Can you give us a brief rundown of the contract status of the A's core players - especially curious about Donaldson and Moss?
Sure. First, I want to say that this information exists at Cot's Contracts, now a part of Baseball Prospectus, and that's where I'm pulling it from. If you have a question about the contract of any guy on any team, that's the place to go.
It kind of depends on who you consider the "core" of the A's right now. These are the guys I'd call the core, if I had to pick, along with their contract status:
- Donaldson - Will be arbitration eligible after 2015. Free agent after 2017.
- Moss - Arbitration eligible through 2016. Free Agent after 2016.
- Cespedes - $10.5M owed in 2014 and 2015. Free agent after 2015.
- Reddick - Arbitration eligible through 2016. Free Agent after 2016.
- Crisp - A's exercised club option for 2014. Free agent after 2014.
- Parker - Will be arbitration eligible after 2014. Free agent after 2017.
- Gray -Will be arbitration eligible after 2016. Free agent after 2019.
- Straily - Will be arbitration eligible after 2015. Free agent after 2018.
- Doolittle - Will be arbitration eligible after 2015. Free agent after 2018.
- Cook - Will be arbitration eligible after 2014. Free agent after 2017.
If Grant Balfour departs Oakland through the Free-Agency market, will the A's look to promote a Closer internally, or will Bill Beane and the front office pursue a reliever on the open market?
It is all but set in stone that Grant Balfour will be wearing another uniform in 2014. The only thing left to determine is which one. While there are some reasonable options available via free agency (Crain maybe?), it seems very likely that someone currently in the fold will be named the closer for 2014. It is also possible that Doolittle, Cook, and Otero will all sharing closing duties in 2014. The A's could make a run at someone like Brian Wilson, who is a free agent and showed he has something left in the arm with the Dodgers last year, but I suspect he will get richer offers from another team
Do you see any players currently in the minor leagues making a significant daily impact with the Oakland Athletics in 2014, and how soon can we expect them to be on the major league roster?
As it stands, the A's have a very deep major league roster with little room for a AAA player to make a major impact in 2014. The only exception is Michael Choice, who will likely to be given a shot to compete for Chris Young's vacated spot of fifth outfielder. On the other hand, he finished the regular season on the major league roster, so that may not exactly fit the definition of minor leaguer.
The A's did sign Phil Humber recently, and while he may simply be minor league depth, it is possible he could fill a bullpen role, or even compete for the fifth starter job with Tom Milone, Dan Straily, and/or A.J. Griffin (depending on how the potential re-signing of Colon shakes out).
Which players can Billy Beane most effectively leverage through a trade in order to get another bat for the lineup or an arm for the bullpen?
The only potential piece would be Alberto Callaspo, who appears to be a reasonable option for the Yankees or Dodgers (among others) to fill-in at third for a year or so. He is also now obviated with Punto signed and him being a superior defender at the positions Callaspo plays. But, he is more of a role player, and would likely bring back a fringey position player prospect, or a bullpen arm at best.
I would argue that it is unclear whether the A's have the pieces necessary to acquire a truly impact player. Or, rather, they do, but they would also give up impact players in the process. Some might argue that it would be logical to sell high on Jed Lowrie while he is healthy, or even sell high on Donaldson coming off an MVP-caliber season. But then those positions have to be filled, and the A's have no clear answers to either shortstop or third base waiting able to fill in for the start of 2014.
As far as the bullpen is concerned, there are many options currently available on the free agent market, or potentially available in the future after Spring Training cuts who could full roles in the bullpen. It would be very surprising if a bullpen arm came via trade other than from an extraneous piece like Callaspo.
I'd also like to point out that several of these questions came from an AN reader serving in the Middle East for the Marine Corps. Thank you for your service, sir, and for reading AN from across the globe!