The 2012 season for the Oakland Athletics came pretty much out of nowhere. The A's went from a .500 club at the All-Star Break to AL West champions to finish the year, with the season culminating in a thrilling three game sweep of the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers in Oakland to give the A's the division title. This offseason, I don't think the A's will be very active...but then again, this *is* Billy Beane we're talking about.
I would imagine that at the top of Oakland's offseason shopping list will be a shortstop. They traded Cliff Pennington, last season's starter for two-thirds of the year, to the Diamondbacks for Chris Young, and didn't pick up the option on Stephen Drew, last season's starter for the other third of the year. I think the A's would at least flirt with some starting pitching with Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon hitting free agency, and Dallas Braden being outrighted off the roster and joining the free agent market after not throwing a pitch in 2012. Platoon DH Jonny Gomes is also a free agent, and while the A's apparently would like to bring him back, they have plenty of outfield depth after the Young acquisition, and Gomes might be out of their price range after a great 2012 campaign. Losing Pennington also leaves the team without a second baseman, but I'd imagine that Jemile Weeks, who started for the team at second before Drew was acquired, would be recalled and would be the starter. There's also the issue of third base, where Brandon Inge is a free agent, but Scott Sizemore seems poised to start there after missing all of 2012.
The starting pitching situation in Oakland will be interesting. They might not necessarily need to sign a starter, but they might want to add a veteran to a very young staff. Last season, Colon served as the team's inning eating veteran before getting smacked with a suspension for testosterone, and McCarthy was the consistent veteran amongst a few rookies. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Brett Anderson will lead the 2013 rotation, and they'll likely be joined by some combination of Travis Blackley, AJ Griffin, and Dan Straily. That hole at shortstop could be difficult to fill, though. The best one on the market is Marco Scutaro, who became a postseason hero across the bay with the Giants and will likely be priced out of Oakland's range. A trade to fill that hole would be more likely.
The A's are no stranger to wheeling and dealing. Their payroll is looking a little on the high side with just guaranteed deals right now, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Billy Beane spin some players off to get his payroll in line in comparison to where it needs to be. I think the outfield is the most obvious place where someone will get dealt from. Currently, the A's have three outfielders (Young, Coco Crisp, and Yoenis Cespedes) making at least $7 million each, along with Seth Smith heading to his second year of arbitration and Josh Reddick blossoming into a superstar last season. The team could look to deal any of those five (including Reddick, beloved by A's fans) for cost-controlled young talent in order to fill gaps or continue the neverending rebuilding plan in Oakland. There's also Anderson, making $5.75 million in 2013 with club-friendly options for 2014 and 2015, and closer Grant Balfour, making a lot of money for a reliever. Both of them could also get dealt, and the A's could receive a nice bounty for either, especially Anderson.
Can you even really predict things with the A's anymore? They pick up some of the most random players in trades that no one even thought was available. Who would have imagined that they would have traded Trevor Cahill last offseason, let alone for Parker (among others)? And who could have thought that the team would have dealt closer Andrew Bailey for a package that included their best player in 2012? You never know anything anymore. But if Beane does start to make trades, expect him to pick up a young shortstop that could start for the team in 2013.
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