2010 Offseason Primer

If you’re a lot like me you should probably seek a mental health professional.

Wait… wrong website.

If you’re a lot like me the 2009 baseball season is dead to you, the post-season and the World Series a mere footnote in your existence. The A’s are sitting at home after their third straight losing season and you want to know what Billy Beane and Co. are going to do to make the 2010 season a more enjoyable experience for you. Winning more than half their games would be a good start and I’d like to tell you how the A’s can make that happen.

Only one must learn to walk before they can run.

What I strive to do today is to lay the ground work for where the A’s currently sit as an organization; from there perhaps some brainstorming will be possible. Firstly, get thee familiar with Cot’s Baseball Contracts as they have to date info on the 2009-2010 free agent class including Type A compensation ratings.

Next, I’m going to share with a little project I’ve been working on. I started by ripping off the spreadsheet Jeff uses at Cot’s to display future payroll obligations and modified it to include 2009 service time and to list the remaining minor league options for Oakland’s current 40 man roster. The service time numbers should be accurate to within a day or two of the official MLB count which comes out in the Spring and it is unlikely that any discrepancy would result in a change in a player’s arbitration eligibility or future free agent status.

Open if ye seek knowledge.

Guessing arbitration numbers has never been one of my strong suits but I’ll take a stab at it to help bring the 2010 salary figures up to speed.

Mike Wuertz: $2.3 million

Jack Cust: $4.2 million

Scott Hairston: $2.0 million

Rajai Davis: $950 K

Joey Devine: $500 K

Santiago Casilla is also due arbitration this offseason but I’ll discuss his situation a little later. Kurt Suzuki comes the closest to Super-Two status but he falls about 3 weeks short the likely cut-off. All told my (very) tentative arbitration figures total $9.95 million. Add to that the approximately $7.15 million everyone with less than 2.130 days of big league service time will make in 2010 and the final tally is $36.35 million… but to play it safe I’ll call it $37 million even. The A’s had a $62.3 million payroll to start the 2009 season, I’m going to be ultra-conservative about the A’s attendance projections for 2010 and cut the 2009 figure by 20%. That would give the A’s an Opening Day payroll of $49,848,000 or $50 million to keep with my tendency for rounded numbers. So in theory, the A’s have $13 million in cash to play with this offseason.

We need to take a closer look at the A’s roster before discussing how the A’s should spend that money. Oakland (and every other team in baseball) has to submit their Reserve list (aka 40 man roster) by November 20. Any player currently on the 60-day DL gets added back into the mix. There are currently 41 names on Oakland’s 40 man roster, although 5 of those are free agents-to-be Justin Duchscherer, Brett Tomko, Bobby Crosby, Nomar Garciaparra and Adam Kennedy. All 5 are expected to file for free agency even though there seems to be some interest by both sides to see Duke and Kennedy in Oakland next year. That drops the protected list to 36 and the A’s have 6 players that need to be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December.

Chris Carter and Fautino de los Santos are near mortal locks to be added to the 40 man. Pedro Figueroa, Anthony Recker, Jared Lansford and Cory Wimberly are all at risk of being pursued in December if they are left exposed. Figueroa is a lefty with a pulse and a 90+ MPH fastball; the A’s have already indicated that they plan on protecting him this go-around. Recker impressed the organization with his development in 2009 and a catcher with his power potential would be easy to stash on a big league roster for a season as the back up backstop. Lansford has a power arm but some lingering make-up/health issues. Still, I think there’s a good chance the A’s find room to protect him because he’s Carney Lansford’s son and Dave Stewart’s client… both of whom are former teammates of Billy Beane. But it’s not just sentiment that would drive this decision. When Jared was drafted most teams preferred him as a pitcher but the Lansfords made it clear that Jared expected to sign as a position player. This caused Lansford to drop in the draft until the A’s were able to snag him near the end of the 2nd round when, lo and behold, Jared was more than willing to forsake his bat and signed with Oakland as a pitcher. I’m guessing some quid pro quo is in order this November. Wimberly is a guy the A’s like but I’m just not sure how he fits in an organization that already has Jemile Weeks in AA and Adrian Cardenas in AAA.

So how do we fit a minimum of 5 players into a 40 man roster with only 4 available spots AND allow for the A’s to pursue free agents and/or someone in the Rule 5 draft?

When I look at the current 40 man roster I see 4 players that I consider nothing more than dead weight. Santiago Casilla has pitched poorly the last two seasons when he’s been available to pitch, he’s out of options and he’s due a decent pay bump via arbitration. The A’s bullpen already has Bailey, Wuertz and Ziggy entrenched, plus Devine coming back and Jeff Gray, Jon Meloan and Henry Rodriguez waiting in the wings. The A’s have RH bullpen arms aplenty; there is no reason to pay more than league minimum to an ineffective pitcher like Casilla. On a similar note: Jay Marshall… why bother? He barely pitched in 2009 and when he did he didn’t do well. He’s buried behind Breslow, Blevins and now Kilby. The A’s can probably outright Marshall to AAA and re-sign him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Or he could sign elsewhere and no one would notice.

