This is the view from behind homeplate now and until April. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE)

Offseason Prognostications From the Swingin’ A’s Crew


As we embark on the second season of baseball, the Hot Stove season, all the members of the Swingin’ A’s crew will answer a few burning questions about the impact of 2012 in the present and the future of the Oakland Athletics.

1.  What 2012 weakness for the A’s absolutely needs to be addressed during the offseason?

2.  How do you think the perception of the Oakland Athletics as an organization has changed in the Bay Area following the success of the 2012 season?

3.  After the Athletics 2012 season, their early offseason moves, and their projected increase in payroll, what impact do you think these things will have on the A’s future in Oakland?

4.  The AL West expands to 5 teams with the Astros moving in. They were the worst team in baseball and not expected to contend. The A’s, Rangers, Mariners and Angels will each play them 19 times next year. What impact do the Astros have on the A’s and division?

5.  What should the A’s do with the outfield now that they have 4 starters?

 

Sean Davis, Editor

1. Above all else, the glaring weakness that may have perhaps derailed the 2012 playoff run for the A’s was the catcher position.  It may be the case that Derek Norris can be the catcher of the future for the Athletics, but it became apparent that he simply is not ready to be the starting catcher of a Major League team.  His bat was clearly suspect at times, but his defense both behind the plate and throwing the ball left a lot to be desired.  One way or another, either a new long term solution needs to be found, or an effective stopgap until Norris is truly ready to take over.

2.  Prior to 2012 the Athletics were bordering on being a laughing stock.  Their stadium situation, their payroll, their roster was not giving anyone hope for the present or the future.  With their amazing success in 2012 there is a strong feeling of hope surrounding the team.  While people will still look down on the A’s because of their situation, they can fall back on what happens on the field for a source of pride.

3.  It’s hard to predict anything will sway Lew Wolff from his stubborn stance that Oakland is not an option for the A’s new stadium at this point.  But if the A’s field a successful team again in 2013, which I believe they will, and the fans start to show support again then someway, somehow they can force the ownership to make it work in Oakland.

4.  The Astros are in a deep rebuilding mode, and barring a 2012 Athletics-like leap back into contention, should be for the coming years.  In 2013 they will probably have their sights set on 100 losses yet again, and will therefore be a means for the other 4 teams to pad their records.  I will say though moving forward, I am not looking forward to dealing with Carlos Correa.

5.  I believe it will serve the A’s well to keep all 4 OFs in the fold, and work Chris Young into the lineup somehow.  Coco Crisp needs to be the everyday CF, if nothing else for the purpose of keeping him happy.  He wasn’t happy early in 2012 when he was moved to LF, and he didn’t play particularly well, once he moved to CF though he took off and so did the A’s.  Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick will need some half days off from time to time as well and can DH while Young takes the field.  The bottom line is if the team is winning, everyone will be a team player and roll with whatever Bob Melvin puts on the lineup card.

 

Andrew Brown, Staff Writer

1.  Getting on base. The A’s went for a more power approach this season which had its’ positives but also cost them in the postseason. The A’s need to look for an offensive player who hits for average or hope for bounce back years from Coco Crisp (provided he isn’t traded), Jemile Weeks, etc. Resigning Stephen Drew may be a step in the right direction. They need back up plans for scoring runs when the power struggles.

2.   I, unfortunately, do not see a major change in perception. While 2012 was fun 2013 will really show if the positive change the team saw towards the end of the season was temporary of if it will continue on. Attendance needs to be strong early on next season to prove the A’s have the fan base they deserve.

3.  As previously mentioned I, again, do not see a major change. Until the stadium situation is resolved the A’s will be at status quo from the prior few years.

4.  The Astro’s moving into the AL West gives the A’s 19 times to play winnable games. This is a welcomed addition, especially after a tough end of season schedule.

5.  I see them trading Coco Crisp ultimately. Crisp’s offense has slowly declined over the past few seasons. Chris Young provides decent defense in CF plus adds power and average to an already ok offense. Crisp would be a welcome trade candidate to many contenders with his above average defense and speed. This could net the A’s a good prospect to continue replenishing the minors.

