First let me express my belief the team is not that far from being capable of winning the division.
I was just going to respond in the thread for Nico's original post, but it got way too long. So I figured, why not a fanpost of my own? Not as much of a stat guy as many ANers, so go easy on me people. Here we go!
I don't really fault Billy for trying to sneak into contention the last few years (the division has been up for grabs), but that ship has sailed. No more old guy one-year deals, no more trades for guys in the final years of contracts.
Should they blow it up? I think not. Cahill, Gio and Anderson (if healthy) are three very good young pieces, and there's plenty of young pitching talent (still one of Billy's strengths). As always, the A's just need to add some power in the lineup, and as always, it is much easier said than done. Actually, with the offensive ineptitude the team has had, the A's need to take any good hitter they can find.
(intermission) As a side note, how tired are you of having to include "if healthy" when talking about A's players? I'm damn sick of it (end intermission)
The A's need to acquire some offensive talent that could stick around for a few years, like a Domonic Brown or Yonder Alonso.
So how do they do that? Well, first you gotta figure out what you got. The A's, amazingly, are not out of this division race. So you give it a few more weeks. See if the team can find some offensive consistency when Willingham comes back.
This team has had a 10-game losing streak and a 6-game winning streak in the last month - its true ability is somewhere in between those two extremes. Now are they a team that goes 16-11 in a month or 11-16? That's what you figure out before the trade deadline. With New Bob at the helm, Weeks in the lineup and the pitching staff getting healthy, I think either outcome is possible. Let's play it out and see what happens.
If the team is still crappy by the deadline (the more likely outcome), then you trade Willingham if a good deal comes up (I think Willingham-Bailey for Brown is very possible, should the Phillies' bullpen remain inconsistent), otherwise they let him walk for the draft picks. I want to keep him, but he seems like an expensive risk given age and recent injury history.
As Nico suggested in his post, try to re-sign DDJ to a team-friendly deal. But if he won't re-sign mid-season, then trade him at the deadline. Give Coco another couple of years, because I think he's still valuable.
At the deadline, Billy tries to sell anyone at the major league level not named Cahill, Gio, Andersen, Weeks, Ross or Carter. Don't give anybody away, but if a good deal is offered, trade anybody but the six players I just listed. Certain AAA players should also be available, but exclude most of the promising youngsters.
With that mentality, a few pieces are bound to be moved, freeing up roster space. So after the deadline, time for a youth infusion. Bring up Recker, Donaldson, Sogard, Jai Miller, Cardenas, Taylor and De Los Santos. Not all at once (not enough room for that), but give everybody at least a look - a cup of coffee, as they say, time and roster space permitting.
For sure, Cardenas, Donaldson and Sogard need to get extended stays to see what we've got with them. I think it's about time to see what they're capable of. Anybody that plays well doesn't ever go back to Sac (a la Jemile Weeks). If youngsters cut into playing time for Penny, Sweeney, DDJ, CoJax, Rosales or Suzuki, so be it. You want to be on the field? Play better. This is the big leagues, folks, and to quote the villainous Bob Sugar, it's not called show friends, it's show business.
Hopefully, at least one or two of the prospects has a good showing and secures a starting job for next year (Cardenas?).
If Barton appears to regain form in AAA, then bring him back up and give him a 1-2 month audition to save his job. If he looks more like 2010 Barton, he stays. If he looks more like 2009 or 2011 Barton, trade him, because his time as an A is over.
In the offseason, make a trade for a young bat. You're not going to get a sure thing, but you can get a promising player by trading pitching. Don't move Cahill or Gio, but Ross, Bailey or Moscoso, coupled with another player or two, could yield what we need. As much as it pains me to write it, trade Andersen if it yields a top hitting prospect; he gets injured way too much, and it feels so much like Harden 2.0. If his brittleness continues, then trading him in the offseason would be selling high while we can still get a good return.
In a way, not having a real first baseman seems like a good thing. Mediocre defensive players who hit well are often moved to first, so there should be plenty of promising first base prospects to target. Should the A's get one of those prospects, and a River Cat secures a starting job, then I think all they need is a mid-level free agent bat to solidify the lineup.
Possible free agent targets:
Omar Infante: He's having a bit of a down year, but if he rebounds the rest of this season, perhaps he could play third or short. Current line: .257/.303/.316, but .321/.359/.416 last year. 2.6 WAR last year
J.J. Hardy: Seems to be having a contract-year type of season, but he's a nice player. Current line:.305/.365/.538. 2.5 WAR last year, 1.9 WAR this year
Jason Kubel: He will be expensive because of the bad free agent class. Current line: .310/.355/.465. His career WAR is crappy, but he could end up a 2 WAR player this season.
- Kelly Johnson: Having a bit of a down year. I like him for the infield, but he's likely to be overpaid based on his power numbers. Current line: .210/.289/.414, but .284/.370/.496 last year. Absurd 5.9 WAR last year, 1.2 this year
That's all I got for you. As always, Go A's!