Jul. 8, 2008; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane before the game against the Seattle Mariners at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, CA. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Grading The A’s Offseason


The A’s will certainly not enter spring as contenders for the American League West crown, but rather as a young team looking to surprise a few people. Oakland’s front office, beginning with Lew Wolff and the ownership partners, has signaled to the team’s shrinking fan base that the team has no intentions capturing the division’s top spot. Still, the team, as I’ve already suggested, is aiming to remain at least somewhat competitive and watchable.

The team dismantled their starting rotation this offseason, beginning with the trade that sent Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for a slew of prospects. Billy Beane and the rest of his brain-trust followed up the Cahill deal by sending their 2011 All-Star, Gio Gonzalez, to the Washington Nationals for even more prospects.

The two trades serve as a painful reminder that the Athletics are far from being a playoff ready franchise. It also reminds the fans of Oakland that the team has no future in Oakland. These deals, along with the decision to trade young closer Andrew Bailey to the Boston Red Sox, while discouraging to the average fan at first glance, may prove to be extremely rewarding in a few years from now.

These deals are also figured to help ensure the A’s watchability this year, too. The A’s made out pretty well in a few of the deals mentioned above and the prospects acquired in the Cahill, Gonzalez, and Bailey trades have helped replenish what was considered a very thin and dried-up Oakland farm-system.

Oakland also dealt Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman to the Colorado Rockies in an attempt to upgrade their feeble offensive attack. The A’s acquired outfielder Seth Smith in the deal, who will get his shot at everyday playing time in Oakland’s crowded, yet wide open outfield this year.

The A’s also acquired veteran pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon this offseason. Colon, who is coming off a 8-10 season with the New York Yankees, will likely serve as a solid veteran presence in Oakland’s young rotation this year.

Oakland also made a recent splash with the signing of Cuban star outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes. The A’s signed the power-hitting outfielder to a four-year, $36 million deal. The deal took many people by surprise, but the A’s fans that are still looking forward to the 2012 season have even more incentive to make it out to the Coliseum this year.

Nonetheless, the decision to sign Cespedes is filled with a mixture of excitement and unexpectedness. It’s also a sign, subtle or not, that the Oakland, while not a playoff caliber team, still intends to carry its own weight in the revamped AL West, a division that now includes Albert Pujols.

Cespedes is the type of guy Oakland has failed to attract via free agency, so the signing does give the team some much needed punch on the offensive side of things. While he hasn’t played a single inning in the North American system, Cespedes still figures to be a good first-year starter for the Athletics.

Overall, the offseason has been rather interesting and uninteresting at the same time. One the one hand, the A’s remain committed to their youth-movement, while also exploring the depths of the market for older, cheaper veteran players past their prime. Some of the deals this offseason may not have made very much sense, but this offseason was not a complete disaster.

