HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my baseballdad! Love you!
AN General Consensus on 2010 starting pitching: Weed out the best starters from this season and call it a rotation. See if Duchscherer can/will come back. Maybe add a veteran starter.
AN General Consensus on 2010 bullpen: It's one of the best in the league. It is unlikely that a reliever FA is needed. Jettison Casilla. (Side note: ANDREW BAILEY FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR!)
AN General Consensus on 2010 offense: It's fairly awful and is missing several pieces. You know, like hitters.
As much as I love Rajai Davis, never has the phrase "sell high" been more apropos. Unless we really believe he can hit .360 for half a season ever again in his career, it might be worth entertaining some offers. If not, we have a very fast leadoff or number two hitter for next season. The A's will also have to make a decision on Adam Kennedy (and third base), and it's possible they aren't fully committed to Jack Cust and/or Scott Hairston as full-time players next season. Have the A's found the shortstop answer in Cliff Pennington (and we're assuming that 30 year old Free Agent Bobby Crosby will finally leave Oakland) or are they still searching for something they haven't had since Miguel Tejada (coincidentally, who is a FA of his own this year)?
So who is out there for the A's to sign? View the 2010 Free Agent list. Some thoughts:
First of all, I would like to see the A's sign a veteran pitcher, even though I know the offense is the pressing concern. I have decided that John Lackey is too expensive, too elite, and too sought after for the A's to sign, and I liked Randy Wolf right up until he had an amazing season for the Dodgers this year, putting him out of reach, as well.
If we're going to have to play the game where we try to get someone on the (relative) cheap just before they have an amazing year, I would suggest one of the following:
Ben Sheets (MIL)
At 31, Sheets has missed the entire 2009 season due to surgery on his right elbow. He appears to be rehabbing with the 2010 goal in mind, and his injury may drive down his price, and his suitors. He is coming off a 13-9, 3.09 ERA, 1.15 WHIP performance in the 2008 season, with a career 3.72 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Heady numbers for a veteran who could anchor our young pitching staff.
Brad Penny (SF)
At 32, Penny was subpar for Boston in the 2009 season, and has been very good for the Giants in 4 starts. He has a lifetime 4.17 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, and his inconsistency might make him affordable. He has had some very good seasons, and has shown recently that he might be able to replicate them.
Erik Bedard (SEA)
At 31, Bedard was supposed to have been another elite starter in the Seattle organization for the 2008-2009 seasons, but injuries (most recently a labrum tear) have limited him to just 15 starts both last season and 2009. With a career 3.71 ERA and 1.32 WHIP (and a couple of elite seasons to show for it), Bedard would be an awesome pickup, IF he can stay healthy. His price will probably reflect the last two years, bringing him down into the A's range.
Now, what do we do about offense?
First of all, it is worth noting that the A's have both Chris Carter and Brett Wallace primed for a 2010 appearance. Buster Olney in his ESPN insider article gives the money quote from BP on the first-baseman Carter:
After leading the minor leagues with 288 total bases in 2008, Carter upped the ante a bit this year with 310, in no small part because he raised his batting average from .259 to .329. The A's have been desperate for any kind of real production from the first-base position for years, and they'll take a long look at Carter in the spring to see whether he is ready to be the answer -- and whether they can live with his hands of stone at first base. -- Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus
As for Wallace, that depends on if Chavez is truly done with baseball. I won't believe he can play until he is actually out on the field, and it's late summer and he's still playing. Despite the fact that Chavez is actually signed through next season, all signs seem to point to Plan B: a healthy third baseman that is not a fill-in (love you, Kennedy!). At least for next season, Wallace could play there, if the A's don't have a better option other than starting his clock.
Carlos Delgado (NYM)
The 37 year old first baseman is a free agent coming off an injury-shortened season (hip surgery) and could play first /DH for the A's in the role that Giambi was supposed to fill in 2009. He's two years younger than Giambi, and is still considered a real power threat. He is only 27 homeruns away from 500, so it's likely he wants to continue his career.
Aubrey Huff (DET)
Huff is having the season that no free agent wants in his last contract year. His batting average is 60 points lower than his 2008 numbers, and he's hit half as many homeruns (from 32 to 15) in the same number of at-bats in 2009. Still, Huff's track record suggests that he's a streaky hitter, and could rebound with a solid, if not great season. At 33, he can easily fill the role of 1B/DH (and can also play some 3rd) and if all goes well, could fill a power spot in the lineup. With his 2009 numbers, Huff will likely be undervalued by teams seeking power, and he may be available for a team like the A's.
Vladimir Guerrero (LAA)
At 34, it's likely that Guerrero has finished his years with the Angels, and even more obvious that he needs an AL home, since he looks to turn into the classic DH. A true Angel, yes, and would probably never agree to come to Oakland, but he can hit.
Nick Johnson (FLA)
Labeled as "injury-prone" for the last few years, the 31-year-old Johnson has had a great year for Florida this season at first base. His injury history may keep his price down, but this year shows he can still play.
Adrian Beltre (SEA)
Although discounted a notch due to his injury history, the 30 year old Beltre is still a Boras client, so it might not be worth the hassle, but the thirty year old still might well have life left in his career, even after a dismal performance this year in Seattle. Beltre was fantastic in Los Angeles in 2004, but never really panned out for the Mariners over the last five years, and has been plagued with injuries during that time. He comes with risk, but also a strong (and fairly young) upside.
Jerry Hairston Jr
He can play all three infield positions, and can also spell in outfield as needed.
Chone Figgins (LAA)
Will probably be too high profile for the A's, but the 30-year-old has all of the running numbers that the A's (might) be playing for in their recent shift. Again, he's a true Angel, but the A's could do a lot worse at third base.
Hank Blalock (TEX)
The 29 year old first baseman's price will probably be one the A's can afford. He has hit 25 homeruns in his 120 games this season, but his average and OBP are way down. He only played 58 games in 2007 and 65 in 2008, and he is four years removed from his great 2003-5 seasons. The question will be a) can he stay healthy and b) can he replicate the mid-2000's instead of the late ones?
And finally, we come to two of our own. Would you welcome back either Jermaine Dye or Miguel Tejada back to the A's?
Although the A's appear to be loaded in the outfield, Dye could be the kind of player that the A's would make room for. Pricey, yes, but still a legitimate power threat, and coming off a down season (where he still hit 27 homeruns).
Miguel Tejada (HOU)
Although his power has dropped considerably over the last few years, this
34 36 year old can still play some baseball. He's hitting .313 on the 2009 campaign, and can still play a little shortstop.