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A's Off-Season Pattern: It's ALWAYS Darkest Before The Dawn

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This one's for you, PT!

Litigation Café

Welcome to the Litigation Café, where the main entree is Chop Suey and for dessert you can claim a tort. Or if you prefer, two of you can order a large tapioca pudding and work out shared custardy. The bottom line is that the food will always settle eventually, so come on by. Just don't submit any briefs because we don't do that anymore.

On to baseball...

NOTE: Special feature coming at 6:00pm PST today! Noah Frank, the Media Relations director for the Fresno Grizzlies who was with the Chicago Cubs in 2008 and in the Texas League (San Antonio Missions) in 2009, will weigh in with an "inside look" at 3 players with whom he is familiar: Jake Fox, Bobby Cassevah, and Beau Vaughan. Stay tuned!

Beware of analyzing an A's off-season midway through. One thing that is comforting about having Billy Beane as your favorite team's GM is that you know he has a plan and that he's smart. That gives him two advantages over many GMs.

So far the A's have spent the off-season creating more holes, and only adding players who were available on the cheap because no one in their wrong mind would pay them very much based on the health and/or baseball ability they have shown so far.

That's because whatever Beane plans to do in the "big picture" scheme of the whole off-season, it's still ahead. Perhaps it involves signing Jack Cust after all and paying him less than he would have had Cust been tendered. Maybe it involves putting more FA dollars than we're expecting to the best hitter that the market overlooks. Perhaps this is another Winter where Santa will bring an unexpected trade right around Christmas -- remember that the Hudson, Mulder, Haren, and Swisher deals have gone down after the Winter Meetings, not during. It's tough when the subtractions precede the additions, but it doesn't matter in what order you do it -- what matters is how the roster looks at the end.

Here's what we know, and it's not much: In sizing up trade partnerships with other GMs, Beane found that in order to get the guys he wanted, he would have to part with players that are on his "untouchable" list -- these names probably include Suzuki, Sweeney, Anderson, Carter, Wallace, Cardenas. The A's are resolved to create a core of young, good players that can grow up and thrive together, and while Beane has said many times that no player is ever "untouchable," this particular rebuilding plan includes getting and keeping a key core that are here for the glory years to (hopefully) come.

So Beane can't easily address 3B, SS, big bat, without dealing the very players he is not open to moving. Good players aren't affordable on the FA market, and young players aren't even available. I could see the A's signing Glaus or Tejada as short-term stop-gaps, or trying to replace Cust's bat cheaper with a flyer on Delgado or Thome.

What I can't see is how the A's will continue to add young, up-and-coming pieces at positions that are still weak. Are Wallace, Carter, and Cardenas closer than we think, a la Anderson/Cahill? That's many ANers' nightmare: Start the service clock now, but why? Or are the A's just planning to be really uncompetitive, with a lousy left side of the infield and no power, for at least half a season until Wallcarternas are ready to take over? Or does Beane have something up his sleeve that I haven't thought of?

History would suggest the last one. And since it doesn't much matter what the roster looks like on December 13th, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. There will be additions. But who?

Brandon Inge!!!