Tidbits With Taj Part 3

Just a few more of my random thoughts:

Cabrera to the Angels?

The latest reports indicate that the Halos (along with the Dodgers) are the leading suitors for Miguel Cabrera. There's no doubt that Cabrera can mash and would be a major upgrade for the Angels and would make them extremely tough to beat next year and the year after (while Vlad is still around). But as an A's fan, I'd definitely prefer facing an Angel team with Miguel Cabrera than Alex Rodriguez. Why, you say, since Cabrera is younger than A-Rod, will cost the Angels less money, has enormous talent and has not even reached his theoretical prime yet?

Well, simply because of the haul of prospects the Angels would need to send the Marlins in exchange for Miguel. The latest reports suggest the Marlins are requesting Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, a top outfield prospect and another pitcher. I'd also tend to think Brandon Wood could be part of a potential deal as well. While the Angel farm system is fairly deep, a deal of that caliber involving all of those players would gut the Angel system for at least a few years. Adenhart is one of the top-5 pitching prospects in all of baseball, so losing him could have long-term ramifications for the Angels since they stand to lose at least one of Lackey/Escobar to free agency within the next two seasons, and while they have some decent pitchers in the system, they have none that are so close to the majors leagues nor have the upside of Adenhart.

Kendrick, while not a huge power hitter, is still a guy the A's hate to face - a high average, aggressive hitter who feeds off of strike throwers (ahem, Haren and Blanton). An Angel lineup without Howie would make me sleep better at night.

The Angels would aggressively seek to lock-up Cabrera long term after trading so much for him, and would likely plan on him taking over the face of the franchise in the wake of Vladdy's proposed departure after '09. That would be fairly smart business for the Halos: get Cabrera while he is still young and relatively affordable to compliment Vladdy and the current core of the Angels (which are really built to win next season and 2009) while staking the future to Miguel's continued development.

But what would be smarter business (and much scarier for A's fans) would be to just pony up the dough and sign A-Rod, keep all those prospects they would have to give up in a Cabrera trade, and, say, use them to pursue another high-impact arm (Santana, Bedard) or keep the high-impact talent (Adenhart, Wood) and use the lesser names (Aybar, Sean Rodriguez, Willits, Arredondo) to go after an up and coming mid-rotation starter. Either way, there's no doubt the Angels would be better off long-term and short-term with a bunch of stud prospects AND A-Rod rather than JUST Miguel Cabrera. Let's just hope Tony Reagins doesn't think so.

Bringing Back the "Glory Days"

As tempting as it might seem in the minds of all 21st century A's fans, there is no way that the A's will trade for Miguel Tejada this winter. Contrary to popular belief, the Orioles will not just give Tejada away for nothing or no-name prospects (if they really wanted to do that, they could've just let him go to the White Sox when they claimed him on waivers back in August). Rather, I think the O's will make Tejada freely available, but will only move him if they get at least one above-average prospect in return. I'm sorry, but Dallas Braden, Santiago Casilla and Dan Meyer (not to mention Bobby Crosby) do not come close to qualifying as "above-average" prospects or players.

Besides the fact that the A's cannot (from a personnel perspective) afford to gut their already-depleted farm system to acquire a player that would simply make a questionably competitive team marginally more competitive, but furthermore, I don't think the team can financially afford Tejada either. By all accounts, Beane is serious about taking whatever financial flexibility he has this offseason and using it to rapidly expand scouting operations overseas - according to one source, he has already hired more area scouts domestically and in the Dominican. This expansion is going to cost millions of dollars...millions that could go to Tejada, but are much more well spent on long-term player development operations.

But hey, I won't categorically proclaim that Tejada will NEVER return to Oakland. In fact,  should the A's finalize a move to Fremont in the next 12-18 months and definitely plan to move out of the Coliseum after the 2010, what better way to say farewell to the city of Oakland then by staging a mini-reunion of the early-decade Glory Days for one last hurrah (depending on money, of course)?

Tejada will be a free agent after 2009, while Jason Giambi will be a free agent next season (assuming the Yanks decline his $22 million option for 2009). Both guys will most definitely NOT be offered arbitration by their teams, and depending on the personnel Beane brings in during his all-but-assured trades of Blanton, Street, Duchscherer and Harden, both Giambi and Tejada could fill legit holes for the 2009/10 teams for Oakland.

