What's the Window of This Competitive Cycle?

First off, yay! We're totally on target with my plan to get the 2012 WC. Sweep the minnows (SEA, MIN, KCR) and go .500 against everyone else. Now, after basking in the glow of the present, I can't help but to dwell upon a suddenly bright future.

There's been a lot of chatter about the upcoming trade deadline. Where you stand on the issue of buy or sell in part depends on your opinions about competitive cycles and how to handle the peaks and valleys. In a stunning off-season that brought us Jarrod Parker, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Seth Smith, Tommy Milone, and Ryan Cook the A's have rapidly climbed out of Loss Valley and look to be on the cusp of traversing another Peak of Winning.

I thought now would be as good a time as any to review who from this current crop of bountiful talent will be under team control until when. I surfed my way down the internet over to the always handy Cot's Baseball Contracts website (seriously, you need to bookmark that site) to brush up on the status of the now competitive A's:

Here's who will be free agents after:

2012:

Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, Jonny Gomes, Travis Blackley (not 100% on this, one year minor league contract?)

2013:

Grant Balfour, Dallas Braden, Joey Devine (remember him?)

2014:

Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki, Seth Smith

2015:

Yoenis Cespedes, Brett Anderson, Cliff Pennington

2016:

Josh Reddick, Scott Sizemore

2017 or later (depends on awkward service time rules):

Jemile Weeks, Derek Norris, Chris Carter, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook

A couple of notes. For this list I included the possibility that the A's pick up all option years on all contracts. Suzuki will probably be bought out rather than brought back in 2014, especially if Norris can prove a long-term solution. For the 2017/2018 group, I did not try and figure out who's arbitration clocks started exactly when. Weeks for example is sure to hit free agency after 2017. Some of the other rookies could go a year or maybe more longer.

So, what can one make of these departure times?

I've seen the number 2015 pop up quite often on AN as "THE WINDOW", probably because that's when we lose both Cespy and Anderson. But the perhaps equally good Parker-Reddick core will be here 'till 2016. Norris/Carter/Parker/Milone could last 'till 2017.

We have a really good core in place for 3 more years after 2012. But we'll still have loads of talent beyond the departure of Cespy-Anderson in 2015. But there's no guarantee the surrounding pieces of the far future (2016 and beyond) will be at all good. Maybe you'd like to sell the farm some and build this team for this year and the next three, when you know for sure we'll be fairly strong. A short, intense peak of competition. Maybe you favor a slower burn, never building that 100 win monster team but keeping a squad that can routinely stay above .500 for many years, with guys like hopefully Cole stepping up to fill Anderson-like gaps.

I have a pretty good idea of the A's are going to play this. It's the same way the Rays do it and it's an argument not to sell the farm. We're going to do what we've always done - trade young talent years before the last season of team control. And hope the new talent coming in replaces every hole. Mulder beget Haren beget Anderson. Cahill beget Parker. Swisher beget Gonzalez beget Milone. Billy finally found himself some offense and he seemingly will always supply the A's with enough pitching to be competitive. It's an interesting take on the cycle - we never have been deep in a pitching valley, just needed the hitting to come back from the very deep trench it had been in and make it back to a peak. Or at least a HR-fueled bluff.

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