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I Took January Off, And Missed Absolutely Nothing

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MLB: ALDS-Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
“Yes, I’m serious — that’s what they offered me.”
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

So I finally downloaded some speech recognition software, allowing me to “write” articles on AN while I am nursing a nerve issue in my left wrist and elbow. Now I can write about all the great moves the eggs are making this off season -- oh wait they have done absolutely nothing for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Hang on, did it really type “eggs” instead of “A’s”? That’s too funny — I’m going to have to leave that.

So I hope I take to this speech-to-text thing. I figure it will work out fine, hang on mom don’t bother me right now I’m writing an article for my blog, oh great it’s typing everything I’m saying right now, but I guess that’s no biggie so long as I don’t forget to go back and erase this. Yeah, this is going to be good.

Okay, onto baseball, where the A’s appear to be determined to do as much nothing as possible despite so many obvious holes. Granted, the mantra is that the A’s have no money to spend but the reality is that they have to add a few somebodies before opening day.

Let’s start with the bullpen, where the team has already passed on quite a few available bargains thanks to the flurry of December non-tenders that offered many potential Christmas presents. Given their budget woes, and the need to replace free agents Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, and Liam Hendriks, why did Oakland pass up chances to sign Keynan Middleton for less than a million, AJ Cole (minor league deal), Matt Wisler ($1.15M)...

I suppose one answer could be that the A’s, internally, are not high on any of those relievers, but you have to wonder if any of the remaining available crop is likely to be any better or any cheaper. Perhaps you conclude that the front office has decided not to spend the little money it has on relievers, and instead is saving it for the middle infield. But who? Not Andrelton Simmons, signed for a very reasonable $10.5M, and certainly not Marcus Semien and his $18M price tag for only a single year commitment.

It’s as if the A’s have decided that they only have a few million to spend on the bullpen, 2nd base, and shortstop combined, but then still are passing up potential opportunities to trade for a Jose Iglesias ($3M), sign a Middleton or a Wisler, and so on. It becomes hard to envision whom they are contemplating they might add who will be any cheaper or better than the options on which they have already taken a pass.

And then comes a low point in the whole process, and that is the downright insulting offer — or was it even an offer — to Semien. In what shall forever be known as “Floating an Idea-gate,” we hear about $2.5M up front, and $10M deferred in 10 years of $1M payments. Bobby Bonilla is not jealous.

I suppose that “idea” is consistent with a team that just can’t afford the $1M or so needed to land Middleton, Wisler, or Cole (or the $3M to grab all 3), but then what IS the plan? To flank the exciting talent the A’s have with Pete Kozma, Nate Orf, Tony Kemp, and Sheldon Neuse? To acquire cheap talent by dangling a cheap farm and hoping to thin it out further?

If you want to get truly cynical, you could consider that ownership might be acting on the loss of 2020 revenues followed by the prospect of not having fans in the stands for much of 2021, followed by the specter of a lockout or strike battering the 2022 season. Then an offer of only “$2.5M down” on the market’s premier shortstop, and your own team leader, starts to look slightly less insane, kind of, sort of, maybe. Is ownership acting on all these premises? Perhaps.

Separately, it’s also troubling how the news on the ballpark has ceased to move forward entirely. It’s understandable that the pandemic would slow things down, but it’s not as understandable that it would bring everything to a complete stop. In 2020-21 environmental impact reports are being read, hearings are taking place, permits are being drawn, construction is happening. Not at the same speed, no, but also not at the speed of 0. There is something very unsettling about the complete silence, and lack of anything, for a year.

These are some dark days in Oakland for sure, and with Billy Beane seeming to have one foot out the door and with Bob Melvin’s contract up at the end of the 2021 season, who knows what the near future will bring.

In all likelihood, it will still bring a competitive team somehow in 2021, although just how competitive remains to be seen. But currently, the organization has the feel more of a place where personnel and fans jump ship than one which is excitedly celebrating the next era and ballpark.

Let’s hope February brings with it some hidden treasures, shrewd moves, and offers more answers than questions. Because January sure was a pisser. Go eggs!