Beane's mantra for the past year or so has been "young pitching, young pitching, young pitching". First, he made several trades to accumulate a cache of other organization's young pitching. Then he invested heavily in the 2008 draft to add even more depth to his own young pitching. Then he made even more trades for even more young pitching. And more recently he's making more trades and attempting to sign some free agents in order to give that young pitching some run support.
With all of that young pitching accumulated it's going to be awfully interesting to see how it all gels together next season. The 2009 starting rotation (now sans Greg Smith) looks like it will be Duke, Gallagher, Eveland, Gio and Braden/Outman to begin the season. Barring the addition of a Randy Johnson (unlikely - he wants to stay in the NL) or a Brad Penny (maybe not 100-percent healthy to start the year) that's certainly not a very imposing group. Duke was certainly a very good starter last season, but he's a major health risk and his BABIP luck will likely return to normal levels next season and his ERA will likely rise as a result. Gallagher has got the stuff to be a good starter but he's young and erratic. Eveland, with his new windup, is a nice pitcher but not really a number 3 starter on a contending team. Gio looked extremely erratic and hittable in his starts last season. Braden is a nice 5th starter but his ceiling is low and Outman may never really have the pitching repertoire to succeed as a starter (although his 96mph heater would be nice coming out of the pen).
Beane has already stated this off-season that he has no desire to add a veteran starter on a long-term deal (though he may add some minor league free agents for depth or get RJ or Penny on a 1-year deal if he's lucky), and yet he's looking to add offense and money to the payroll as if he's planning to contend immediately. What gives? The only thing that makes sense, IMHO, is that Beane thinks one or all of three things:
1) He really expects Duke to be healthy for most of the season,
2) He really believes that Gallagher and Gio (particularly) will have breakout seasons in 2009,
3) He really believes that Cahill, Anderson and/or Mazzaro are nearly major league ready and can have an impact on the starting staff immediately after being promoted.
Of those three options, number 3 seems to be the most believable. According to BA, there were times last season at High-A Stockton and at Midland where Cahill was so good that scouts remarked that he could dominate major league batters right now - or back then, as the case may be. His control still isn't perfect, but with that kind of praise and the stats to back it up, it's likely that Cahill is very close to breaking through. Anderson has totally carved up hitters at every stop and even made it up to Triple-A late last season while Mazzaro utterly dominated at Double-A last season.
Just a guess, but I'll bet the plan is for Duke, Gallagher, Eveland, Gio and Braden/Outman to hold down the fort for the first couple months of the season, letting the (hopefully) improved offense do to heavy lifting and keeping the team competitive, while Cahill, Anderson and Mazzaro fine tune and get going down in Sacramento. Then, come June, the young trio will gradually be mixed into the majors right when the team is hitting on all cylinders.
What do you think?