It's no secret that the A's are built for depth. That doesn't mean it's "no biggie" when 40% of the starting rotation goes on the DL or that the loss for the season, perhaps into next season if not longer, of your projected Opening Day starter, is a mere bump in the road. Here are a few additional thoughts on the sudden losses of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin:
- If you gave me two choices, either that every team in the A.L. West could have a completely healthy season or that every team in the A.L. West could have a couple key injuries, I would opt for the former. But that's only because I hate to see guys get hurt, whether they're on my team or somebody else's team. You don't root for injuries; you plan for them.
Yet it's the latter scenario which favors the A's, because while Texas (and even potentially LAA) look competitive with Oakland on paper, it's when you remove a couple key parts from each team that the A's are left standing taller. It's not so much that Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are that much better than Parker and Griffin. It's that Colby Lewis v.2014, Tommy Hanson, Nick Tepesch, and Joe Saunders are that much worse than Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone.
So while I'm not happy to see Oakland and Texas each lose 40% of their rotation, it's "advantage Oakland" to see all those guys go down rather than none of them. Right now the Angels are the ones laughing because they just got a lot better by watching their rivals get worse. However, the moment those inevitable injuries hit LAA their laughter will quickly turn to tears as they go down a depth chart that is all chart and no depth.
- On the flip side, here's where the A's might have a problem: You don't get to declare your injuries capped just because they happen early. The odds of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, or Dan Straily getting hurt did not go down when Parker and Griffin did. The odds didn't go up either; they stayed exactly the same.
Lose 1-2 more starting pitchers and the A's are legitimately in trouble. Perhaps they had "2 injuries to give" in the rotation but they sure don't have 4. And there's no guarantee that the injuries have stopped coming. So now you have to hold your breath when Kazmir has "some forearm tightness; no big deal" where a week ago you would figure if Kazmir went down you had ample reinforcements to weather it for a while.
- Losing Parker is a blow, but where the A's dodged a bullet is that they hadn't yet done what they have done with so many comparable players and that is to buy out the contract's arbitration years, maybe even plus one season. The A's recently bought out at least the arby years for Dan Haren, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Had the A's committed 5 years/$30.5M to Parker -- as they did to Cahill -- Oakland would be on the hook for all of it no matter when or if Parker returned to the mound.
As it stands, not only is Parker under contract for only $500,000K this season but he will not be able to command an arbitration jackpot before he comes back and proves he can actually pitch. There's a reason the A's don't rush to extend players even when they're interested in doing so.
For now, all is still well with the A's as they continue to be as good a bet to win the A.L. West as any team. Keep the injuries coming, however, and full-scale panic will finally be warranted. But not yet.