Saturday, February 23, 2013

Offseason Review: The Oakland Athletics

Newly acquired Oakland backstop John Jaso will provide
a good hitting presence for Oakland.
Last years signing of Yoenis Cespedes by the Athletics both surprised and drew skepticism from many people, myself included.  The Athletics hadn't been expected to be anything special in 2012, as one of their division rivals (the Rangers) had made it to the World Series the year prior and another (the Angels) had made a huge move in signing Albert Pujols, arguably the best player in baseball at the time.  As it turns out, the A's ended up winning the AL West and made it to the 5th game of the ALDS before getting eliminated by the Tigers.  The result was a shift from an offseason strategy focusing on rebuilding, to one focused on sustaining success.
Hiroyuki Nakajima is just thrilled to be on the Athletics
The Oakland A's, synonymous with the Moneyball concept, clearly weren't going to go out and sign a player like Zack Greinke or Josh Hamilton, so the moves had to be strategic from an economic and baseball standpoint.  Earlier in the offseason, Oakland made moves to acquire outfielder Chris Young from the Diamondbacks and re-sign veteran RHP Bartolo Colon, who was putting up a good season in 2012 for Oakland before getting caught using performance enhancing drugs.  Later on the A's shored up some loose ends like acquiring shortstop Jed Lowrie from the Astros to play utility and platoon the newly signed Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima, and trading for good-hitting catcher John Jaso, who was acquired in the three-team trade that sent Mike Morse to Seattle.

While these frugal moves may effectively improve Oakland, it seems probably that a repeat is unlikely.  It may seem unduly cynical to be skeptical of a team's chances when they are fresh off of a division championship, but that championship can be accredited more on happenstance then Billy Beane's strategic prowess.  The Angels, acting completely the opposite of Oakland's stingy nature, signed 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton to an enormous five year contract.  The Rangers fall from the top was due to an unexpected collapse that was in no way predicated on the A's budget.  It's strictly an issue of opinion, but much like the Brewers and Orioles, teams carrying the burden of a small budget do, from time to time, need to stray from there usual spending habits in order to sustain their success.

So with the postseason officially over now that the first spring training game has completed, I can say that I think the Athletics had a just OK postseason.  There are plenty of good players (Sean Burnett and Dan Haren for example) who signed extremely team-friendly contracts, so affordability is not an argument.  Time will tell if the A's will see the postseason again in 2013, but I wouldn't count on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment