The Winter Meetings are over. Like the Christmas season, the build-up to the Winter Meetings leaves some excited about the gifts under the tree and others envious of the gifts their friends got.
The Oakland Athletics are in the second category as they look at their divisional rivals.
The character Billy Beane lamented the economic structure of baseball in Moneyball. The real Beane must be reeling this afternoon after the activities of the morning.
The Angels staked their claim on the division for the next several seasons when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to long-term contracts. It's tough to know what the Rangers will do, but there will be some kind of response. Heck, even the Mariners are looking forward to getting in on the action.
Then, there are the A's.
Moneyball highlighted A's general manager Billy Beane's creativity in looking out at the baseball landscape for everyone else's trash. One man's trash is another man's treasure, as they say. The A's are okay on the infield in terms of fielding a team, but they have been looking in the dumpster for a passable offensive first baseman.
Daric Barton has had the job for a few years and is as solid as they come with the glove, but Beane wants more. Now, Barton has Chris Carter, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue to compete with him.
The thought process is similar to the idea of playing five different hands at the blackjack table. One of them is bound to beat the dealer.
The rest of the infield, counting behind the dish, are covered for the coming year. The combination of Kurt Suzuki, Scott Sizemore and Cliff Pennington may not excite anyone, but they are reasonably productive players who will keep the A's afloat.
Sizemore was surprisingly good after coming from the Tigers. Pennington and Suzuki had down seasons, but there is no reason to believe they can't bounce back.
The jewel of the group will likely be Jemile Weeks. Beane sent a personal favorite (Mark Ellis) packing to make room for Weeks. He is a speed threat who could turn into a star if he can find a way to get on base consistently. If he develops power like his older brother, he will be the Athletics' best player.
The team's depth chart in the outfield looks like a wasteland.
All three regulars were free agents. David DeJesus has already signed with the Cubs, and you have to believe that Josh Willingham is not far behind. He is drawing interest from several teams, and the notion of going back to Oakland can't be too appetizing these days.
Coco Crisp is also a free agent, but there hasn't been a lot of chatter about him this offseason. Beane would like to have Willingham and Crisp back if possible, but it may not be in the cards.
That leaves a short list of guys to take over. The aforementioned Chris Carter is the organization's best hitting prospect. He can play first base and left field, so he may draw the short straw and play left.
Ryan Sweeney was the regular center fielder before Crisp came to town, so he would be the logical choice to take his place should Crisp leave. If Crisp leaves, Sweeney would slide over to right field.
If not, they will use Michael Taylor. Taylor was one of the prizes from the Joe Blanton trade with the Phillies. Unfortunately, he hasn't been much of a prize to date.
If there is anything the A's do well it is pitch.
The combination of Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy will keep them in most games. Unfortunately, with the cost of business on the rise, Beane may have to part with one or more in a trade.
Out of the group, Gonzalez would probably fetch the most in return. So, look for his name on the rumor mills for the rest of the offseason.
Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman round out the rotation. Beane has made it a habit of bringing people in to round out the rotation, so don't be surprised if he adds someone in late January or early February to replace Outman on the depth chart.
Moscoso put up decent enough numbers for a fourth starter, so he should continue to get innings.
This is another relative area of strength for the Athletics. Andrew Bailey is a very good closer, but very good closers on teams like the A's are about as useful as sub-woofers on stock cars. Brian Fuentes has closed games before and Grant Balfour is a solid setup man, so the A's could easily move Bailey and get by.
Rest of the Offseason
Beane has to feel like he's carrying a switchblade against an army of tanks. Some have questioned his acumen the last few seasons, but he is fighting an uphill battle. Still, he has a few pieces he can trade to acquire some much-needed offense. Otherwise, he could be fourth in a four-horse race.