The McCarthys (Amanda and Brandon) might not be in the Bay Area come 2013
Free agency is in full swing with the start of the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville Monday. While there are always rumors, nothing is definitive with the Oakland A's other than you just never know what Billy Beane might do. Well that and the departure of Jonny Gomes, who signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.
So of the remaining free agents the A's have left to try to re-sign, there has been no word one way or another how things will shake out. But that is precisely what this time of year is for: speculation. I'll throw my two cents in with the three players I don't see the A's retaining for 2013.
Inge was a catalyst for the 2012 team
The first player on this abbreviated list is last year's third-base catalyst, Brandon Inge. Coming in, Inge was thought to be a guy who could basically be a serviceable upgrade to the gruel that was early season Josh Donaldson and Luke Hughes (remember him?). This, of course, was made necessary after the season ending knee injury to projected starter Scott Sizemore on the first day of spring training.
But instead, Inge proved himself to be a great leader, solid (if streaky) power bat and absolutely fantastic at third base. Inge was so good at the hot corner, he merited a Gold Glove nomination despite playing fewer than 90 games total in 2012.
A season-ending shoulder injury prevented Inge from contribution late in the season and ironically may have sealed his fate in Oakland. That's because Donaldson came on strong (hitting over .290 in the second half of the season) and with Sizemore projected to return, there may not be a place for Inge to play on this roster.
Granted, I would love Inge in a utility position over the likes of Eric Sogard and "Skolnick" (aka Adam Rosales). But the reality is, Inge will be 36 in May. His season was solid enough that he could get consideration elsewhere, so hopefully he is able to latch on somewhere else if not with the A's.
McCarthy will be with someone come 2013 guaranteed
Brandon McCarthy is one of my favorite players. He is as entertaining as anyone on Twitter and over the last couple of years, has been almost as effective in his real job of as a starting pitcher. But coming off his scary head injury September 5 and combined with the surplus of young A's pitching, there's a good chance we won't see him (or his lovely wife Amanda) in green and gold.
McCarthy definitely has not had a shortage of suitors thus far, and though he has made it pretty clear he would love to return to Oakland, the A's may not have the leverage in the end to entice McCarthy to stay. Teams like Minnesota and Arizona are primed to throw bigger dollars at the lanky Texan. Ultimately, I think the gap in what he will be offered and what the A's are going to be willing to pay will be too great.
Adding to this is the fact that Oakland re-signed Bartolo Colon, essentially to be the veteran arm to stabilize a rotation of very young, but very good pitchers (Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin, and ace Brett Anderson). McCarthy is another guy I would love to see stay in the Bay Area, but likely will be moving on.
Drew would be an ideal guy to re-sign, but Boras is an obstacle
Oh yes, the six-week rental who played himself back into a valued free agent, Stephen Drew. Shortstop is still a position the A's have prioritized highest heading into this week's meetings. The reality is, Drew's interest is not as much of an issue as the man who represents him: Scott Boras.
Billy Beane is set to meet with Boras sometime this week in the hopes of moving closer toward a new deal between both sides. But Boras has a long history of drawing big contracts out of teams for his players. Drew should not be worth the $10 million mutual option Boras declined for him. But don't bet against Boras getting something similar. In that event, it is highly likely the A's watch Drew leave.
As a result, Beane is already looking at a contingency plan. If Drew doesn't re-sign, Hiroyuki Nakajima will definitely be an option at shortstop. The A's are not alone in trying to sign him, so it will definitely be an interesting few days and weeks as Oakland tries to re-tool at key positions. But in my estimation, Drew has played his last game in Oakland, largely because of his agent's likely demands.
Beane will be busy, whether during the winter meetings or after
Ultimately, there are always players a good team loses when trying to replicate its success. The A's have already had a couple of losses and likely will lose a few more. How they go about replacing those losses is the key component of the 2012 free-agency period.
Acquiring someone like Nakajima would be a very good value signing, something Beane is highly adept at doing. Despite always being hamstrung with a low payroll, no general manager in baseball does more with less as consistently as Beane has and continues to do. This offseason is less about making a proverbial dollar out of 15 cents.
No, this winter, it is about sustaining the dollar he made last offseason. Losses are okay, but finding the adequate replacements to those losses will go a long way toward re-sealing the ship that the A's rode to their first division title in six years. Losing players like Inge, McCarthy and Drew will sting. There is no doubt about that.
But getting players to ably fill their roles (and possibly exceeding them) is really what these next few days and weeks are about. The track record suggests Billy Beane is going to do that just fine.