Free agents seem to be avoiding the A's like the plague. Jack Cust has been unceremoniously dumped into the free agent pool to be picked at and prodded by the likes of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This team needs more talent, and it doesn't seem like there's anywhere for it to come from. As a whole, Billy Beane has done a very subpar job in this last "rebuild". He traded Dan Haren for a load, which was a great move, but then he too quickly tried to turn one of the best pieces of that load into a one-year quick fix (Matt Holliday), which failed miserably and brought the A's back much less than they gave away for half a season of Holliday. Billy Beane seems to lack patience, and given the current state of the team, patience is exactly what he needs to have. This team is built for one of two things: either to make a run at the title, or to be blown up and reassembled in hopefully much better shape than it is currently. Here's why I think blowing the team up makes the most sense...
In addition, several A's players performed well above their career norms last season, due to extremely high defensive RAR values, fluky balls in play stats, or some other combination of factors. Coco Crisp has never been a 6 WAR player, but he put up 3.3 WAR in less than half a season. Kevin Kouzmanoff's defensive stats (16.1 RAR) were flukily high for a player who seems to throw like he's afraid of throwing too hard or his arm will fall off. Daric Barton is an excellent defender, but 12.1 is a lot of RAR for a first baseman. Trevor Cahill's BABIP stats were flukily low and will likely regress toward the mean next year.
Overall, this team seemingly outperformed what was expected from them and still didn't even manage to finish over .500. For the A's to make a run this year, they need two more pieces AND a whole host of luck, and betting on luck is not a smart move. With high-profile free agents seemingly avoiding Oakland, the team can either shop in the bargain bin, try to make trades, ride it out with what they have (please, no), or try to restock the farm system by trading the players with value for young players with less current value but the upside to potentially have higher value in the future.
Kurt Suzuki could likely still bring back a haul of prospects; he's young, cheap (4 years, $16 million), and a very solid all-around catcher. There are still plenty of teams that would love to have a young catcher on their roster, and I can't see Suzuki not fetching a very solid package if he were dealt.
Trevor Cahill's value will never be higher. Though he's still very young, he put up crazy counting stats last season, and there has to be a team out there willing to pay for that. The Blue Jays just got Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum; Cahill would definitely be worth more than Marcum and would likely bring back multiple prospects better than Lawrie due to that fact that he's not only a good pitcher, but also cost-controlled for another four years.
With the trade market becoming a seller's market in lieu of the Jayson Werth deal, David DeJesus and Coco Crisp likely have a lot of trade value at the moment. At around $5 mil each, they are both significant bargains considering their production. I can't see contending teams not being willing to trade solid prospects for these guys.
Those are just some of the players with trade value that would make sense to consider moving; Ellis, Bailey, Braden, etc. could all make sense to move. Obviously blowing up the team isn't a move you make without sizing up the market for your tradable assets, but I genuinely feel that the team as constructed plus whatever we can grab from the bargain bin is not only likely not a playoff team this year, but continuing as-is likely also makes the fall much harder and more painful. Rather than shoot for the stars with our BB gun, let's spend the money on a spaceship and hope we can make it to the stars in a couple years.
I absolutely welcome dissenting opinions, and would love to hear them. I didn't have this mindset, honestly, until we lost Iwakuma, Beltre, and Berkman; I'm feeling defeatist at the moment. If you think this is a crock of crap, let me know as well, but honestly I think that given the roster we have assembled, the thing that makes the most sense to do is to build around Daric Barton, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez and see if we can't turn our potential future rebuild into more of a "soft reset" at the expense of one or maybe two desperate shots at the playoffs with the team as currently constructed.