingly, the average value of an MLB team rose 1% to $482M.
What’s really itelling is that the Yankees are currently in 3rd place in the AL East, and the Mets are in 4th place in the NL East, so value doesn’t necessarily translate into standing, at least not this early in the season. Also, the least-expensive Marlins ($277M) are leading the NL East.
Gallagher to Triple A: The A’s optioned Sean Gallagher to the River Cats to get him more pitching time. He has been the long man in the A’s bullpen and hasn’t pitched much this year.
I think the move was a good one for Sean, as he’ll join the rotation that includes Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro and James Simmons, all of who are doing well right now. Sean has talent and needs to use it regularly to hone his craft. Now he’ll get a chance to do that.
Coming Up: The A’s come home for a 3-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow night and then go on the road again (does anyone else hear a C+W song right now?) to Texas and Seattle. Oh, the vagaries of the MLB schedule and the short shrift that the West Coast teams seem to get. 3 days at home? Give me a break.