With that, let’s hand out the grades…

  • Trevor Cahill/Craig Breslow Trade: The trade didn’t sit well with too many people, but the A’s ultimately made out O.K. in this deal with the Diamondbacks. The combination of Cahill-Breslow was enough to score a package deal that included top pitching prospect Jarrod Parker, right-hander Ryan Cook, and outfielder Colin Cowgill. Parker projects as a nice No.2 or No.3 guy, while Cook and Cowgill are just added bonuses to the deal. Grade: B
  • Gio Gonzalez Trade: It wasn’t easy, but the A’s ended up parting ways with their 2011 All-Star, Gio Gonzalez this offseason. The 26-year old lefty won 31 games over his final two seasons with the Athletics and helped net the green-and-gold four top-notch prospects from the Nationals farm-system. This beefing up of the farm-system made plenty of sense for the A’s, a team far from contention and with the intentions of rebuilding for the future. Gonzalez should make the jump from the AL to the NL nicely for the Nationals, too. The A’s acquired Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, A.J. Cole, and Derek Norris in the deal. Cole, though, remains the most interesting piece of the trade. He’s got front-line potential and could find himself in Oakland’s starting rotation in a few years. Overall, Beane did a good job with this deal. Grade: A-
  • Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney Trade: Now this trade didn’t hold up as well as the two previous ones before it. The A’s, in my mind, at least, didn’t get a whole lot in return for Bailey and Sweeney. In the trade, Oakland received outfielder Josh Reddick (Sweeney Ver.2.0?), Miles Head, and Raul Alcantara. It wasn’t overwhelming like the Gonzalez deal, though, that is a little unfair, isn’t it? Bailey has had questions about his health, so I guess the A’s got what they could for the young closer. Still, wouldn’t it have more sense if the A’s held on to Bailey and waited until the trade-deadline, when, presumably, Bailey’s stock would be at an all-time high to trade him? If he produced like he has been in seasons past early on this year, it’s safe to assume many teams would be lining up for his services at the deadline. Grade: C+
  • Sign Coco Crisp: The decision to bring back OF Coco Crisp angered some and pleased others. For me, I was on the fence on the whole decision to have Crisp return in 2012. The decision to bring him back at a cool $14 million, though, was bordering insanity. That’s a lot of money for the often frugal A’s, but I guess they had to spend some money in order to avoid rumblings from MLB and the union. Crisp is an entertaining and talented player, but is he worth $14 million Oakland signed him for? Probably not. Grade: C-
  • Guillermo Moscoso/Josh Outman Trade: Kudos to Billy Beane for spotting the perfect time to flip Guillermo Moscoso. The A’s acquired outfielder Seth Smith in this deal that sent Moscoso and Outman to the Rockies. The A’s don’t have many resources, especially cash, but one thing they do have is plenty of pitching. That commodity was definitely at play here in this trade with Beane giving up two pitchers who will have to adjust to different elements of Coors Field this year. Smith, 29, adds another option to Bob Melvin’s growing list of outfielders. He hit .284/.347/.483 with 15 HR and 59 RBIs last year with Colorado, and could prove to be a solid option for Melvin given that he’s offered more playing time in ’12. He struggled against lefties last year, hitting just .217/.272/.304 against them last year, but Smith still represents an upgrade in Oakland’s weak offense. Grade: B
  • Signing Bartolo Colon: This was another case of Billy Beane contradicting his youth movement. At 38, Colon is hardly the same pitcher that won the Cy Young Award a few years ago, but the thinking is that he’ll at least provide solid veteran leadership for a young starting rotation. He went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in New York last year, providing the Bronx-Bombers with a valuable presence at the back-end of their starting rotation. He also posted a 7.4 K/9 rate, 2.2 BB/9 rate and a 2.9 WAR last year as well. Colon also posted an encouraging 3.83 FIP and a 3.57 xFIP, too. Not a front-page deal, but the Colon signing does make some sense. Grade: B-
  • Signing Jonny Gomes: Yet another example of Beane searching the free agent market for cheap talent. The Crisp, Colon, and Gomes acquisitions sharply contrast the Cahill, Gonzalez, Bailey deals that added young talent to the organization. At 31, Gomes provides Melvin yet another option for his outfield in 2012. He hit left-handed pitching extremely well, while failing to hit righties. He could prove to be an exceptional option to platoon with either Reddick or Smith in one of the corner outfield spots when the team faces left-handed pitching. He hit .311/.407/.456 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 90 at-bats against lefties last year. At $1 million, Gomes may not fit the rebuilding phase currently underway in Oakland, but at least he’s not costing the team millions of dollars. Grade: C+
  • Signing Yoenis Cespedes: Now, this is front-cover news. The signing of the Cespedes, 26, was a huge shocker to almost everyone in the baseball universe as the A’s were the last team on everyone’s mind as the landing spot for the Cuban star. Oakland at the last minute, though, prevailed as the winning bidders in the Cespedes sweepstakes. It’s definitely a huge risk for the penny-pinching A’s since at $36 million Cespedes isn’t exactly cheap. Still, the A’s, in my mind, needed to take the risk; they haven’t been able to land a bat like Cespedes’ via free agency in recent years. This was the only way, then, for the team to land a solid hitter for their offense. Conventional wisdom suggests that once Cespedes’ four-year deal is up that he’ll get lured away from Oakland by the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, but the A’s, if they get approval for a new stadium, might be able to entice Cespedes to remain with the team for the long haul. There’s definitely risk, but the reward that comes with Cespedes could be worth the risk. Grade: A-
Final Thoughts: The A’s enter the 2012 season with some low expectations, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re a major league organization. Their biggest goal, then, should be to compete this year despite their current plans to rebuild. The front office may have waived the white flag a few weeks ago, but as the Cespedes deal suggests, this organization is trying to build a winner that will be relevant in the baseball universe for years to come. It won’t be easy and there will surely be some up’s and down’s, but the A’s are heading in the right direction. Problems with execution destroyed Oakland’s previous attempts at rebuilding, but we all hope that Beane & Co. have learned from their prior mistakes. Consistency will be key for this latest attempt at rebuilding this franchise.
Offseason Grade: B
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Tags: 2012 MLB Season A's A's 2012 Season A's Prospects AJ Cole Andrew Bailey Arizona Diamondbacks Billy Beane Bob Melvin Boston Red Sox Featured Gio Gonzalez Jarrod Parker MLB MLB Rumors Oakland A's Oakland Athletics Offseason Popular Trade Rumors Trade Rumors Trevor Cahill Washington Nationals Yoenis Cespedes

  • NTBADOA

    Beane took a 75 win team with a bottom 5 farm system and turned it into a 75 win team with a top 5 farm system, in my view, your grading is very low. This might be his best offseason ever in my opinion.

