The Oakland Athletics have a few areas of concern heading into the final stretch of the season, with player extensions being an area Oakland will likely explore later in the offseason.
For the A’s, a player like Willingham, who currently leads the team in home runs and RBIs, is somebody worth bringing back in 2012. He’s been everything the A’s had hoped for entering the season, and while Willingham isn’t having that great of a season, he remains one of Oakland’s best overall players, if not the best player.
The A’s may, however, find themselves on the fence about bring back Matsui and Crisp back next year. While Matsui has had an incredible second-half, his overall numbers are down from last year’s totals, and it looks like he’ll fail to reach the 20-home run plateau this season.
At 37, Matsui isn’t getting any younger, so the A’s may be cautious about bringing the aging “Godzilla” back for another round in ’12.
For Crisp, who has seemingly enjoyed his time in the bay area, coming back to the A’s next year might cause another log-jam in the outfield.
The A’s have several players, including Michael Taylor and Chris Carter on the rise waiting for their shot at making it in the big leagues. It’s about time the A’s put some of their young talent to the test. Crisp has proven to be a very solid player for Oakland, but like many other A’s players, he has a history with injuries.
While the A’s may find themselves on the fence about bringing back Matsui and Crisp for 2012, the team shouldn’t hesitate exploring their options to strike a deal with Willingham this offseason.
Aside from Willingham, there’s really only one other player on the A’s roster deserving of a contract extension: Gio Gonzalez.
The A’s spent a lot, and I mean a lot of time rebuilding some of its pitching depth following the 2007 season, and the A’s would be foolish not to offer a contract extension to Gonzalez like they have with Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill.
This second “Big Three,” may not be as big as Oakland’s original trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, but it’s a big part of Oakland’s future. Keeping Anderson, Cahill, and Gonzalez together should be a priority for the A’s front office.
The A’s have a few promising position players waiting in the minor leagues, and getting them up to the big-league level is becoming more and more crucial to Oakland’s future success. Guys like Taylor, Carter, Michael Choice, Grant Green, and a few others figure to play large roles for the Athletics in the years to come.
Throughout this entire rebuilding process, the A’s have had a difficulty striking a balance between strong pitching and a strong supporting offensive cast. The A’s of the early 2000′s obviously had the trio of Hudson-Mulder-Zito leading the charge, but those teams also had run-producing offenses as well.
The A’s tend to wait until the offseason to talk about possible contract extensions, but I can’t understand why they’ve let talks with Gonzalez stall. The A’s extended Anderson last April, and Cahill received his extension earlier this year, so I’m not sure why the A’s haven’t locked up Gonzalez yet.
Statistically, Gonzalez has performed better than Anderson and Cahill this year. Anderson went 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA in just 13 starts before receiving season ending surgery. Cahill, meanwhile, has made his 2010 season look like a fluke, going 10-13 with a 4.20 ERA in 30 starts this season.
Gonzalez has his share of problems too, as he currently leads the American League in walks, but he’s performed pretty much like he did last season. He’s been a solid starter this season, and definitely deserves an extension. The longer the A’s wait, the higher Gonzalez’s stock will rise, so hopefully Oakland won’t wait too much longer.