Remember the days on AN where Taj Adib wrote on the front page, and grover was all over the thread? They're baaaaaack! -Nico
We've all heard the reports over the past month/few weeks that basically spell out the A's immediate, on-field team-building plans in the following terms:
"...if the club's San Jose plans are approved...they would rather then turn their focus to the Draft, player development and international signings -- all of which would, hopefully, equate to a contending team just in time for the opening of a new ballpark. However, if they're denied such plans, the A's would likely open the checkbook in an effort to not only draw bigger crowds to the Coliseum, but make the franchise appear attractive to potential buyers."
From Jane Lee's inbox on MLB.com, 10/27/11:
We've heard basically the same thing(s) from Stiglitz, Slusser and even Beane himself since the final weeks of the season.
Now that this has kind of sunk-in as official team strategy, I've kind of taken to analyzing the logic of the two options on the table.
1) The logic of rebuilding/re-tooling to get ready for a new stadium in San Jose makes perfect sense to me. Since the team is not in a position to contend now and likely won't be without a major infusion of cash AND fresh talent not currently in the organization, the team mind as well trade-in whatever assets they have in their control now to get an infusion of talent and also save a few million wherever they can to divert to amateur signing bonuses and scouting, etcetera.
2) However, I fail to really see the logic of the, "open the checkbook, and make the team appear attractive to new buyers" strategy. There's a couple of logic fails I see in this thinking. First off...by the time a "yay or nay" decision is made by MLB regarding San Jose, I'd imagine that, at the very least, the market for the truly organization-value-changing elite free agents (Pujols, Fielder, Reyes) will likely be set...not that the A's would even have the means to be in on these guys from the outset anyways. So...say, the owners get together in a couple of weeks and decide against the A's. Free agents are already talking with teams right now, so I highly doubt that the A's could swoop in late to the dance party and get the attention of one of these guys.
This also discounts the fact that even if they got the attention of a premium guy or two, they would need to absolutely overpay by tens of millions to actually get one of them to sign in Oakland, especially if news came out that the team was denied San Jose, would be left in indefinite limbo at the O.co Coliseum and would be searching for a new ownership group that would, in all likelihood, move the team out of the state entirely at some undetermined later date. That does not sound like a very desirable situation for anyone, even if they were offered a major premium to sign on the dotted line. Even IF they got one of these premium guys, would a prospective buyer really value a $150+ million/6+ year contract for an un-contending team as a net positive for the future of the organization?
With that being said, and the premium guys likely off-limits for a variety of reasons, the A's would likely be left with much the same type of free agent that they've been able to attract recently...though probably even a smaller pool than usual, given the state of the franchise and future. Same thing with the trade market. So...maybe the Coco Crisps and Hideki Matsui's of the world? Do you really think that a prospective buyer will base his/her decision to buy the team on whether those types of players are on the current roster? I really don't think so....
I would honestly think that - like front offices around baseball - current ownership groups and prospective buyers will likely value future talent just as much, if not more, than the current talent on the field. If a prospective buyer looks at the A's and sees a team that could - with a few mid-tier free agents - make a run at .500 for the next year or two, but has absolutely no depth in the farm system and no chance of sustaining success in a soon-to-be 5-team AL West, I would imagine he/she would simply not buy.
So...with all that being said, I think there really aren't two choices available to the A's right now, there really is only one: and that's to strip the team down, get as many pieces for the future as possible, save some money and plan for 2-3 years down the road.
So what I am thinking? I am thinking now is the time to take stock of what pieces the A's have that may be at their maximum value and making the decision to cash those in and start re-orienting the team for a few years down the road. At this point, the A's have a couple of pieces that could fetch some pretty good value on the trade market:
*Speculation exists that the A's would listen on other players - such as Cahill and Suzuki - but those guys are coming off either one down-season (Cahill) or two down-seasons (Suzuki) and aren't at maximum value at this time.
My immediate plan - besides letting Coco, Dejesus, Willingham and Matsui walk and collect draft picks as applicable - would be to make the following "type" of trades...I'm pretty horrible at doing proper matchups and prospect valuations, but maybe just following my logic would give you an idea of whether these general ideas are sound or not.
