2012 was one of the great seasons of Oakland A's baseball. It gave us fans not only the lows of a nine-game losing streak, but the highs of clinching the AL West on the final day of the regular season. While Bob Melvin and his on-field staff deserve accolades for pushing the players to perform, you also deserve credit (and received it yesterday) in the form of assembling a team with shrewd trades and under-the-radar signings. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Bartolo Colon were all part of the team's suucess despite having been written off by other teams.
Now, however, with the departure of Cliff Pennington to the desert for Chris Young, the A's have solidified their outfield depth and defense at the expense of shortstop. While not much of a contributor with the bat, Pennington provided above-average defense at an up-the-middle position. There is a dearth of internal options, including Eric Sogard, Brandon Hicks, and Adam Rosales. Let's be honest here - none of those guys should be starting at SS for a contender. There is also a dearth of free agent options at SS. Maicer Izturis could be available for the right price, but he is essentially Cliff Pennington-four-years-older. Ryan Theriot is replacement level and below-average defensively, and older than them both. Alex Gonzalez is older still, had an outlier year with the bat (113 wRC+), and is likely declining defensively. Ronny Cedeno also had an outlier year with the bat and has never broken 2 WAR. None of those guys are going to cut it if you want to upgrade at the position.
Sure, it's possible a trade could be worked out, but you also said you wouldn't deal any arms for SS help. The Jays might part with Yunel Escobar... for Brett Anderson. J.J. Hardy might be had from the Orioles for a price in prospects. Elvis Andrus is most intriguing, but with Colby Lewis coming off of elbow surgery, I imagine the Rangers would want at least one pitcher, and maybe someone to play the OF with Josh Hamilton's all-but-assured departure. Jimmy Rollins might be had, but the Phillies may want to just pay his salary in exchange for the prospects needed to shore up their below-average farm system. In short, trading is going to cost you.
Billy, you always said you would think outside the box. Unexpectedly, the A's window of contention has opened up, and as you also said, the Angels and Rangers aren't going anywhere. Sure, the Mariners and Astros are bad now, but it won't always be this way. Right now, the out-of-the-box thinking is to sign Stephen Drew to a multiyear contract. It's not something the A's would normally do. Trading prospects only decreases the A's ability to compete in the future, and prospect valuation is only increasing. Plus, isn't Drew an A's-type signing anyway? His asking price can be negotiated lower with his injury history, and 3 years will be enough time for Addison Russell to develop at his own pace into the superstar we all hope he will become.
Open up Lew's checkbook, Billy. It's really the only way to go here. If Drew is injured or bad (or both!), then so be it. But at least you tried to put your team in the best position to achieve a true upgrade at a premium position.