 

Kevin Mendez, Staff Writer

1. Considering the 2012 Athletics achieved the improbable and won the American League West, I do not think there is a “weakness” in the team that needs to be addressed through an acquisition.  The team was plagued by injuries throughout the 2012 season.  Staying healthy in 2013 will be the most important thing for the A’s moving forward.

2.  I think the Oakland Athletics have rekindled their flame of triumph and have become a feared team, not only in the Bay Area, but throughout the country.  They were not taken seriously by anybody in the world of Major League baseball and everyone thought they would dismantle by season’s end. Since that did not happen and they knocked off the two elite franchises in their division, the A’s have prevailed as serious contenders.

3.   I think that the success of the A’s 2012 season alone has saved baseball in Oakland.  I also think that the projected upgrade in payroll and the off-season moves will show the Athletics fan base that the organization is striving to better the team which should encourage higher attendance—which will up the chances of the A’s staying in Oakland that much more as well as create the same environment at the coliseum that was displayed in the final weeks of the season. The authorities of the Oakland Athletics finally seem to be doing their part, now the destiny of the franchise could very well be in the hands of the fans.

4.  Although the Houston Astros were one of the worst teams in the MLB last year, I think they are better than what they presented in 2012.  They are a team filled with young and upcoming talent, but I do not see them having much of an impact on the A’s.  I think they will only have an impact on the division as a whole and they are still a couple years away from becoming a threat.

5.  The fact that the Athletics now have four legitimate starting outfielders is a very good thing.  Besides Josh Reddick, the outfield was plagued by injuries throughout the season. Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespdes missed a lot of time, so having the fourth starting outfielder gives the A’s much needed depth.  It also allows them to platoon the outfielders between their outfield positions and the designated hitters spot—it also gives them more flexibility when they need to give players rest.

 

Devin Pangaro, Staff Writer

1.  If there was a negative to extract from 2012, it was the very fact that the A’s set a record for most strikeouts as a team. I’d like to see a team wide improvement to limited the number of k’s, especially with runners in scoring position. It may be difficult with players such as Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, and Brandon Moss who have a propensity to strikeout at a very high rate while still being productive, but in a game of adjustments changes must continually be made.

2.  For the first time in years, A’s fans can hold their heads up high. Of course, in a year the Oakland Athletics are put back on the map, the crosstown San Francisco Giants have to win the World Series. Despite having to endure an awful parade for the 2nd time in 3 seasons, A’s fans can take solace that they finally have an enjoyable, marketable, winning team with a bright future. Quite simply, we’re no longer the Chokeland Pathletics, and after this season it’s obvious we have the respect of the league. Now it’s up to A’s fans to come out in 2013 in full force, and show that the excitement and the packed house of the ALDS was no fluke and that the passion and love is real.

3.  Like Doc Brown said “the future is what your make it”. In this case, it feels that everyone from Billy Beane to the players on the field are invigorated by the year the A’s had on the field. Whether this translates over to Lew Wolff, and he has a change of heart regarding keeping the A’s in Oakland or selling to a buyer who does remains to be seen. One thing, is certain. The A’s have a solid core of players who should keep them competitive for the foreseeable future, and this should keep the fan base interested in the team.

4.  The sad reality is that barring a miracle, the Astros will be the punching bag of the American League. As any Rangers fan can attest to, Texas has padded their lead in recent seasons by beating up on Houston during interleague play. Now it’s everyone else’s turn, and how severe they are beaten may be the difference in who wins the division.

5.  Many fans are in an uproar over the possible position displacement or departure of Coco Crisp. I asked everyone to hold on. Injuries, especially in the outfield have been all to common place in recent years and having four quality outfielders in Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chris Young can pay dividends over the course of a 162 game season. More than likely, everyone we’ll get their chance to play and the team will better off for it. With Jonny Gomes unlikely to return, the fourth outfield can double as the Designated Hitter against left handed pitching keeping their legs fresh as the season progresses.

