This post is not in any a referendum on the choices the A's made this past off-season. It is the strictest exercise in 20/20 hindsight, to see just how competitive the A's could have become in 2009 had they enjoyed the benefit of a 3-month preview. Could the A's, if they had guessed, gambled, and strategized perfectly, have put together a team that could have competed with the 43-35 standard currently being set by the Rangers and Angels?The FA signing coup would have been Russel Branyan, instead of Jason Giambi, to play 1B. Cheaper and younger, Branyan is sporting a rather stunning line of .294/.390/.592 (.982 OPS), with 20 HRs. Perhaps just as remarkably or more remarkably, Branyan has a .272 average and .931 OPS against LHP, against whom he is just a .219 career hitter (.775 OPS) in 10 seasons.
In trying to solve SS for 2009, the A's could have traded for Tejada instead of signing Cabrera, using the millions they saved by signing Branyan and not Giambi, Cabrera, or Garciaparra to pay for Tejada. This past off-season the Astros were trying to dump Tejada and his salary -- what they would have demanded in return is unclear, but chances are that a team willing to take on the salary would not have had to give up too much more to get a deal done.
The A's reluctance to consider Tejada might have stemmed in part from the fear that Tejada would have legal problems during the 2009 season, but this has not materialized. What has materialized is that Tejada is batting .329/.359/.470, including a nifty .333/.368/.508 line against LHP. Adjust that for the move from Minute Maid Park to Routine Fly Out Made Park and Tejada's hitting is not nearly as good (Tejada's road OPS is just .738) -- but still a whole heck of a lot better than any of the stati that the A's are currently quoing. As for Miggy's defense? Projected to be worse than Orlando Cabrera, but...In fact? Ah, hindsight.
So here's the lineup the A's could have tried, for the price of the prospect(s) it would have cost to take on $9-10million of Tejada's salary instead of signing Giambreriaparra:
Sweeney - CF
Cust - DH
Tejada - SS
Holliday - LF
Branyan - 1B
Suzuki - C
Buck - RF
Ellis/Kennedy - 2B
Hannahan - 3B
Your thoughts? Could this team play better than .500 ball behind the A's current rotation and bullpen? Or could the A's have done better than this with the same money? The A's are 33-45, but hindsight is 20-20...putting it 6 games up in the standings.