Tommy Everidge has a nice story in 2009, but what he offers as a player is somewhat limited. He’s a 1B with a bit of RH pop and he has the ability to play some 3B without causing a biblical plague to fall upon us. Chris Carter has the same limitations and a whole lot more upside, so why waste your time on the Albertson’s charcoal filtered vodka when Grey Goose is in stock at a lower price? Chris Denorfia is 29 years old, he’s out of options, he didn’t hit that great in AAA last season and his surgically repaired elbow is hurting him enough to make him pull out of Winter Ball. I’d rather have Recker or Lansford protected then keep Denorfia on the 40 man. Releasing all 4 players would create enough space on the 40 man roster to protect Carter, DLS, Figueroa, Recker and Lansford while still leaving 3 spots open for Rule 5 or Free Agent acquisitions and the organization wouldn’t have lost anyone they haven’t already replaced with better options.

There are other roster positions to consider as well, as 2010 strikes me as the year that the A’s need to figure out what they have in terms of position talent. Scott Hairston has been called out by the A’s management and while he’s currently the front runner to start in LF next year the organization needs to find out what Aaron Cunningham and Travis Buck can do. They each have 1 option year remaining but they have little left to prove in AAA. Does either one have a future in Oakland? Big league playing time is the only way to answer that question and if Hairston does not show the A’s that he is clearly the superior corner outfielder during Spring Training than Oakland might want to send him packing and let Buck and Cunningham fight it out in LF. Once the A’s know what they have in Cunningham, Buck, Hairston, Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney they’ll be in a better position to make informed decisions on the futures of Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and Jemile Weeks. Will those prospects be needed in the outfield or will they need to find homes in the infield?

I like the 1 year contract the Boston Red Sox gave Brad Penny last year. Sure, he didn’t work out in Beantown but the idea of a 40% cut in his 2008 base salary and incentives to cover if Penny started or relieved has merit. It looks like the A’s are going to shop for a SP during the offseason and I’d be curious to see what kind of traction they could get with a similar offer. The two arms that most intrigue me are Duke and Brett Myers.

Justin Duchscherer: $3.9 million salary in 2009

$2.5 million base

$500 K for 150, 160, 170, 180 IP

$500 K for 50, 60, 70 G or 30 GF

$1.5 million for 200 IP or 40 GF

Brett Myers: $12 million salary in 2009

$6 million base

$500 K for160, 170, 180, 190 IP

$500 K for 55, 65, 75 G or 35 GF

$1 million for 200 IP or 50 GF

I admit the idea of $6 million guaranteed for a bullpen bound Myers is less than appealing, but I’m not really expecting him to pitch in relief. It might end up that the relief portion of the offer is dropped altogether. In the "Go B.I.G. or go home" method of mayhem, signing both pitchers might be the best expenditure of funds available to the A’s. At $8.5 million guaranteed your maybe getting at least as much reliability (combined) as the Braves are about to get by re-signing Hudson at $9 million annual with the possibility of more production and better trade value. Pencil Duke and Myers behind Braden and Anderson and if they bounce back to their previous performance levels the A’s rotation will be much stronger than it was in 2009. That also means Cahill, Mazzaro and Gio will fight it out for the 5th spot with the losers of that contest being optioned to AAA to work on whatever needs a-fixin’.

What about 3B?

Chavez is as tangible as a mirage and the A’s are making noises that they’d like to bring Adam Kennedy back in 2010. Which kind of make sense if the A’s believe that Brett Wallace can eventually handle the hot corner in the Show. No sense signing Adrian Beltre to a long term deal if you’ve got Wallace maybe 3 months away, right? Problem is, every time someone from the A’s Front Office gets asked about Wallace’s defense at 3B they do the most exquisite dance to avoid answering the question.

The A’s have a plethora of arms in the bullpen and it would make sense for them to try and move some arms to patch holes elsewhere. Still, it’s been argued time and again how fungible relief pitching can be and smart teams tend to find quality arms on the cheap year in and year out. This would, of course, diminish the trade value of someone like Mike Wuertz who had the 3rd highest WAR score of any relief pitcher in 2009. And while there are some teams who suck at finding cheap pitching they’re at least smart enough to hide behind the refrain of searching for a low cost alternative. So I suggest raising the stakes and packaging Wuertz with Breslow. The two combined to throw 134 innings and earned 3 WAR for the A’s. They’re under team control for at least the next two seasons and they’ll cost under $3 million in 2010. There aren’t a lot of teams that are looking for bullpen help who’ll try and pull the low cost alternative argument in the face of that kind of cost and potential production. Breslow is easily replaced by Blevins and/or Kilby while the A’s have RH bullpen arms stacked behind Wuertz.

That’s it from me… you are now properly prepared to speculate about this off-season’s potential moves. Have fun!