The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings came to a close today. Often, this is the time of year when baseball execs and team front offices hash out the game plan for the upcoming year and discuss general topics regarding the state of the sport.
With the overall congregation of the leagues, it’s also a time to evaluate the game plan for each of the individual franchises. Which direction a particular team is going? What are the needs of each team? Which players are they willing to part with or looking to acquire? For most teams, the winter meetings are the forum for the wheeling and dealing of their fortunes. A time when teams huddle up and figure out what their needs are.
And the Oakland Athletics are no different.
The A’s have quickly found themselves in quite a few quagmires this offseason. Currently, they’re in the midst of ridiculously drawn-out decision on whether they will be allowed to relocate to desired San Jose. The process has stalemated to a point where the A’s are reluctant to make any offseason free agent purchases with their penniless capital. Meanwhile, they are hamstrung in being able to retain any of their own free agents (Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, et al.) All the front office can do is wait out this decision, all the while pinching every penny (more so than they already do) in order to conserve for future spending on a potential ballpark.
Meanwhile, A’s fans rejoice. On the edge of their seats. Standing. With noose neckties. Yes, it’s quite morbid to be an Oakland fan.
As a result of such organizational turmoil, the Athletics front office, led by general manager Billy Beane, arrived at the winter meetings possessing a very generous holiday spirit. Jolly Santa Beane has come prepared with a sack full of goodies to dole out to the excitedly wide-eyed owners of the MLB. This year’s most coveted toys on the market include the Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey action heroes. In fact, Beane practically towed his entire Oakland roster in his sleigh with no Athletic, save Jemile Weeks, deemed unable to be given away.
The widely known announcement of players for sale has owners in line to sit on Beane’s lap ready to profess their reasons for deserving such prized possessions. Like tiny tots standing in line at the mall, other teams are looking toward what toys they can get right now. Conversely, Beane’s sole responsibility this holiday season is to stock up his own stockings with a plethora of prospects in return. Unlike their near-sighted counterparts, the A’s are not gearing up for a competitive team next year—they’re instead mapping out a three- to five-year plan.
With the Athletics’ undefined future being so murky, the aim is to field a contender if (or when) they relocate to San Jose. Thus, the A’s are willing to offload their inventory sooner rather than later. After all, why would they want to invest so much money in a team that nobody watches? They can save that money now and spend it in a timely fashion for when their new ballpark opens.
That is why during this week’s winter meetings, the Oakland A’s took numerous offers from inquiring clubs, mostly concerning Gonzalez and Bailey. Gonzalez, the 26-year-old lefty starter, is being shopped around like a scalped pair of concert tickets. The 2011 All-Star had a breakthrough campaign last season, and his stock is widely considered to be trending upward.
Bailey, meanwhile, is a two-time All-Star closer and has 75 career saves in his three seasons in the big leagues. The 27-year-old right-hander has been one of the best young closers in the American League—when healthy.
The A’s are bartering with opposing general managers, hoping to replenish their depleted farm system by dangling their two most attractive shiny toys. But any Athletic could be leaving Oakland at any time.
As such, the A’s could be completely unrecognizable next year. In fact, they’ll likely to be referred to as the Oakland Anonymous. Just faceless green-and-gold jerseys running around the bases.
Instead, the A’s will probably be composed of several players-to-be-named from the many trades they will surely pull off in upcoming weeks and months. With no intention (or money) of signing free agents this offseason, this will be a very important period for the A’s and the future of their organization. It’s not a matter of who will be traded, but rather when and to where?
Yes, during this holiday season, the Oakland A’s are proving that they are in a giving mood. And Gonzalez, Bailey, et al., could likely be gone very shortly.