We have talked at nausea about the A’s lack of hitting in 2010, and how we need to upgrade in 2011 to compete. We have talked about the valuable WAR statistics (Wins above Replacement), and our complete lack of power (109 HRs in 2010). Or the fact that the likes of Matt Watson, Gabe Gross, Jake Fox, Travis Buck, Matt Carson, Akinori Iwamura, Jeff Larish and Jeremy Hermida had a combined 400+ plate appearances despite having a combined WAR of -3.2. This is completely unacceptable when taking into account that they averaged about 2.7 plate appearances per game.
However, what about our regulars? And where they stood. Pitching is supposed to be our strength right? Then why did Michael Wuertz, Jerry Blevins and Henry Rodriguez have a combined WAR under replacement level? The simple answer is that they were not that good despite pitching a combined 116 innings, or nearly 13 total nine inning games. This could be a reason that we finished just .500 despite the fact that our starters absolutely flourished this season. When you have three starting pitchers that combined for 44 wins and a WAR of 11.4 there is no reason why you shouldn’t have 90 wins. I would have to conclude that the front and back ends of our bullpen (not including Andrew Bailey) was a major reason for us not challenging the Rangers for the division crown. Consequently, why have we made no moves in order to fix this problem? I understand that bullpen arms are in high demand this off-season, but they are not too expensive, and even small market teams can build a strong pen.
The second problem arrives in the form of our "offensive" outfield, pun very much intended. From my count our outfield, both part and full time, combined for 29 homeruns. To put that into context, 20 players hit that many homeruns in 2010. By now our lack of pop in 2010 is well known in these areas. And, I believe that Bean and Co. are attempting to work on that right now. But how? Who? Where?
We have already traded for David DeJesus, who has never hit for more than 13 HRs in his seven MLB seasons. With Coco Crisp on the roster, DeJesus will be playing either RF or LF. Additionally, our options are extremely limited when it comes to free agency and trade candidates.
Jason Werth: He finished 8th in the NL MVP voting on Monday and will be demanding a minimum of 13MM. This despite the fact that he has struck out over 400 times the last three seasons, and has a defensive WAR of 0.5 combined over the last three seasons. Add the fact that he is 31 and will be demanding a four year contract makes me believe that Beaned will not go after him, and shouldn’t.
Carl Crawford: As with Werth, it is unrealistic to believe that we will outbid the Angels, Tigers, Yankees and Redsox for his services. However, if we had a chance, would it be worth our while? First off, neither Dejesus nor Crisp can play RF, and we know that Crawford doesn’t have the arm to do so. Consequently, we would have to trade one of the other two in order to make room for Crawford. He has been consistently good, hitting over .300 in five of the last six seasons. Additionally, Crawford has compiled 260 SB’s over that time. However, his defensive WAR is barley over 3 during that time. Something I know that Billy Beane is not looking for (Crisp had a defensive WAR of 2.7 in 2007 alone).
Magglio Ordonez: His age, injuries and defensive liabilities really worry me. However, signing him wouldn’t be as much of a risk as other candidates out there. He should come relatively cheap and, if healthy, can provide the pop that we need. His offensive WAR over the last three seasons is better than any outfielder that we currently have on the roster, and at 37 may have a year left in him. His OBP has consistently hovered around .375 over the last three seasons, and his bat seems to have some pop in it.
Chris Young: Again there are issues I have with him, however, I think you will find that with nearly every player on the market. His OBP is not Beane like, neither is his defensive capabilities. But, no one can deny the fact that he has hit nearly 100 HRs over the last four seasons, and at 27 is in his prime. I understand that his natural outfield position is CF, from what I have read he has the ability to play right. Arizona seems to be offering everyone and anyone on their roster, and I believe that we could get Young. This is a good possibility if you ask me.
Carlos Beltran: He hasn’t even combined for a full 162 game season since 2008, and with a hefty price tag (19MM in 2011), this could be a pipe dream. However, if we do offer something in return I believe the Mets might actually be willing to pay some of that contract, if not most of it. For a large market team it is possible that they will take on a nice size of a contract in order to get trade chips in return.
Those are just a couple options outside the usual characters that we have discussed on this site. Adding the players that we have talked about on AN to this list would be relatively inconsequential.
Now that it appears that Hisashi Iwakuma will not sign with the A’s, it appears that we do need a #5 starter. Lucky for us there is an abundance of those type of players on the free agent market. I would be looking for an innings eater that can help take pressure off of our subpar bullpen. I believe some of the options listed below will really help the A’s.
Dave Bush: AGE: 31 2010 Stats: 8-13, 4.54 ERA, 5.6 Innings per Start, 1.51 WHIP, -1.1. WAR
Bruce Chen: AGE: 33 2010 Stats: 12-7, 4.16 ERA, 5.4 Innings per Start, 1.40 WHIP, 2.1 WAR
Jorge De La Rosa: AGE: 29 2010 Stats: 8-6, 4.22 ERA, 6 Innings per Start, 1.31 WHIP, 1.2 WAR
Freddy Garcia: AGE: 35 2010 Stats: 12-6, 4.84 ERA, 5.6 Innings per Start, 1.38 WHIP, 2.1 WAR
Jon Garland: AGE: 31 2010 Stats: 14-2, 3.47 ERA, 6.1 Innings per Start, 1.32 WHIP, 1.8 WAR
Brad Penny: AGE: 32 2010 Stats: 3-4, 3.23 ERA, 6.1 Innings per Start, 1.29 WHIP, 0.6 WAR
Vicente Padilla: AGE: 33 2010 Stats: 6-5, 4.07 ERA, 6.0 Innings per Start, 1.08 WHIP, 0.7 WAR
So there you have it; a few different options that would probably cost less than 5MM, and could be had on a one year contract. Personally, I like the idea of Jon Garland, Bruce Chen or Vicente Padilla. There are many different bullpen arms out there that could help our lackluster group. Despite dreaming about the likes of Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain, Scott Downs, Frank Francisco etc… we have to be a little more level headed than that. I am looking more at Miguel Batista, Aaron Heilman, Guillermo Mota, Jon Rauch and Kerry Wood. All those options would add to our bullpen and take the pressure off of Ziegler, Wuertz etc…
The A’s are really not that far from contention. Our starting pitching gives us a legitimate chance to win every time out there. However, we must upgrade at certain positions to contend with the Texas Rangers for the division. Coincidentally, we don’t only have to upgrade the offense, we need to make a move or two in regards to our pitching staff. I believe adding Jon Garland and Guillermo Mota will help build off our strong performance in 2010. You couple that with brining in a Adrian Beltre, Magglio Ordonez, or some combination of power hitters and you have an A’s team ready to contend in 2011.