For the past few years, Phillie's officials have paid lip service to the idea of "getting younger" and have resisted the temptation to trade Domonic Brown during their many machinations at acquiring top tier talent to augment their impressive core. I think this off-season, with another year of their contention window closed, they might actually relent. Phillie's vaunted pitching core is really only under team control through 2012 - Cole Hamels' last season of arbitration. They still have Cliff Lee and Halladay through 2014, but by that time Lee's salary and Ryan Howard's massive contract extension will come into place.
All that being said, Phillie has to be in an absolute win-now mode. From my perspective, they have maximum two years left with their current core and then it all has to blow up.
Their main stated priority is closer, but you have to think they also need some cheap depth and some payroll flexibility to be able to keep Jimmy Rollins - who has to be a priority re-sign without much to offer on the SS free agent or trade markets.
I think Bailey makes a lot of sense for them...he's a hometown guy (from the Philly-cheering area of northern NJ) and best of all, for a team with a playoffs or bust mentality, he has NEVER blown a save after the All Star break. I think a perennial World Series contender would relish that pedigree. Breslow will add some reliable left-handed relief depth, Moscoso some rotation depth to eat some innings and keep the ball in the yard, while Sweeney could be a very solid, affordable platoon partner with Ben Francisco, capable of backing up all three outfield positions. All four of those guys are polished products that can definitely help Philly win now.
From the A's perspective, Dom Brown is the main piece, obviously. He definitely has the potential to be a star, sooner rather than later, even after having struggled a bit at the major league level already. Joe Blanton and the cash from the A's side would be an interesting throw in to make the deal more palatable for the Phillies. The Phils can use Blanton's $8.5 salary towards re-investing in a Rollins extension. The A's can bring Blanton back where he had his most success, back to work with Curt Young. With any luck, he eats some innings for the A's, provides some vet leadership and is healthy and effective enough to flip at the 2012 deadline for a B-level prospect.
Gio Gonzales + Grant Balfour + Adrian Cardenas to MARLINS
LF Logan Morrison, 3B Matt Dominguez, LHP Rob Rasmussen + RHP Jose Fernandez (as PTNBL)
With the "Miami" Marlins moving into their new stadium next season, word on the street is that they're planning to drop some cash and be a bit more open to trading younger players to ensure a winner in their first few seasons in the new ballpark. They are said to be prioritizing starting pitching - targeting two high-end starters. I think Gio would be a perfect fit for them: top-rotation talent, reasonable salary and a hometown boy from Hialeah with some personality to spare. He'd be a marketing dream for the team and a solid addition to their staff, just what they are looking for. They may also need a closer with Leo Nunez's identity issues still unresolved and may also need some infield depth. Balfour and Cardenas (another hometown kid) satisfy these needs.
The A's get a solid bat for now and several years into the future with some big-league pedigree and his own personality to spare (Morrison), along with Dominguez, who, while nothing special with the bat, could be a perennial Gold Glover with pop and could lock down the 3B spot for the A's long-term after some initial seasoning at AAA. Rasmussen profiles as a mid-rotation lefty with four-solid pitches, and Fernandez has an electric, raw arm that can be developed over time into a top-rotation talent.
These movements would leave the 2012 and probably 2013 A's pitching staffs pretty thin, but honestly, they weren't going to contend anyway, so Bailey's departure won't hurt that much, Gio's departure will definitely hurt...he's a great pitcher and a healthy one at that! But you gotta give value to get it in return, and I think right now his value will never be higher, especially to the Marlins. Trading him could fill several long-term holes simultaneously.
Where do these movements leave the 2015 A's, with or without a new stadium in SJ?
SP - Cahill
SP - Anderson (option exercised)
SP - Sonny Gray
SP - Rasmussen
SP - Fernandez
Won't even try to predict what the bullpen will look like!
C - Stassi?
1B - Morrison
2B - Weeks
SS - Dusty Coleman?
3B - Dominguez
LF - Choice
CF - Green
RF - Dom Brown
DH - Nick Swisher (signed after next season to 4-year free agent contract!)