If you're an A's fan, your team isn't playing any more but you watch some players who are and can't help but wonder how they might fit into a 2016 Oakland team or a team gunning for a deep post-season in the 2016-19 window. A look at some of them, one by one...
I keep coming back to Alex Gordon as a guy the A's could target if they wanted to get really serious about competing these next 4 years and were willing to open the pocket book a bit to make it happen. No, Gordon will not come cheap; in fact he will command more than the A's are generally prepared to offer in the free agent market, a place where players are routinely paid handsomely for past performance only to level out or decline.
But Gordon's skill set is a good match for the A's. He is an exceptionally accomplished LFer and a legitimate middle of the order bat, yet unlike fellow free agents Jason Heyward, Juston Upton, and Yoenis Cespedes, Gordon is not a highly publicized player with flashy skills. At 32 he is neither young nor old but should have several solid years in him. And as we have seen already this post-season he can help you win "on both sides of the ball".
We now digress, for a moment, to ask what the heck "on both sides of the ball" is supposed to mean? Offense and defense are not two sides of a ball. Does Alex Gordon help you win both on the stitchy side of the baseball and also on the not-so-stitchy side? Does he help you on one side of the ball by leaving his feet? Expressions are odd sometimes.
Anyway, count me among A's fans who would be fine with Oakland stretching its payroll for the 32 year old Gordon in order to set itself up nicely for the next few years. He might get "overpaid" but he is not likely to be as overpaid as many of his free agent peers. And he's really good.
Daniel Murphy has been nothing short of sensational this post-season and I would stay away from him. He probably increased his value by millions with his heroics against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Jon Lester , his alert clutch base running and even a spectacular defensive play to end last night's game.
The reality is that Murphy is not what he has appeared to be in a rather stunning, I have to admit, 7 game sample. He hit all of 14 HRs this season and it was a career high. He is an average defensive 2Bman. From his blasts against Kershaw and Lester, you wouldn't guess that he batted all of .254/.284/.349 against LHPs this season or that his line against LHPs stands at .271/.303/.371 for his career.
Let someone else gawk over a truly remarkable 7-game spree of greatness and offer an average 2Bman star money. He's good; he's just not all that.
A's fans know Yoenis Cespedes well, so what we have watched in the post-season comes as no surprise. All at the same time, Cespedes is an insanely talented athlete who can single-handedly impact a game with his bat, his speed, or his arm -- all of which have already been duly showcased in the post-season.
He also has some of the worst at bats you'll see, flailing at the same bad breaking ball over and over, swinging too hard at fastballs and sending a breeze through the crowd, and sandwiching the "start a key rally beating out a bouncer to SS" / "blast a 3-run HR into the upper deck to put the game away" with an easily overlooked 0 for 10.
That's Cespedes. If I were the A's, ultimately I'd have to pass on him only because he is going to get paid way too much. I would love to have him back, both emotionally and to turn LF from a weakness into a strength overnight, but the reality is that he is going to get paid a lot more than he is actually worth.
But man can he impact a game.
Also familiar to A's fans, what Ben Zobrist has shown us in the post-season is that he's just really good. The question, with Zobrist, is more how long he will remain a top player because he is 34 as he enters free agency for the first time. He is certainly a decline risk for a team offering a 3-5 year deal and there will be enough demand for Zobrist that you can expect he will land a deal closer to 5 years than 3.
For the A's, whose biggest weaknesses are currently LF and 2B, you have to think Zobrist is a terrific fit. But how much would the A's have to pay him, at age 37, in order to keep him in the fold for the coming seasons? And is that a good risk for an A's team whose biggest advantage lately has been their ability to avoid long-term commitments? Perhaps if they decide to make a significant multi-year commitment to a player it should be someone closer to their prime (e.g., Gordon) or in their prime (e.g, Wei-Yin Chen).
This is a tough one for me, but when push comes to shove I look at the fact that the A's do have payroll flexibility right now to set up a long-term post-season run and that they allowed a current star (Josh Donaldson) and a future potential star (Addison Russell) to get away -- and if they have a chance to land Zobrist it is probably worth the risk that he could decline or develop chronic injuries. That being said, you only have to look as far as Coco Crisp's locker to understand how this can backfire.
Your thoughts? Which one of these guys would you sign if you could sign one at the market price they are likely to command? Or is there another free-agent-to-be still playing that has caught your eye? Or are you solidly in the "none of the above" camp?