The Oakland A's have some work to do in the MLB offseason if they are to remain a playoff contender in the American League.
In 2012, the A's surprised the baseball world, and likely many of their own fans, by winning the AL West and qualifying for the postseason. Once again, the cash-strapped A's had success with the now famed "Moneyball" approach.
While they do have a young and talented core, based on some of the players that they will lose this offseason, several areas need to be addressed for them to have any chance at repeating as division champions.
Some of the most important moves will be doing everything they can to not let those free agents get away from them.
The A's could choose to be more patient with Derek Norris and add a catcher.
The A's do have a young prospect in Derek Norris at the catcher position that did see significant MLB time last year. However, based on his production, starting the season at the Triple-A level may be the ideal option for him.
If nothing else, a veteran catcher could help bring him along. In light of that, acquiring a free agent catcher on a one or two-year contract would be a wise move to fill a hole for this A's club.
This offseason, the position seems to be filled with power bats. Beyond Mike Napoli, who will likely get a big contract in the coming weeks, are AJ Pierzynski and Russell Martin. It remains to be seen to what extent the bidding process goes for these two veterans, but it could very well remain within the A's range.
Both catchers would likely be looking for a one or two year deal, and would provide the A's with some much needed power and veteran leadership behind the plate.
Acquiring one of them, or another veteran free agent on the market, would allow the A's to be more patient with Derek Norris, and thus more comfortable with the catchers position heading into 2013.
Resigning McCarthy is priority No. 1.
Seemingly every year the A's lose some young talent because the player gets too expensive to retain. One of the A's biggest strengths in 2012 was their pitching staff, and they can't let it become depleted.
The A's have already resigned Bartolo Colon, but it is tough to know what to expect from him at his age and coming off of suspension.
The No. 1 priority should be to re-sign Brandon McCarthy, and take him off of the free agent market as soon as possible. McCarthy was one of the A's best pitchers in 2012 prior to his injury, posting a 3.24 ERA in 18 starts.
Even aside from McCarthy and Colon, the depth in the A's starting rotation could stand to be addressed. With a fairly deep free agent market this offseason, some options could fall within their spending range.
Beyond the top tier of starting pitchers are players like Shaun Marcum, who has long proven to be an effective pitcher in this league. The A's would be wise to enter the bidding for veterans like him that could bring a lot to this already quite successful pitching staff.
The A's can't afford to lose the production Stephen Drew brought.
With Stephen Drew being the top free agent shortstop, the bidding for his services could very could get somewhat expensive.
Although the A's are not a team to spend a lot of money in the offseason, considering how thin the free agent market is at SS, they need to do everything they can to resign him.
Drew provides their lineup with a valuable power-potential bat at SS, and solid defensive play in the field.
If the A's are not able to re-sign him, and would not be able to swing anything on the trade market, the production hit this position would take would be significant.