Well, you can’t say the offseason was boring this time around.
Good, bad or otherwise Billy Beane worked the winter of 2008-2009 differently from any other year he’s been the A’s GM. I mean, the guy actually went out and signed multiple free agents (Giambi, Garciaparra, Cabrera and Springer) while striking out on name players like Rafael Furcal and Randy Johnson! Oh yeah, Beane also went out and traded for one of the best hitters in baseball in Matt Holliday. Change may be the only constant in
Now that the offseason is all but over I wanted to look at where this team is and how we got here. I think a lot of the confusion over the direction Beane is taking the A’s stems from the fact that out beloved/embattled GM is working on (at best) Plan C. It’s really hard to have continuity when you have so many changes forced upon you. Sometimes no matter how good you are you end up having to muddle through.
Plan A was a doozy. Beane realized he had a unique opportunity presenting itself in 2009. The minor league system was brimming with talent that would (barring disaster) be ready to add significant talent to the
Things were looking good early. The
The great thing about Plan A was the bulk of the cost would be limited to one year, 2009. The only targeted player that was certain to get a multi-year deal was Rafael Furcal. If the A’s were going to get Furcal to be their new SS they were going to have to give him a minimum 3 year guarantee. (Keep in mind; I’m still talking about pre-FA planning at this point.) That wouldn’t be much of a problem for the A’s (assuming his medical reports checked out… if they didn’t then Oakland wouldn’t have made an offer!) because they didn’t have a SS in the pipeline that was expected to be big league ready for another 2-3 years. Yes, the A’s would still be on the hook for Crosby’s $5.25 million 2009 salary but Beane had managed to trade both Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay, plus oodles of cash, and gotten a couple decent bullpen arms in return. Surely he could manage another such trick with
Beware of calling any man Shirley.
Plan A was centered on a trade for Holliday and pursuing Randy Johnson, Russ Springer, Jason Giambi and Rafael Furcal via free agency. Johnson and Springer would replace (and likely improve the quality of) the innings pitched by Smith and Street in 2008. Holliday, Giambi and Furcal would represent a massive upgrade over the wretched pile of poo that was the 2008 line-up for the
No plan survives contact with the enemy, or in this case, the start of free agency. The economy went downhill fast and the free agent market went wonky as well. The superstars like Sabs and
After Furcal signed with the Dodgers, Randy Johnson decided he didn’t want to leave the NL and signed with the Giants. Would the A’s have had a better chance at convincing Johnson to come back and finish his career in the
Plan B was only a slight variation on Plan A. Giambi signs to a 1 year deal plus team option and when Andrew Brown gets hurt Beane quickly went out and traded two guys destined for careers in the minors for Michael Wuertz. Springer gets signed and Beane goes shopping for another DiNardo or Saaloos, finding Edgar Gonzalez willing to sign a minor league deal. Beane hopes that the continually plunging economy will drive down Orlando Cabrera’s asking price because Wolff has had to reduce the funds available to the payroll and Bobby Crosby still sucks. A rotation of Duke, Gallagher, Eveland, plus 2 of Outman, Gio Gonzalez, Edgar Gonzalez or Braden would still be solid. Well, solid enough. Beane still has some extra cash so he resolves to strengthen his bench and maybe add another LHRP.
Here’s where I get a little confused. Cabrera’s price tag drops to the point where the A’s can have them selves a new SS. This could be a continuation of Plan B; then again, getting a new starter could merit an official Plan C rating. Whatever you want to call it (and I admit it’s a semantical issue but ‘tis one that’s bugging me) the realization that Duke and Devine are having elbow problems and that Gallagher and Gio Gonzalez seem to be regressing is a huge blow to the organization and most certainly kicks off the next level of planning, be it Plan C or Plan D. Whatever you want to label it, we’re essentially talking about the addition of Anderson and Cahill to the rotation.
There have been some who have argued since the start of Spring Training that Anderson and/or Cahill should be considered for the A’s 2009 Opening Day roster. Before anyone pats themselves on the back I think we should all acknowledge that no one wanted to see Cahill and Anderson in
Mulder, Hudson and Zito all pitched for Division 1 college programs.
Cahill and Anderson aren’t as far along on the path as the Big 3 were. They just aren’t. Cahill pitched a total of 132.1 innings last year, 37 IP at AA and another 8 IP in the Olympics.
So what does all this mean? Well, for one thing it means the A’s are nowhere near the starting position they hoped to be when the offseason began. They have been forced to make compromise after compromise to get to the starting line, and I think it’s fair to ask (especially when you look at the pitching staff) if maybe the season itself has already been compromised. I hope that I’ve shown that while Holliday trade makes little if any sense when judged against the end product, when you consider it as part of the original Plan A it actually makes a lot of sense. The price to acquire Holliday would have only gone up if Beane hadn’t said yes when he did. It sucks that the A’s weren’t able to land Furcal and/or Johnson to complete Plan A but that’s the way things go sometimes. Certain events can’t be predicted with absolute clarity.
Which is why this piece is an offseason review and not a 2009 preview.
Personally I think there’s some cause for optimism but a lot of things have to break right for the A’s. I think