UPDATE: Susan Slusser reports that Brett Anderson has undergone Tommy John surgery. We all suspected TJ surgery was in his future, so at least it's happening now. Come back strong in 2013, Brett. Meanwhile, have some really good naps and be sure to tweet about them.
We've talked about the need for the A's to have stars somewhere in their lineup, so that players like Scott Sizemore, David DeJesus, Daric Barton, and Coco Crisp are being asked to serve as good complementary pieces but not as your core. The reality is that stars are difficult to acquire and that realistically it's likely that any stars the A's have will need to come from their own draft and development.
Carlos Gonzalez had the physical tools, but was quickly traded, and Michael Taylor had the minor league pedigree but has stalled something fierce. However, Jemile Weeks, with his athleticism along with some "X factor," looks like he might have the potential to be a "minor star" and Michael Choice, who has now spent a solid month making a mockery of single-A pitching at the age of just 21, gives rise to some legitimate hope that a star could be rising in the A's system.
But unless the A's bite the bullet and deal their best starting pitchers, we have to accept that it will be extremely difficult for the A's to acquire stars through free agency or trade, and hope that the farm system finally starts to produce position players worth building around. Meanwhile, it is essential that Oakland be resourceful in grabbing the opportunities that are there on the trade market -- and to give credit where it's due, the Scott Sizemore trade was a vintage Billy Beane acquisition that has the potential to be an "under the radar steal."
Where I get frustrated is when I see trades that have the A's written all over them -- only the A's weren't involved. This isn't a criticism, as I have no knowledge as to why the A's weren't involved. I just know they are "vintage A's deals" the A's didn't make.
The one that stands out to me is Mike Napoli. Napoli is a classic A's target, in that his low batting average and high strikeouts have made him generally overlooked as one of the game's excellent hitters. The A's also entered this past off-season clearly low on sluggers.
I always wanted the A's to target Napoli but figured the Angels might not deal him within the division to a team with whom they were clearly competing. Then he was dealt to the Blue Jays, who evidently weren't intent on keeping him. How good would Napoli look right now on the A's, as an option at 1B, DH, and C? Napoli was traded, as it turned out, to a clever AL West team that understood his value, for Frank Francisco and cash. That's it.
The other one that hurts also involved an AL West rival, and that was Arizona's inexplicable trade of Danny Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders and two minor league relievers. Now Haren has a no-trade clause, so we don't know if he would have approved a trade to Oakland. However, as far as I know he had a good experience with the A's and he wound up accepting a trade to California, so it's not a huge stretch to think he would have been open to accepting a trade back to Oakland.
Could the A's not have made Arizona an offer that was so clearly superior to the Angels' offer that even an idiot GM would have had to say, "OK that's better than the other offer"? You'd think. And if the A's had Haren, they actually could deal Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez for an impact hitter and be left with a very strong rotation.
There are only so many ways to get good. One is to be the team who identifies a star where no one else sees one, as the Blue Jays did with Jose Bautista. So far, so bad on that one for the A's. Another is to identify good players other teams are ready to cast off as if they were bad players. Hopefully, they've stolen one with Sizemore but their rivals have scored, where I wish the A's had jumped in, with Napoli and Haren.
Who are the other players you can identify, who might be significant additions but with whom other teams might be overly willing to part? Because until the A's are in a position to sign or trade for the great ones, they will need to be especially adept at getting in on the "good ones".