Report Card: Grading The A's Busy Offseason So Far

The offseason is not officially over, so these grades featured throughout the post should be regarded as “in-progress,” and not final.

Heading into the 2011 season, the A’s are a vastly improved team, and should garner a little more support from sports writers across the nation than they did last season. The A’s, with an improved bullpen, and a retooled offensive attack, should be right in the mix with the Rangers and Angels in the AL West this year.

A’s GM Billy Beane, who watched his bay area rival San Francisco Giants win it all last year, has been aggressive this offseason while adding to his team both offensively and defensively.

Going into the offseason, Beane and Co. made it clear that they valued their core pitching staff, and would likely seek improvements via the free agent market.

Beane dealt young right-hander Vin Mazzaro in a trade to Kansas City to land OF David DeJesus, but other than that, the A’s have stayed true to their word.

The A’s  have kept their core pitching staff largely intact this offseason, and are expected to roll out a rotation that includes Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez.

The fifth spot is wide open, but likely candidates include Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy, and Josh Outman. Both Harden and McCarthy arrived this offseason, as part of Beane’s flurry of moves to deepen the A’s pitching staff.

Oakland’s front office also added pitchers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to the bullpen, which set to include closer Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Michael Wuertz, and Brad Ziegler to name a few.

Offensively, the A’s added DH Hideki Matsui, DeJesus, and outfielder Josh Willingham to the mix. Matusi, is no longer a spring-chicken at age 36, but the veteran should provide the A’s lineup with some much needed punch. In his first season with the Angels last year, Matsui belted 21 homers and drove in 84.

DeJesus, while not a power guy, should provide the A’s with some life as well on offense. In 91 games last year for the Royals, DeJesus hit .318/.384/.443 with 5 home runs and 37 RBIs. The 31-year old outfielder will play along side Coco Crisp, and newly acquired Josh Willingham in the outfield this season for the A’s.

Willingham, who was brought over in the trade with the Nationals, should also provide the A’s with some much needed pop. Willingham belted 16 home runs last season in 114 games with Washington.

He was limited due to injury, and while both DeJesus and Willingham have had their share of injuries, the A’s are optimistic that the two will be healthy for this season.

If not, the A’s could always turn to bench-players Ryan Sweeney, and Connor Jackson for help.

These moves on offense should help the A’s score some runs this season, and that is definitely good news for Oakland’s pitching staff.

Last year, the A’s led baseball with 103 quality starts. On the other side of the ball, however, the A’s ranked 28th in baseball with just 109 team home runs.

Finding a balance between offense and defense has been a problem for Oakland, dating back to the beginning of the team’s rebuilding phase following the 2007 season.

I still say the two sides are uneven, but Beane has done a good job trying to balance the scales this offseason. Sure, the A’s have stockpiled their pitching talent, but the offense didn’t go unnoticed.

Remember, the A’s did go after stars like Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, and Adrian Beltre. The team definitely gets an ‘A’ for effort in their Beltre pursuit. The A’s reportedly made the slugger a six-year deal worth somewhere in the range of $70 million.

Despite his shortcomings, however, I’d still give Billy Beane a passing grade so far this offseason. He’s done a pretty good job given his limited resources.

Final Say:

Offensively, the A’s still lack a true impact hitter, but adding Matsui, DeJesus, and Willingham definitely makes this year’s squad a little more dangerous than last year’s team.

The A’s success will come from their pitching staff, as the team is clearly built around that young and talented rotation. Harden’s return could benefit the A’s rotation, as the oft-injured flamethrower could fill the empty fifth-spot in the rotation.

Balfour, and Fuentes were great moves on Beane’s part, and the bullpen is now equally as dangerous as the starting rotation.

GRADE: B
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