A's 2012 Team Preview

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December 14, 2010; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane addresses the media during a press conference following designated hitter Hideki Matsui (not pictured) signing with the Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Last year the Oakland A’s entered the season as a dark horse to take the American League West. This year, though, the A’s should consider themselves lucky if they finish third in the revamped AL West. The Angels added perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols and star pitcher C.J. Wilson while the Rangers added Joe Nathan and Yu Darvish this past offseason. That leaves the A’s and Mariners in a tough spot: the AL West cellar.

Many people around baseball see the Athletics and Mariners duking it out for third-place in the West while either the Angels or Rangers go on to capture the division crown. Bottom line is, the A’s are going nowhere this year. They’re simply not built to win this year. Anything close to a .500 record would, in my mind, anyway, be a successful season for Bob Melvin’s squad.

Last year the A’s went 74-88 and finished a whopping 22 games behind the division leading Rangers. That record was good enough for third-place in the division, but the A’s have lost a few pieces since closing out the 2011 season. Just take a look at some of the names the A’s lost this past winter.

Subtractions:

DH Hideki Matsui; OF Josh Willingham; OF David DeJesus; RHP Trevor Cahill; LHP Gio Gonzalez; CL Andrew Bailey.

While I would hardly call David DeJesus a major loss for the Athletics, I would say losing Cahill, Gonzalez, Bailey, and Willingham will have a significant impact on the team’s level of play entering the season. Willingham led the A’s in home runs (29) and RBIs (98) last year while Cahill and Gonzalez combined to win 28 games last year for the Athletics.

Losing two starting pitchers in Cahill and Gonzalez will likely have the biggest effect on the A’s this year, as their rotation now lacks a considerable amount of experience and know-how. To say Brandon McCarthy, a pitcher who did not pitch in 2010, is your number one starter says a lot about the type of depth your rotation has. Comparing Oakland’s one-two punch in McCarthy and grizzled veteran Bartolo Colon to the Angels’ Jarred Weaver-C.J. Wilson combo is, in itself, a joke.

The A’s did a nice job in getting some talent in return for Cahill and Gonzalez, but most of those young prospects aren’t expected to make much of an impact this year. Among those who might make an impact are pitchers Tom Milone, Jarrod Parker, and perhaps Brad Peacock. Milone, though, remains the most likely candidate to impress A’s fans this year as he played exceptionally well this spring in his bid for a spot in the rotation.

While the A’s relied heavily on their trade chips to restock and revamp their organization with young talent, Billy Beane & Co. did find a few ways to spend some serious dough on a few players. OF Coco Crisp, while not a new face to the team, was resigned during the offseason for a whopping $14 million over two-years. That’s some serious dough for a guy like Crisp.

The A’s also dished out another $36 million or so on Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and another $500K on Manny Ramirez. The A’s are, in essence, banking on the success of Crisp, Cespedes, and Ramirez (if he makes it through his 50-game suspension) this year. Crisp will likely hit near the top of Oakland’s starting lineup, with speedy 2B Jemile Weeks leading things off this season for the A’s.

Cespedes, meanwhile, remains the biggest question mark of them all. Sure, I’m interested in seeing what Manny can do for the A’s, but Cespedes is the real attraction this year for A’s fans. He’s got power, speed, and some nice glove-work in center field. Why else would the A’s openly dish out $36 million to the guy?

Key Additions:

OF Coco Crisp; OF Yoenis Cespedes; DH Manny Ramirez; OF Seth Smith; OF Jonny Gomes; RHP Bartolo Colon; RHP Jarrod Parker; LHP Tom Milone; RHP Brad Peacock

While some of these names may not excite most baseball fans, guys like Cespedes, Ramirez, Gomes, and perhaps even Colon, may help to drive in a few extra fans to the O.Co Coliseum this season. The A’s are waiting for a decision regarding their proposed move to San Jose, but the stingy San Francisco Giants are making things incredibly difficult for the green-and-gold to relocate. Until then, the A’s will likely rely on cheap sources of offense and star power to help rack up the wins and fill the stands with fans.

With that, here’s my quick preview of Oakland’s offense, pitching staff, and eventual place in the American League West:

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