2011 melts away in the Texas heat

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I’ll just go ahead and say it: For my money the 2011 season is now over for the A’s.

Saner fans probably threw in the towel a while ago but I held out a shred of overly optimistic hope heading into this critical 4-game series against the Rangers.  My gut feeling was that anything less than a sweep or taking 3 games would stick a fork in Oakland’s fading shot at doing anything special this season.

After two largely uninspiring losses I’d have to say that manager Bob Melvin’s crew is pretty much dead in the water.  I just don’t see this roster making a mad dash to the playoffs in the second half of the season.  Having one of the best pitching staffs in baseball is almost worthless when you can’t score.

As usual, I hope they prove me wrong but with tonight’s loss to the Rangers the A’s are now 10 games out of first place in the AL West and 12 games under .500 with one of the weakest offenses in the history of the universe.

OK, the offense probably isn’t that bad but you get the point.

Most of the time it feels like a game is over as soon as Oakland falls behind by a couple of runs. More often than not that’s usually how things pan out by the time the final out is recorded.

That may be a little harsh so I’ll tip my hat a little bit and say that the A’s organization is delivering competitive, entertaining baseball to its fans … in Stockton. It seems like every time I check Twitter the Ports are mauling another team and Michael Choice is crushing another home run.

Hopefully his knack for the long ball doesn’t vanish into thin air when he leaves Stockton the way is has for Grant Green.

As I joked in a preview of this series that didn’t manage to see the light of day here at Swingin’ A’s and ended up on my personal blog, it’s finally time to put up an “Everything Must Go” tarp on the third deck of the Coliseum and start the fire sale.

Out with 2011, in with 2012 and beyond.  General manager Billy Beane is more than welcome to blow up most of the current roster aside from the core of the pitching staff.

Dump some salaries, bring in fresh prospects and open up playing time for some of the kids in Sacramento who may have something to offer to the A’s next contender.

Let’s face it, there was always going to be a massive amount of turnover from this season to 2012 based on the way the roster was constructed. Starting infielders Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis came into this season on 1-year contracts along with designated hitter Hideki Matsui and starting outfielders Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus.

A transition that looked like a tough winter project for Beane is now something he can get an early start on during a lost summer in Oakland.

So who do I think the A’s can offer up on the trade market? Here’s my list:

• Josh Willingham: That’s an obvious one and I’m sure the front office is hoping and praying that the Hammer’s Achille’s tendon stays in one piece for a few more weeks so they can get something in a trade.

• Coco Crisp: Jemile Weeks is ready to hit leadoff in Oakland for the next several years and Ryan Sweeney is more than capable of manning center field on an everyday basis. Unless the A’s think Crisp will net them a compensation draft pick when he signs elsewhere as a free agent after this season they might as well stick a “For Sale” sign on his batting helmet and see what they can get for him.

• David DeJesus: Considering how bad the season has gone for DeJesus I’m not sure the A’s can get much for him at this point but it’s worth shipping him out of town just to shed some salary and create playing time for someone in Sacramento like Michael Taylor, Adrian Cardenas, Shane Peterson or Jai Miller. I think Taylor’s the only guy in that group who has decent shot at being a special everyday player in the majors but it’s worth seeing what those kids can do.  At a bare minimum Cardenas may turn out to be a solid bench player since he can play mediocre defense all around the field.

• Conor Jackson: I know this is Melvin’s guy and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by CoJack this year but I’d rather see Chris Carter get a chance to figure things out in the big leagues and try to stick at first base. Moving Jackson off the roster would rob BoMel of the temptation to pencil Jackson into the lineup almost every day. Jackson should have some value to a National League contender in need of someone who can mash lefties off the bench and play halfway decent defense at first, in the outfield and at third.

• Hideki Matsui: I’m kidding myself if I think anyone would even trade a few rosin bags and an infield rake for the hollow shell of Godzilla at this point but I’m throwing him on this list anyway because the A’s could always use some rosin bags and an infield rake if someone’s crazy enough to play “Let’s Make a Deal” for Matsui.  The classy thing to do is let Matsui get his 500th career homer and then quietly cut him loose a couple of weeks later because designated hitter is another spot where Carter could get everyday at bats. I get the feeling that the organization isn’t sold on Carter but he could probably outproduce Matsui in his sleep right now if he was handed a full-time job.

• Landon Powell: Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid but I’m sure there’s a team out there that thinks they have a shot at the playoffs and could use a solid backup catcher. Powell may be a nice trade chip to throw in with some of these other players. As far as I’m concerned Josh Donaldson can step in as Oakland’s backup catcher and the A’s wouldn’t skip a beat. And even if switching from Powell to Donaldson makes the A’s skip a beat, that beat has played out as lackluster .433 baseball so what difference does it make?

• Kevin Kouzmanoff: I bet he has about as much trade value as Matsui at this point but I’d like to see the organization set him free and give him a chance to latch on with another Major League club that can give him some playing time. Kouz has always been a class act and deserves to move on.

• Brian Fuentes/Michael Wuertz/Craig Breslow/Grant Balfour: No, I don’t want to see all of these guys get traded but I think Oakland could afford to ship out one right hander and one southpaw and they’d be just fine. I’d like to see erratic but electric young reliever Fautino De Los Santos get steady work the rest of the season and moving a reliever or two would clear the way for him to show what he can do.

• Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy: Is Harden hurt yet? No? Great, package him in bubble wrap and send him to whatever team is willing to give up a Double A infielder with a high on-base percentage or a Single A relief pitcher with a big fastball and questionable control. That seems to be the typical return you get in this kind of deal. McCarthy has been a real bargain bin find by Beane and a delight to follow on Twitter but with his injury history and Josh Outman, Tyson Ross and Guillermo Moscoso ready to take a spot in the rotation the A’s can easily deal with losing McCarthy.

With all the roster turnover I’m proposing the A’s might as well start wearing Sacramento River Cats jerseys in about a month but I’m ready to see if there’s anything to look forward to in 2012 and the only way to do that is to wipe the slate clean and bring in some fresh new faces. Some of them can come from the farm system, some of them can come to the A’s via a trade but either way it’s finally time to start making a lot of changes.

My guess is that none of the players the A’s can offer up in a fire sale will bring back the young impact hitters they desperately need to contend in the American League for the next several years. But shaking things up will allow them to see if some of their kids are ready for prime time.

The A’s have to hope that Carter and Taylor are the real deal and prospects such as Green, Choice, Jermaine Mitchell and Stephen Parker come up in a year or two to solidify the lineup. The other options to find some offense are to take a big gamble by trading someone like Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez or grossly overpaying for a free agent like the Washington Nationals did with Jayson Werth.

Believe it or not, blowing up the roster and gearing up for 2012 doesn’t depress me at this point. Keeping this team together and finishing at .500 would be a waste of time and money. I’d rather see Oakland finish 10 games under .500 this season to earn a higher draft pick while developing some young players who’ll be part of a bright future.

Turning the page isn’t always a bad thing and I’m ready for the next exciting chapter in A’s history.

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