As wretched as the A's offense has been lately and as solid as the pitching has been for years, it is counter-intuitive to think that if the A's plan to contend in 2009 they most urgently need to use their resources to add a starting pitcher, not another hitter, to the current team. But as much as I would like to see Dunn's power, Furcal's non-Crosbyness, or Giambi's solid OPS added to the current offensive attack, pitching wins and currently the A's are poised to have too little of it for each of the next two seasons.
The acquisition of Holliday, with no guarantee of keeping him beyond 2009, signals to me that the A's feel more confidence than at any time since 2005 that Eric Chavez will be able to man 3B for a productive season and so I am going to make the assumption, for now, that he returns to the lineup as a middle of the order presence - even if it means 20 HR and 80 RBI instead of the 30/100 he used to accomplish. With Holliday, Chavez, and Cust flanked by Suzuki, Sweeney, Buckingham, the A's lineup is already improved from awful to ok. It's not great, but you can win with an average offense. The A's can't win with average pitching.
Right now the 2009 rotation has an ace in Duke, but one who cannot be counted on to make 30 starts. Gallagher is pushed way up to the #2 spot before he is necessarily ready to pitch at that level. At #3 you have to put someone who has not yet proven conclusively that he is more than a #5 - among your choices are Braden, Eveland, Gio Gonzalez - and if Mazzaro, Simmons, Anderson or Cahill emerge on the major league scene, it is unreasonable to pencil them in as high as #3 in their first season.
Enter Derek Lowe, a solid #2 starter whose value may get a bit overlooked amidst the drooling over Sabathia, Sheets, and Burnett. Now you can drop Gallagher to #3 in the rotation, the best of Braden, Eveland, and Gio to #4, another to #5. Rookies who come up have less pressure, as they can be tucked into the back of the rotation and can slide up to #3 or #2 come 2010, 2011. What a difference one addition to the front of the rotation can make - it's what the A's gave up in Joe Blanton.
I would argue that if the A's went out and signed Dunn or Furcal right now, they would still not be contenders in 2009 with the current rotation, but that if they signed only Lowe you could make a better case that the team would have enough pieces in place to compete as is.
Sure I'd like to see the A's add both another solid hitter and another solid starting pitcher. But given that Oakland only has so much payroll left to burn and given the importance of not giving up too much of the young talent, if the A's have one more key move they can make, let it be to add a good pitcher. Then inquire quietly about guys like Ty Wiggington and Ryan Garko, and see if you can piece together a few more runs on the cheap.
UPDATE: 8:14pm PST It has just come to my attention that LongTimeFan does not like Derek Lowe, does not want the A's to acquire Derek Lowe under any circumstances, and that it is important for me to clarify that the A's acquiring Derek Lowe would be a very ungood thing indeed. Please interpret this post as being only about "the concept of adding a pitcher around the ability level of Derek Lowe, but most certainly not Lowe himself." Thank you.