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Assuming he is fully recovered, it appears likely the A's may lose Brandon McCarthy
There are only four unrestricted free agents after the 2012 season in Oakland, but all four represent tangible value to this club.
The one expected to be gone is Bartolo Colon. Getting suspended for violating baseball's policy on performance-enhancing drugs is a one-way ticket out of town, but let us not forget that Colon won 10 games by August and had the team's second-best ERA (3.43) among starting pitchers. That is a lot of production.
The most intriguing free agent is Stephen Drew. In 17 games with the green and gold, Drew has hit .254 and brought more of a threat to the shortstop position. Under most circumstances, I'd be inclined to say general manager Billy Beane would certainly want to bring him back.
The problem is Drew is due $10 million, making his return highly unlikely unless there is a September and October explosion. Even then, it seems unlikely given Oakland's payroll constraints.
A player I would like to see return, but may not ultimately is de facto ace Brandon McCarthy. His frightening skull injury thanks to Los Angeles' Erick Aybar may have hastened his 2012 season's ending, but there is a sense day by day that he will return to a capacity that will allow him to pitch going forward.
But with all of the depth in Oakland's farm system, chances are McCarthy will not be pitching with the A's.
Lastly, there is Jonny Gomes. A true team leader, Gomes has been a right-handed God send for the A's. In just 83 games, Gomes has slammed 16 home runs. My sense may be that Gomes has played himself into a better deal with more playing time elsewhere. A's fans know Gomes is the pride of nearby Petaluma, but the business aspects of Major League baseball might force Gomes away from the East Bay—much like Josh Willingham after the 2011 season.
Four players don't seem like much, especially when you have the ability to retool. But McCarthy and Colon combined for 18 wins and an ERA of 3.37 in about 65 percent of the time they pitched. Those are numbers that will be hard to duplicate. Gomes not only provided power and patience, but has been clutch consistently and is truly admired in the clubhouse.
As for Drew, the fact that Oakland's shortstop position is no longer a black hole offensively speaks volumes alone. If Cliff Pennington returns to that spot, the realization is that a .220-.230 hitter returns with it. Finding this type of production in a thin free-agent crop simply will not be easy.