The upcoming season would appear to be a wash for the Oakland Athletics.
After all, why bother pushing for a championship when you just traded your ace pitcher, and are moving a few BART stations south in a few years anyways?
I'll tell you why: young talent.
Sure, the A's traded away the reigning AL All-Star starter in Dan Haren, but who says you absolutely have to have a superior rotation to do well?
As long as Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin, and Rich Harden are still around (and healthy), the A's can plug 'n' play the rest of the staff.
Justin Duchscherer and Lenny DiNardo did a pretty good job last year in limited starting roles. Who knows what they're capable of given an entire season.
As far as the lineup, the most realistic possibility looks something like this...
1. Travis Buck - LF
2. Daric Barton - 1B
3. Nick Swisher - RF
4. Jack Cust - DH
5. Eric Chavez - 3B
6. Mark Ellis - 2B
7. Mark Kotsay - CF
8. Bobby Crosby - SS
9. Kurt Suzuki - C
To any non-A's fan there's a lot of no-names in there. But I'm here to tell you that no-names or not, these guys have bats—and they're not afraid to use them.
The first four hitters all had slugging percentages of over .455 last season, and they're all under 30 years old. In fact, two of them are under 25.
Daric Barton had nine doubles and four home runs in only 18 games with the A's in 2007.
Kurt Suzuki broke into the lineup about halfway though the season, and ended up batting .327—giving the A's a major upgrade at catcher over the inconsistent Jason Kendall.
Eric Chavez might be the only name in the group you recognize...and I consider him to be perhaps the weakest link in the lineup, first and foremost because of the injury issues he's had with his forearm.
Bobby Crosby and Mark Kotsay should also be lumped in the injury-prone group—but when they're healthy, both can be valuable assets.
Mark Ellis, meanwhile, deserves his own paragraph. The guy is nothing short of amazing at second base.
Ellis has committed a total of seven errors over the past two seasons, and has a career fielding percentage of 98.8 percent. As a bonus, he also hit 19 home runs last season.
Then there's Jack Cust. Jack was nicknamed "Babe Cust" by the local media last season, after finally kicking his career into full gear. Now that he's shown everyone what he can do, he's a great fit at the DH position.
Sure, Cust's name came up in the latest round of steroid rumors, but that's really neither here nor there, as he's still going to be a very strong bat for Oakland.
Finally, there's Oakland's closer, Huston Street. Street missed a lot of last season due to injury, but still had 63 strikeouts and only 12 walks. This kid is going to be a legend in Oakland when he's done if he sticks around.
For all this praise, I've only skimmed the surface on what these A's are capable of in the 2008 season. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch.