Howdy and welcome to the ASB, friends... I want to leave these excellent quatrains of Nicodamus up on the FP for today, as the BlogFather has said some things worth chewing on for more than just half of a Sunday, IMO. If you haven't as of yet, please read and comment on this piece on the Coliseum that I came up with late last week and of which I am marginally proud... otherwise enjoy the break and the All-Star Game tomorrow in which Gio Gonzalez will dominate his three hitters and singlehandedly cause a resurgence of Hope for the A's future that's largely disappeared of late.
Sure, the fan in all of us is impatient that the A's have not had a winning record for 5 years, but at some level most of us understand and appreciate that small-market teams are simply going to periodically have stretches of 4-5 down years to rebuild and that these past 5 years have followed a period of success from 2000-06.
The problem isn't that the A's have failed to be competitive for 5 years in a row. The problem is that right now, in the middle of 2011, the A's sit in a worse position than they did at this time in 2007, in every way. And if you're courageous enough to jump, I'll tell you exactly what I mean...
The current 2011 major league team is worse than the 2007 team was at the time of the A's big sell-off. But that's the least of the issue, because rebuilding is about looking beyond the major league team's current record and about setting the team up to be good in the future.
Since 2007 began the A's have been trying to rebuild their farm system, and trying to fill holes at various positions. I'm not going to count their regular draft picks as part of the "rebuilding" process, simply because the A's didn't endure a terrible record to get good draft position -- they have been drafting 13th-16th, which is what they would have done had they not dealt off Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, etc., but had just tried to stay as good as possible without rebuilding.
So where are we today? What has all the rebuilding over 5 years produced? Certainly it has produced the one thing the A's seem to be able to draft and develop, or sign on the free agent market: Pitchers. The rebuilding has produced Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Fautino de los Santos, without question.
How about position players? Fasten your seat belts and pop a few Tums. Position by position:
Catcher: Josh Donaldson, who isn't so much "better than you think" as he is "about what we thought," projects to be a backup catcher if he makes it at all. He's batting .262/.326/.458 as a 25-year old at AAA. Meanwhile the incumbent, Kurt Suzuki, seems to be getting worse offensively and defensively each year.
First Base: Daric Barton has had two bad seasons and one great one, has established almost no ability to hit for power or slugging, and is currently struggling at AAA. It is looking more and more like Barton will not figure in the A's plans for their next contending team going forward.
Chris Carter is believed to be unable to handle the position defensively, and is currently 4/30 with 4 singles in the big leagues. He really isn't in the 1B conversation going forward because sooner or later -- and I have a feeling it's going to be sooner, as in right about now -- the A's will finally conclude that he is a DH and that's where he'll land.
Second Base: It's great that Jemile Weeks has been a rare bright light, but he's not the result of rebuilding, he's the result of a mid-round draft pick. Adrian Cardenas doesn't play 2B anymore, and there is certainly no exciting 2B prospect ready for the big leagues -- which would still be helpful as that mythical player could be traded to fill another need. But he doesn't exist, as the A's rebuilding the last 5 years has not brought back a major league quality 2Bman.
Shortstop: Still Cliff Pennington. Grant Green, who may or may not stick at SS, was, like Weeks, drafted with a mid-round draft pick, and the rebuilding the last 5 years has not brought back a major league quality SS.
Third Base: Personally, I would not categorize Scott Sizemore as a "rebuilding" acquisition, because he was picked up as part of a series of "ordinary trades involving spare parts" that teams make all the time whether they're rebuilding or not -- Rajai Davis for two middle relief prospects, one of whom was dealt for David Purcey, who was then spun off for Sizemore. However, since it was a trade that happened from 2007-2011, let's add Sizemore to the conversation.
Sizemore has been a bright light. I'm still concerned that his line against RHP is all of .200/.276/.295, which makes him more like Donnie Murphy than any other recent comp, and no one has suggested that he will ever be a great defensive 3Bman, but he's done a nice job. Behind him? Nada. And by nada, I mean Kevin Kouzmanoff and Cardenas (who also isn't playing there anymore either). The only prospect you might get hopeful about for the near future is Steven Parker, whom the A's drafted. That's right: the rebuilding the last 5 years did not secure a major league quality 3Bman.
Outfield: Michael Taylor was certainly a nice try, but at age 25 he has rebounded from a dreadful AAA year to post "hold your own" numbers and nothing more (.273/.348/.454 with 9 HRs). After Taylor, you would have to go to Ryan Sweeney, a 4th OFer on any good team. And that's it. High upside players who might help turn this trainwreck around? Michael Choice is not only 2 years away, but he's also another A's mid-round pick, not part of the rebuilding effort.
What the A's have in the OF is a trio all poised to file for free agency at the end of the season, with no one on the roster, or in the wings, who appears to be a good bet to be any better than the incumbents who will be free agents.
The Scary Reality
Basically, when you look at position players now or in the near future, the best position player the A's have to show for 5 years of rebuilding is...Scott Sizemore. If you even count him, which you probably shouldn't . In which case it's Daric Barton, who appears to be able to OBP somewhere between .325-.393, with no slugging, at 1B and is currently in free-fall. And then it's...Sweeney?
Do you realize what an epic failure it is to rebuild for 5 years, and at the end of it not have improved yourself in the lineup any more than "maybe Scott Sizemore at 3B if you squint and even call that part of the rebuild"?
So it's either deal Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, and assure yourself of being terrible for another 3-5 years, or try to draw blood from a stone and find valuable players when you don't have valuable players you can offer in return.
The time to do that was these past 5 years. How did the A's fail at this so completely?