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Midseason Offseason Grade: C+

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Giving the A's a C+ grade in the middle of the off-season is like giving the A's a C+ grade in the 5th inning of a game: It doesn't mean a whole compared to the grade you will give at the end of the game. However, while what isn't done isn't done yet, what's done is done and I would give Oakland a hearty "mixed bag!" rating for its off-season work so far. And a lot like the 2015 team, the biggest issue so far has been the inability to close out a promising start.

Rich Hill To Oakland For $6M (1 year)

How much stock do you put in 4 starts? Apparently quite a bit as the A's jumped on a chance to add Rich Hill to the starting rotation, guaranteeing him a spot in order to entice him to sign with Oakland. The owner of 4.54 career ERA, Hill is trying to be the next Scott Kazmir, signing with Oakland following a bounce back season in the big leagues. Well, not season so much as month.

The price is right: Few "middle of the rotation candidates" can be inked for just $6M. The upside is high and the risk is high. Hopefully the ERA won't be.

Grade: B-

Jesse Chavez To Blue Jays/Liam Hendriks To Oakland

One of the A's best trades so far may have been their first: Oakland sent free-agent-to-be Jesse Chavez to Toronto in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks. Not only is Hendriks coming off of a dominant breakout season, he has 4 years left on his contract and the A's were hell-bent on drastically improving their bullpen this winter.

It wasn't one of those slam dunk trades, so much as "give up something to get something," but to me it was a good use of the trade chip that was Chavez. Of course the fact that the A's are now trying to find a "veteran SP for the middle of the rotation" speaks to the impact of losing Chavez.

Grade: B+

Yonder Alonso and Mark Rzepczynski To Oakland/Drew Pomeranz and Jose Torres To San Diego

Yonder Alonso is the type of player the A's tend to appreciate more than most teams do. His loud flaw of being a 1Bman who rarely HRs is offset by the quiet value of last year's .364 OBP vs. RHPs and an excellent glove at 1B. Imagine if John Jaso could play a smooth 1B and you get a taste of what Alonso, who will turn 29 just after Opening Day, could be for Oakland. In Rzepczynski, the A's get a solid lefty reliever coming off of a statistically disappointing season.

Given how erratic Drew Pomeranz was, and how much he has settled into being primarily a reliever, one could argue the A's didn't give up a whole lot to get back an equally good reliever and a starting 1Bman. Perhaps the harder loss to swallow is the exciting Torres, who has no track record but has a chance to be good pitcher someday soon.

Overall, I think the A's got a lot more than they surrendered and this deal has a chance to go down as one of the more lopsided ones, in Oakland's favor, of all their winter transactions. Or the A's could rue the day they let Torres get away.

Grade: A-

Brett Lawrie To White Sox/2 Prospects To Oakland

Even though the A's didn't get that much back, I defended the trade of Brett Lawrie to the White Sox for pitching prospects J.B. Wendelken and Zach Erwin on the premise that both pitchers actually held some real promise, that Lawrie just isn't that good, and that the $4M or so saved could help Oakland land another key piece.

Well, so far that extra $4M has gone towards Jed Lowrie, John Axford, and Henderson Alvarez, not towards Scott Kazmir or that elusive left fielder. But while this makes me like the trade a bit less in context, I still think it was ok in a vacuum.

Grade: B

Jed Lowrie To Oakland/Brendan McCurry To Houston

The A's got Jed Lowrie for pennies on the dollar if you consider that Brendan McCurry is a 22nd round pick reliever who has never pitched above AA, and McCurry was all it took to pry Lowrie away to play 2B. Lowrie may not be flashy but he has a chance to be a league average 2Bman both offensively and defensively, and while "league average" does not excite the average fan it is also quite a bit to get for a AA reliever, even one whose 2015 season was of the breakout variety.

That being said, in committing to Lowrie one could argue the A's opted not to improve their infield another way. Is Lowrie good enough to commit to for two seasons and $14M? That depends on his ability to bounce back from a 2015 season that went steadily downhill and on Lowrie's ability to avoid the myriad "pesky/fluky injuries" that have plagued him throughout his career.

Grade: B+

Ryan Madson To Oakland For $22M (3 years)

The good news is that Ryan Madson is a really good reliever. The bad news is that he was also expensive and at age 35 he is a big risk to sign to a 3-year deal. Perhaps Madson's elbow is younger than the rest of his body, having done very little for the 3 years Madson was out of big league baseball, or perhaps his elbow is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode once and for all.

If the A's were a big-market team able to throw $22M at the wall just to see if it would stick, the Madson signing would be a great one. As you may know, however, the A's are beane-counters for whom money spent on this guy is money not available to spend on that guy.

The A's have spent a lot of money this off-season to improve their bullpen and now they are lamenting that they may not be able to spend so freely to improve their rotation or upgrade left field. Let's hope the A's have a lot of 8th inning leads this season.

Grade: B

John Axford To Oakland For $10M (2 years)

This one just has me shaking my head. John Axford is an above average reliever, but above-average relievers can sometimes be found for league minimum. In fact the A's might have two of them in Fernando Rodriguez and Ryan Dull, yet despite already having Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Liam Hendriks under contract for the next 3-4 years, plus Rodriguez and Dull behind them, Oakland found it necessary to create more depth -- depth that will push Rodriguez or Dull out of the initial mix -- in order to guarantee $10M to a very erratic pitcher.

Now the team is feeling the payroll pinch? How much of an upgrade is Axford likely to be over Rodriguez or Dull? Any? He will certainly cost $4.5M more. This move just seems gratuitous and makes me irritated every time I hear about Oakland running out of payroll flexibility.

Grade: D

Henderson Alvarez To Oakland For $4.25M (2 years of contract control)

I get this signing in that the A's need to try "low risk, high upside" players, like Brandon Moss was, like Jesse Chavez was, like Andrew Lambo is. That being said, there are 3 distinct reasons to worry about Alvarez:

- He is not expected to be ready to start the season.

- He is coming off of a shoulder injury that sapped 3 MPH off his fastball.

- Even healthy, his K-rates have always been strangely low.

So there is ample upside, but there is also ample risk that Oakland will throw away $4.25M. And if the A's are looking for April-May insurance against a Jesse Hahn breakdown, Alvarez is not their man.

Grade: C+

Now average all these grades together and you get higher than a C+ average. Here's the problem...The A's are running short on payroll flexibility, likely with around $10M of wiggle room, and the team still lacks a true #2 SP or the addition of an above-average hitter to the lineup. When the best hitter you add is Jed Lowrie (or is it your .392 slugging 1Bman?), and the most reliable SP you add is Rich Hill...well, some sentences don't really need finishing.

Not only is there currently not sufficient insurance against Hahn's elbow going snap-crackle-pop, but no longer does there appear to be money available to address it. And while Alonso's arrival could move Mark Canha permanently to LF, that's not the same as adding a solid LFer whose defense doesn't give back much of what his bat adds. Perhaps the A's obsession with the bullpen, at the cost of Jesse Chavez plus $32M, is coming home to roost.

The good news? January and February are still ahead before the roster takes shape in spring training. The bad news? The A's are running out of money because while negotiating with Scott Kazmir they chose to spend so much of their remaining payroll on an erratic reliever and an injured SP.

If the A's can find a way to squeeze a #2 SP out of $10M, I'll tip my hat and raise their grade accordingly. Or maybe Andrew Lambo really is the secret weapon that will help the A's party like it's 2012. Time will tell -- and the A's still do have plenty of it left this off-season.