    I disagree with:

    1. Your Bailey trade analysis: he’s injury prone and has already had his best days, he’s no certainty to have as much value at the deadline than he did in this offseason. The Reddick = Sweeney 2.0 comp cant be more off-base, Reddick has good power, Sweeney has absolutely zero, I can’t think of two more different players. Reddick had a .457 SLG in 87 games last year, Sweeney will be lucky to ever get over .400 again. Reddick has 20 HR potential, Sweeney will be lucky to hit 3, if he stays on the field. The 2 prospects were both on Sickles top 25 Red Sox prospects, this was a whitewash deal by Beane that deserves an A grade.

    2. Crisp was indeed overpaid, but the MLB requires the A’s to use revenue sharing and the long list of players who have rejected Oakland in the past 5 years shows that they simply must overpay for hitters. They have absolutely no one ready to play CF unless you want to rush Grant Green, which just sounds like a terrible idea, so Crisp was a fine signing as he wanted to be here. Its sort of good press too, that he can say “hey its not THAT bad to play here”. At least there’s one guy out there who said that.

    Beane gets an A for getting Cespedes and completely rebuilding the farm in a matter of 2 months. Things were pretty dire, and now theyre looking on the up and up. If Uehara and Gonzalez come on board, the bullpen looks a lot better and he has more trade pieces to make the farm look massive going into 2013.

  • TimArmstrong

    I only see the outfield situation being beneficial if the A’s are somewhat solidly out of contention, and were acquiring assets to move later. Smith’s ok but 15HR at mile high can turn into 8HR in Oakland. Gomes is stupid between Taylor, Cowgill, Mitchell, even Green, you could find at least one that will out perform Gomes, and all of them have more upside. I like this offseason a lot more if the A’s move Gomes, Colon, Smith, Crisp even, and pick up some higher end prospects in the position dept. try to find a one for one similar to Zach Wheeler’s level when dealt. I think Taylor, Carter(Who so much more then most has struck me as someone who has had trouble psychologically settling in in the majors, its just a different player and swing when he’s here with no confidence.), and several other players should get there shot to prove it and lose for a while. I mean really what are the odds of the A’s competing this year with so many unknowns 4%? They will put more fans in the seats winning 65 games, but slowly having there prospects settle in, and start performing, then they will winning 75 games with an uninspiring squad of as good as they will ever be place holders. I think the teams unwillingness to give there AAA prospects a chance to see 250ABs to show what they can really do does nothing but further mess with a player like Carter’s head. Your aging prospect wise, and even though the team isn’t contending, you have a week tops starting to produce near league average or your out on starting, or back down. There are many well known stars thru the history of baseball that had a pedestrian first 150AB before they adjusted, and developed confidence. Wash 2012 out trade or release any cheap veteran that doesn’t produce, or does, and use this year to evaluate the system giving players shots at genuine playing time. All I have to say is the organization gave a lot for some of these guys, and hasn’t given them a fair shake, if 2014-2016 new stadium with a contender is the goal, then seeing which of these guys will pan out is imperative. They will undoubtedly continue moving their short term pieces with an eye to the future for the next two years, so they need to know what players they have are starters in 2014, and where they need to target in trades.

    Grade: sliding A (It all goes right by mid season vets played well got moved for more young talent, and other young talent steps in and establishes themselves) – C (Team deals players like Allen and Taylor never having given them a true look simply to watch them breakout elsewhere, and the mediocre vets are useless most showing depressed offensive numbers, so that nobody wants them in a trade. The team spends more to lose 100 games, and future talent, thereby completely negating the rebuild process.)

