As disheartening as this season has been for the Oakland Athletics, there have been some bright spots, including the performances of starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Guillermo Moscoso, along with the standout season by potential Rookie of the Year candidate, second baseman Jemile Weeks.
But with 18 players who will be free agents this winter—10 of whom are eligible for arbitration—there are going to be quite a few decisions for Oakland management to make to determine next season’s roster.
While several players have produced admirably during a very trying season, there are others who did not do enough to ensure they will be back in Oakland in 2012. Every team in the MLB will make personnel changes as part of the continuous effort to improve their rosters. The toughest decisions come down to who will be re-signed and who will not.
This will be no different for the Oakland Athletics, who look to make the necessary moves to regain playoff contention. Here are five players who the A’s should not keep in 2012.
It has been a difficult season for the nine-year veteran. David DeJesus came to the A’s through a trade last winter with the Kansas City Royals. The right fielder is a .283 career hitter; but this season he is hitting a pathetic .237, to go with a .321 on-base percentage and a .696 OPS—all of which will be new career-lows.
Though never considered a power hitter in his career, DeJesus was acquired to bring some stability in the lineup, with a veteran experience as a good situational hitter and handler of the bat. Unfortunately for the A’s, he has not lived up to those abilities.
While he has provided a surprising amount of pop considering an overall lethargic season across the board (35 of his 103 hits have gone for extra bases), he has struck out at a career-high rate and grounded into a career-high 14 double plays. Those numbers are the exact opposite of what the Athletics had hoped for when they traded for him.
Ultimately, DeJesus was not the savior for the A’s, and he never did enough to grab a hold as the permanent right fielder. He is finishing the last season of his five-year contract, and made nearly $14 million in 2011. With a myriad of young talent in the farm system including Michael Taylor and Michael Choice, the A’s will let DeJesus walk this winter.
This decision should not be so difficult. Rich Harden came back with the Athletics, the team that drafted him and with whom he spent his first six seasons in the MLB. Always considered to be one of the most talented starting pitchers, Harden’s main flaw has been his frail health. And 2011 was no different.
Harden injured himself prior to spring training, and he began the season on the disabled list. Upon joining the team in July, Harden has had his ups and downs in the season’s second half. His consistency has escaped him; he has been unable to post excellence in consecutive starts all year.
His velocity is still quite impressive, but his repertoire is not as it used to be in his earlier stint with the A’s. It’s this predictability that has contributed to him allowing 15 home runs in 76.2 innings.
Though he did sign a relatively cheap $1.5 million contract for a nine-year veteran, Harden has done only enough to be considered a fifth-starter candidate. And while fans would enjoy having a recognizable face from the days of the Moneyball era, Harden’s 5.17 ERA and 1.42 WHIP are simply not worth keeping.
One of the bright spots in the A’s dull offense has been the steadiness and all-around play of outfielder Coco Crisp. Along with his table-setting at the top of the order, the 10-year veteran has also played a solid defense in center field. Those who predicted Oakland’s potential playoff run in 2011 pointed to Crisp’s play: As Coco goes, so go the A’s.
He has been quite a team player, batting leadoff for the majority of the first two months before shifting into the second or third-hole upon the arrival of rookie Jemile Weeks. As a result, Crisp has recorded a career-high in stolen bases to go along with 67 runs and 52 RBI, all while missing quite a few games due to various injuries.
Throughout the difficult offensive struggles for the Athletics, Crisp has been one of the few juggernauts whenever needed. When healthy, Crisp is an exciting player who burns opponents on the bases, at the plate and in the outfield. Unfortunately, he has not been healthy, having missed nearly 30 games this season after playing in only 75 games in 2010.
But the A’s cannot afford to have a key contributor missing so many games. The soon-to-be 32-year-old made $5.75 million in 2011; but with his inconsistent health, that’s simply too much money for the cost-conscious Athletics. Though he is quite an electrifying weapon, look for Crisp to have played his last season in Oakland.
Andrew Bailey is probably the toughest decision for the A’s this offseason from an economical stance. The American League Rookie of the Year in 2009, Bailey has not been able to keep himself healthy since, spending time on the disabled list this season and last.
This year, his numbers have greatly been affected by his injuries, as he has posted a dismal 0-4 record with a 3.49 ERA in 39 games. A far cry from his 1.70 ERA heading into the 2011 campaign.
Across the board, Bailey’s statistics have not met previous standards, especially being the Athletics’ closer. Still, he has recorded 21 saves and 40 strikeouts in 38.2 innings.
However, Bailey will be 28 next season, and it’s questionable whether Oakland will extend a long-term offer, given his health. He is an unrestricted free agent next year, and made a modest $465,000 in 2011. The problem for the A’s is that he is arbitration-eligible for the first time, and could cost the team upwards of $3 million dollars given his market value.
The A’s are not big on keeping closers for very long, so it’s a legitimate question whether they will keep Bailey at all. There is still belief in the organization in Joey Devine, who has still not come back all the way to form from the injuries that kept him out of the entire 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
And though right-hander Fautino De Los Santos is just a rookie this season, he has the fire power to mow down the opposition. It’s likely that the A’s will keep Bailey for one season; but they should take a hard look at letting him go at the risk of not being able to afford him.
Meanwhile, Dallas Braden is the toughest decision for Oakland from an emotional standpoint. Braden is the heart and soul of the Oakland Athletics, the city of Oakland and the Oakland fan base. He is tough, wears his emotion on his sleeve and is the type of blue collar performer who commands the respect of his teammates, opponents and fans.
That aside, on the field, he has not been so reliable, as he started only three games this season. The left-hander injured his shoulder and had season-ending surgery in May. And he missed several starts while on the disabled list in both 2009 and 2010. Needless to say, the A’s staff has been afflicted by the injury bug, no one more than Braden.
True, when healthy, he is a solid performer. This season he had a 3.00 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, albeit in a very small sample size. But 2010 was a breakout year, as he finished with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP, with five complete games, including his famous perfecto in May.
Unfortunately, a team cannot continue to hold their breath for one of its veteran starting pitchers. As Rich Harden has similarly demonstrated throughout his career, starters who are oft-injured at a young age will likely continue to get injured, more often and for longer periods of time. Braden has only pitched in 55 games over the past three seasons. That is not a good sign.
Braden made $3.35 million in 2011, and he is arbitration eligible this winter—likely to cost Oakland a similar amount next year. However, the A’s should really examine his healthiness this offseason before they make any rash decisions on the future of Braden.
He has been a driving force for the young rotation, but with the successes of Brandon McCarthy and Guillermo Moscoso, and with Tyson Ross and Josh Outman having made several starts this season, the A’s should let Braden be perfect for another team in 2012.