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Letting go of Gonzalez was a big mistake...

A's Billy Beane Faces a Crucial Off-Season This Year

A's GM Billy Beane has some work to do this off-season.

It’s no secret that the A’s biggest strength heading into next season will be their starting pitching. The A’s have essentially laid out all the foundation for yet another “Big Three” with Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez becoming the second coming of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito

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The A’s offense, however, will need more than just a tweak or two this off season. A’s GM Billy Beane’s number one priority should be to improve the offense this winter. The A’s ranked 17th in batting average (.256), 16th in OBP (.324), 26th in SLG (.378), and 21st in OPS (.721). Furthermore, the A’s ranked 28th in home runs with just 109 all season long.

Oakland did manage to scrape up 156 stolen bases (3rd in baseball), but than that, Oakland did not have a blueprint for success on offense. The A’s scored 663 runs (23rd in baseball), and simply is not enough. The A’s need to have a big bat somewhere in their lineup next season. The A’s two top power hitters this season were Kevin Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki. Kouzmanoff, who arrived to Oakland via trade with the Padres this season, did not have the type of season many expected him to have. Sure, he belted 16 home runs, but he hit just .247/.283/.396 in the process. Suzuki meanwhile, had somewhat a disappointing season at the plate this year. Suzuki hit .242/.303/.366 this year after hitting .274/.313/.421 in 2009.

It’s obvious that Beane has his work cut out for him this winter, and it will be up to him and his staff to put the A’s back on track for success. Although I’m an avid supporter of Beane, there are a few critics out there who take note of Beane’s recent mistakes. Since I don’t think of myself as being biased, here’s a look at some of Beane’s recent (not all of them) failures:

Remember him? It's Andre Either...in an A's uniform!

The A’s once had two outfielders in their minor-league system who played extremely well this year. Can you guess who they might be?

If you guessed Andre Either and Carlos Gonzalez, then you guessed right. The A’s traded Either back in 2006 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, in exchange for OF Milton Bradley. Bradley played solid over the course of the season that year (if you discount his time on the DL), and played extremely well during the ALCS.

Unfortunately, however, the A’s parted ways with the troubled Bradley in 2007. So much for that deal. Bradley hit .276/.370/.447 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2006 for Oakland. In 2007, in just 19 games with the A’s, Bradley hit .292/.373/.446 with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

Upon his arrival in L.A., Either has become an immediate sensation. Either hit .308/.365/.477 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 2006 for the Dodgers. This season, Either got off to an amazing start, and finished the year hitting .292/.364/.493 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. In his four-year major league career, Either owns a .291 average and has hit 98 home runs and 384 RBIs. This has to be one of Beane’s biggest mistakes ever.

The most recent mistake Billy Beane has made, and I will admit, I really hate this deal in retrospect, is the Matt Holliday trade. Last year, the A’s, for whatever reason, decided to stray away from their rebuilding process by adding some veterans to the team. Among those veterans was OF Matt Holliday. Holliday, who spent his entire career in Colorado prior to joining Oakland, hit .321/.409/.538 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2008, and Beane really must have coveted Holliday’s value because he sent pitchers Huston Street and Greg Smith along with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado in exchange for Holliday.

Sending Street and Smith away wasn’t a big deal, but Carlos Gonzalez was. Gonzalez played in 85 games with Oakland in 2008, and hit just .242/.273/.361 with four home runs and 26 RBIs before getting sent down to Triple-A. The A’s didn’t appear to like what they seen from Gonzalez, but in my opinion, they rushed Gonzalez.

Upon arriving in Oakland, Holliday never looked quite at home. He really didn’t seem connected with the team, and even when he’d hit a homer, he never seemed to be fully comfortable in Oakland. That’s not to say he didn’t give it his all, it’s just that he looked disconnected at times if that makes sense.

The A’s failed to get much out of the Holliday deal, as Holliday hit .286/.378/.454 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs in 93 games with Oakland. The A’s later traded him to the Cardinals in exchange for three prospects. 3B Brett Wallace was the prized jewel in the bunch, but the A’s later flipped him for OF Michael Taylor.

In his first season with Colorado, Gonzalez hit .284/.353/.525 with 13 home runs and 29 RBIs. This season, however, Gonzalez really broke out, and hit an incredible .336/.376/.598 with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs. If he were still with the A’s, he’d easily lead the team in homers, and RBIs. But, he’s not. He’s in Colorado…

Beane’s made other mistakes (Tim Hudson deal?), and these are just a few of them. Despite these deals, however, Beane has been able to put together a strong core of young players and should have the team on track next year if he addresses the offense correctly. The A’s will have plenty of pitching next year, but their offense is going to need more than Kouzmanoff’s team leading 16 home runs.

The A’s will have some money to spend this winter, and should have no problem pursuing players in the free agent market. Convincing players to actually play in Oakland, however, will be a bigger challenge. Remember, the A’s tried getting Adrian Beltre last winter, but he declined and went to Boston instead. The A’s can test the free agent market, or they can try putting together a trade with another team to land a bat or two for next season. Either way, Beane and Co. have some work to do this winter.

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Tags: 2010 A's GM ALCS 2006 Andre Either Baseball Beane Billy Beane Bradley Trade Carlos Gonzaelz Dodgers Dodgers Baseball Either Trade INF LA Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Holliday Milton Bradley MLB Moneyball NL NL West Oakland Oakland A's Oakland A's 2006 OF Promotions Statistics

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