The Oakland Athletics curmudgeonly have packed up their wallets this offseason, a staunch stance in reaction to their present stadium woes.
Until they finally find their way to San Jose, the A’s front office has decided to temporarily forego any decisions regarding player personnel additions. Instead, they are preparing for a subtraction of several free agent veterans. Ultimately, the Athletics have done zero to meaningfully address their current roster.
As management ducks into limbo awaiting a decision to be made about their future home, the present makeup of the team itself continues to grow thinner and thinner. What will happen? Is everything really dependent upon Major League Baseball’s judgment on the territorial rights of San Jose?
Earlier this month, when the window for teams to negotiate exclusively with their free agency players was open, the Oakland A’s stood pat. No offers were made to outfielders Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp or David DeJesus, or designated hitter Hideki Matsui. With the MLB currently teeming about the ownership status of another team—the Los Angeles Dodgers—it’s safe to assume that the A’s will be keeping their checkbooks closed for a while this offseason.
A look at their current depth chart shows that the A’s really are hibernating this winter. Currently, due to the exodus of their aforementioned starting outfielders, Ryan Sweeney is patrolling all three outfield positions. Egad. That’s going to be really tough for him to do. Or it shows that there is no confidence in those within Oakland’s farm system. Either way, Sweeney should not be a starter.
But the Athletics’ stadium issues should not hinder the team’s necessity to still field a team. After all, baseball is not going through a lockout. There will be baseball next year. So why not at least assemble a roster? Why not participate and pretend to care about winning in the meantime?
Because of the uncertainty of where the A’s will play in the next couple of years, management does not want to spend money that could inevitably be applied to their move to San Jose. As such, general manager Billy Beane and the front office has decided to look forward to the Athletics being competitive after a stadium deal has been made—roughly three to four years from now.
The A’s are not going to look at signing any free agents or making any deals to bolster their roster for 2012, so maybe they should concentrate on which players could be available in 2013.
Prognosticating who could be of service from the 2013 free agent class, it’s likely that the A’s could still be shallow in a few of key areas: first base, third base and center field. Of course, Oakland is always looking for starting pitching.
The A’s have been trying to fill their hot corner spot ever since Eric Chavez turned to glass a few years ago, his body breaking down annually. Gazing at the field, Placido Polanco and Mark Reynolds are names that jump out. Polanco is a great defensive third baseman, but he will be 37 prior to the 2013 campaign. He would be a cheaper option but only for a year. Reynolds is intriguing, specifically for his monster right-handed bat. Additionally, he plays some first base, which could help the Athletics’ penchant for signing versatility.
Speaking of first basemen, the Daric Barton project is likely to be shut down this year and there are very few candidates within the A’s system to step in. Brandon Allen proved that his power is all that he has, and he didn’t even hit that many home runs for it to be relevant. The 2013 free agent class is thin at this position, with Ty Wigginton being the only viable candidate within Oakland’s payroll. Of course there’s always Jason Giambi.
The outfield is a bit more plentiful with center fielder Shane Victorino leading the class. Others include Marlon Byrd, Torii Hunter, Andre Ethier and Ichiro Suzuki. The A’s could make an effort to attain one of them in a trade this offseason; most of those players are past the primes of their career. The A’s should look a little further beyond 2012 to fill their outfield needs, especially considering their closed interest in Grady Sizemore.
But again, everything is reliant upon a decision about a potential move from Oakland. If MLB gives the A-OK, this could be a very exciting time for the franchise, as the wheels will begin churning about the San Jose Athletics and new ideas and iPhone apps will grow and marketing campaigns will be created. There will be a buzz, at least on the West Coast, about the movement of the team—and maybe then transactions will abound.
If there is no resolution on the relocation, there will be a dejected silence among the Athletics management. There will be few player acquisitions and deals to be in place, as the owners will grump into the winter with their head hung forward, sad and bitter.
Until MLB makes the call, the A’s should start looking at their future and fielding a competitive team. Maybe a call to some 2013 free agents. Just in case.