  • TimArmstrong

    @NTBADOA It’s not about whether the players he got in the trade were good, it for me is about what could have been gotten with more patience. I am positive that the argument can not be made, that Cahill or Bailey were anywhere close to full value. Cahill struggled after signing his contract last year, and Bailey with a healthy first half would be worth much, much more. Also for trading pitching the market just isn’t there now compared with July. Teams will bid against each other when less is available, and the player they want is performing right now. I can’t think that two contenders with injury’s wouldn’t have given the moon for Cahill, or Gio mid season, with good numbers, when the next best thing available is Wandy Rodriguez. Beane shot his load way too early, when he didn’t have to. AZ would have given Parker-Skaggs for mid 2010 Cahill at the deadline, and then some with not a lot out there, and him being there postseason ticket. Most upcoming free agent pitchers that are top level are playing on contenders, and wont be dealt. Oakland had stockpiled a soon to be very high demand commodity, and then sold at the buyers peak instead of waiting for the sellers market. The main point is between now and 2014 Beane could have gotten more in return for every player dealt, and still been setting himself up with guys ready to contribute by 2016 the earliest possible new stadium date. Why now?!!!!

  • RobertRutherford0

    @TimArmstrong Not always about HRs. Check Seth Smith’s home/away splits. Most people over look that, as he did play in a lot of pitcher’s parks in that division as well. Very consistent last season, with a solid OPS

  • RobertRutherford0

    @TimArmstrong @NTBADOA Have you not seen Cahill throw?? Wouldn’t be surprised if he has to get major surgery within the next two seasons. The A’s can’t afford to wait that long with such a restricted budget. Better safe than sorry, everyone knows that

  • NTBADOA

    @RobertRutherford0 @TimArmstrong @NTBADOA

    Cahill always just looked like Blanton 2.0 to me. I’d much rather have Parker.

  • NTBADOA

    @TimArmstrong

    The issue with your points are that you are relying on them all being healthy and good. Gio led the league in walks and has always had control problems, Cahill just was never an elite starter nor will he ever be and Bailey is never healthy and a closer. You are overrating those 3 players and underrating who Beane got back in return. He literally got a brand new bullpen with a higher ceiling: Anderson-Parker-Cole-Peacock-Gray in 2014? I’m drooling. Thats SO much better than Gio+Cahill its not even worth talking about.

    Getting an everyday OF in Reddick plus two top 25 prospects from a team like Boston is about as much as Bailey is worth. Teams are starting to realize that relievers actually are a dime a dozen, and not something you pay for in prospects. Look at the Rays last year, they threw away their pen and got an entirely new one with the same result. Look at Bailey himself: he went from a nobody AA SP to an all-star closer in a year. Relievers are massively overvalued and Beane got a fantastic haul for Bailey in my opinion. Head + Alacantra are the big pieces of that, two guys who actually are 2015 ETA guys. Reddick is just a nice piece to see what he can do over a full year whos ready now, he probably will put up the similar to numbers Willingham did last year, only with couple less dingers and outstanding defense.

    The thing that everyone who is spouting the “I dont know what Beane is doing here” rhetoric is missing: he will never try and put the best team he can on the field. Sure the A’s could have sat on their hands and gotten worse with a worse farm, but why? Beane loves winning and it kills him that the A’s aren’t, so he’s doing something about it, whether he knows when new stadium ETA is or not.

  • NTBADOA

    I’m also excited to see who else he can get for guys with not a long future left of the team: Suzuki, McCarthy, Braden, Smith, Gomes, Crisp, Kila, Taylor, Allen, Mitchell, Balfour, Fuentes, Reddick and even Anderson might not have a long term future on the A’s. If Beane could make some magic happen and turn that group into one or two everyday position players who are stars, the A’s could easily jump up to the Angels/Rangers level very quickly. That group is hardly table scraps. Really interested in seeing who he gets back for those, not to mention the possibly incoming but short termed Uehara and Mike Gonzalez.

    2014:

    1B:

    2B: Weeks

    SS: Pennington

    3B:

    C: Norris

    LF: Green

    CF: Cespedes

    RF: Choice

    DH: Carter

    SP: Parker-Cole-Gray-Peacock-Milone

    RP: FDLS-Cook-Devine-Ross-Dolittle

    Turn Anderson, Suzuki, McCarthy, Braden, Barton, Smith, Gomes, Crisp, Kila, Taylor, Allen, Mitchell, Balfour, Fuentes & Reddick into a star 1B, 3B and relievers and suddenly, the A’s are a beast.

  • RobertRutherford0

    @NTBADOA

    Agreed on everything. Sweeney was supposed to be that 20-20 guy that never panned out. If you think about it, Alacantra just needs to make the bullpen to show that this trade favored the A’s. I for one believe that if you have been missing on players and draftees that hold value, and your farm system is somewhat lagging, turnover is needed. Now look at the system. Top 10 if not Top 5, with 6 prospects in the top 100 according to MLB.com

  • NTBADOA

    @TimArmstrong “got a new bullpen” should read “got a new rotation” oops

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