It’s still incredibly early in the offseason, and right now the free agent class for 2012-13 hasn’t even fully taken shape. But as teams are exercising and declining options left and right, the landscape of the offseason is beginning to become a little clearer. As we’ve seen over the past few years, just when you think you have it figured out, the tables are completely turned on you. Take for instance, the Detroit Tigers signing of Prince Fielder last year. They were only thought to have luke warm interest in the massive 1B, but when Victor Martinez blew out his knee, they well… pounced on Fielder with a $214 million contract. Prior to that it seemed like almost a foregone conclusion that Fielder would end up with the Washington Nationals. We all recall the advent of the “mystery team” which was the Philadelphia Phillies who swooped in and stole Cliff Lee out from under the New York Yankees noses. So you never really know what is going to happen, but I will be reckless in this case and attempt to predict what will happen, and what effect it will have on the Athletics prognosis for 2013.
The big fish in this ocean of free agency is Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. He’s been a beast for the Rangers, and an annoyance for the A’s, so I will not be upset to see him go. Although I do thank him for clanking that routine fly ball that helped the A’s snatch the AL West from the Rangers in game 162. When he’s right though, as he demonstrated early on in the 2012 season Hamilton is as good a hitter as anyone on the planet. Of course his past addiction issues, and continuing battle with those demons will give some teams pause when it comes to what kind of contract to offer him, but no doubt he’ll command a huge payday. There seemed to be some bad blood between Hamilton and the Rangers regarding his lack of production down the stretch, Jon Morosi tweeted this quote from Hamilton from the Bible, “If they don’t receive you in a town, shake the dust off your feet and move to the next.” Doesn’t sound like he feels welcome in Arlington any longer. It’s a distinct possibility in my opinion he could go to the Angels, who may be motivated to spend their way out of a disappointing 2012 season. For the Rangers though, losing Hamilton will be a big blow, weakening a team that already fell short of expectations.
The Los Angeles Angels have made one move already today, moving Ervin Santana off to the Kansas City Royals. They were probably going to decline his $13 million option anyway, but this move makes his departure 100% official. Dan Haren has an option for $15.5 million that seems highly unlikely to be picked up as well. Then Zack Greinke is a free agent and unless the Angels break the bank for him, he’ll be all but gone. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rangers make a run at him, considering they had strong interest in him around the trade deadline. If the Angels lose all 3 starters, they’ll be desperate for pitching this offseason. When they signed Albert Pujols last year I wasn’t worried about it, it seemed that aside from the presence of Pujols himself their lineup still lacked punch. Of course Mike Trout emerged as an instant superstar, and will be a thorn in the A’s sides for years to come. But with just Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson atop their starting rotation, it leaves much to be desired for the pitching staff as a whole.
With the Seattle Mariners and new arrival Houston Astros rounding out the new 5 team AL West, it seems like the A’s may very well be the favorites to take the division yet again. They already made on move in acquiring CF Chris Young from the Diamondbacks, and figure to resign SS Stephen Drew even after both sides declined their part of the mutual $10 million option. If Drew does indeed return, and the A’s are able to bring back Brandon McCarthy as well, I see no reason why they can’t repeat the success of 2012, and even build upon it. The team is stacked right now with young, talented, controllable players who largely should continue to improve next year. Sure there may be a sophomore slump a la Jemile Weeks sprinkled in here and there, it’s impossible to expect each and every one of them to automatically take a big step forward. The bottom line is this, the A’s have enough talent throughout the entire roster to have serious expectations for 2013. We all were forced to witness a massive ticker tape parade in San Francisco today, and there’s no reason to think there isn’t a chance a year from now we could see the same thing occur in Oakland.