Tejada could be signed and moved to second base to mask his defensive deficiencies and declining power numbers, while Giambi could DH, assuming Cust is moved before he hits arbitration. Tejada's bat (even  if it regresses to the .750 OPS range with 15-20 homers) would still play fairly well at 2nd, while Giambi has retained his elite plate discipline and, at least when healthy, robust power numbers. If they're surrounded by a core of Swisher, Buck and Barton and some first and second-year prospects, they could make for a very intriguing final Oakland team, which could field a lineup that looks kind of like this, working with only personnel currently in the system:

CF - Buck
1B - Barton
2B - Tejada
LF - Swisher
DH - Giambi
RF - Grant Desme
3B - Chavez
SS - Josh Horton
C - Suzuki/Powell

That would be nobody's ideal championship lineup, but it would be chock-full of OBP with a little thump and would clearly be a fun team to watch. Both Tejada and Giambi would be unlikely to sign contracts for longer than 2 years, meaning that the A's could showcase these two Oakland A's legends without tying up roster spots for young players that should be ready to rock for the Fremont A's teams. If the money is right (less than $15 million over no more than two years for each guy) AND if Beane commits to a full-scale rebuild after the '08 season, then why not throw some money at Miggy and Jason and give the Oaktown faithful a couple of familiar faces to cheer for during a transition time?

Blevins to the Rotation?

If the "Duke-to-the-rotation-experiment" goes reasonably well this season, do you think Beane would ever consider moving Jerry Blevins into the rotation? While Jerry and Duke are very different pitchers with very different track records and pitching experiences (Duke having been a career starter since 2004, while Jerry has never been a full-fledged starter as a pro), I think the idea should be entertained.

If there is one current "strength" or rather area of "depth" in the A's system, it is left-handed relief pitching. At the major league level, Embree figures to be around for at least next season (with a club option for '09), while Meyer and DiNardo (who are out of options) need to be kept on the major league roster lest they be exposed to waivers. On the farm, Braden seems destined for a LOOGY role (which, based on his splits, he could probably fill admirably at the major league level starting next season) while Brad Kilby continues to strikeout tons of guys at every affiliate he passes through and should be major league ready soon. The team even has Ron Flores and Brad Halsey back in the system, both of whom could offer the big club a handful of league-average innings in middle relief.

That amount of major-league ready lefty relievers in the system leaves ample depth to experiment with Blevins. At this point, Jerry has to be considered one of the most high-upside arms in the entire organization. He strikes out a lot of guys (almost 11 per 9 innings in his career) and at least in the past few seasons, hasn't walked very many. He's only 24 years old, has a traditional starter's build (6'6" /190) and is fairly tough against both righties and lefties. And while guys like Braden and Windsor might have struck out a lot of guys in the minor leagues using control and guile, Blevins, by all accounts, actually has really good stuff, with a low-90s heater with some movement, solid curveball and the all-important changeup!

As for Jerry adjusting to a starter's work load and routine after a career as a reliever, consider that Jerry was a starter in college and actually last started a professional game much more recently than Duchscherer did - Jerry last started a game in A-ball in 2005, whereas Duke's last start came with the A's in 2003 - and if A's brass feels Duke could handle the transition back to starting after pitching in relief exclusively for 4 years, then why wouldn't they consider stretching out Jerry as a starter after relieving exclusively for only 2 years? Additionally, while Jerry has been primarily a reliever in his professional career, it's not like he's been used situationally or limited in innings. In 2004 between college and the Rookie League, Jerry threw over 100 innings. In 2005 he three 76, and this season between three minor league levels, the majors and now Team USA, Jerry is well past 80 total innings pitched and still going! I think his arm could handle starting.

I'd say that the transition is worth considering, especially if the organization is planning on a full-scale rebuilding effort in the coming seasons. With Jerry's K-rate, he could blossom into a nice mid-rotation starter. He's got options remaining, so I think the A's should spend all next minor league season stretching him out as a starter, and see where he is in 2009. If he can cut it, there's one less cost-controlled spot in the rotation that this team doesn't have to worry about for the foreseeable future.

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