 

Joseph Lopez, Senior Staff Writer

1. The A’s had plenty of things going right for them in 2012, but the team’s hitting remained shaky. Oakland’s bats were very much streaky throughout the course of the season, and in the second-half, the team’s power was on full-display. The A’s hit 195 home runs in 2012, which ranked 7th in the majors. Oakland also led the majors, however, in strikeouts with 1,387. The team’s swing-for-the-fences mentality was not always a pretty sight to behold, but it worked sometimes this season. Going into next year, though, it would be nice to see the A’s cut back on the strikeouts and be a little more disciplined in their approach.

2. The A’s surprised just about everyone in the baseball world in 2012. No one and I mean no one predicted the A’s to do very much in a stacked AL West this year. After 94 wins and a division crown, the A’s should enter 2013 with very different expectations. The A’s are relevant again and with a young team that is essentially under control for the years to come, this organization should excite the Bay Area for years to come. With experience this young Athletics will only get better.

3. The A’s demonstrated that they could attract big crowds in Oakland this year. Much to the dismay of Lew Wolff, who wants to relocate the team to San Jose, the A’s surprised everybody in the Bay Area and won 94 games with a team largely consisting of no-names and rookies. Bud Selig hasn’t provided the organization with an answer regarding their relocation bid, and after their stellar ’12 performance, things should only get more complicated. An increase in payroll should allow the A’s to stay even more competitive next year with the front office adding more complimentary pieces to the team. If the A’s put a winner on the field, the crowds, as demonstrated throughout the team’s final home stand and postseason run, will come out to the ball park.

4. The addition of the Astros does bode well for the A’s, Angels, Mariners, and Rangers. With the Astros, the AL West expands to a five-team division. Other than that, it really doesn’t change much. The division should still remain a three-team race between the A’s, Rangers, and Angels. The Astros are rebuilding and it will take a few years before they become much of a threat to the rest of the division.

5. The A’s have a surplus of outfielders going into next year, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The A’s have been hit hard by injuries in recent years and having Chris Young now on the team, Oakland has plenty of options to go with in the outfield. From Yoenis Cespedes to Josh Reddick, the A’s are stacked with great defensive outfielders. Should one of them go down due to injury, Oakland has the depth to ride out an injury to any one of their starting outfielders.

 

Dhiraj Madahar, Staff Writer

1.  Biggest weakness is at catcher. There is a lack of experience and consistent offensive production, and these are combined with a startling inability to throw out baserunners. Kottaras and Norris need to step up into the “average” category for them to truly be assets.

2.  The general perception hasn’t changed much as they’ve always been the underdog due to their payroll restrictions. Next year they’ll be expected to be competitive for another playoff birth whereas the past few seasons the goals were mainly player development as opposed to on-field success.

3.  The impact will be minimal at best. If the 3 World Series appearances in the late 80′s/early 90′s and the Moneyball era weren’t enough for the City and County to make strides towards a new stadium, its doubtful that in a worse economy that the 2012 season will change this. The fans would love for the team to stay in Oakland, but Lew Wolff seems intent on exploring all other options first. Staying at O.co Coliseum is the last resort despite the success.

4.  The Astros have been been paring down their payroll from $102 million in 2009, to $60 million in 2012. All the division teams have a realistic chance to win 13-14 games against the Astros. There really won’t be a rivalry until the Astros become more competitive, so it is actually a really good chance for the division teams to pad their win totals.

5.  With the payroll restrictions they have, it’s worth noting that the A’s are committing about 40% of their payroll to Crisp, Cespedes and Young – and unless they contribute a disproportionately high amount towards the teams’s success it doesn’t mathematically make sense to keep them all. Crisp and Cespedes combined to miss over 70 games as well, so ultimately I see the A’s keeping all 4 at least until the trade deadline depending on how competitive and healthy the team is next year.  Just remember, the A’s have the ability to DH one of the 4 as well, and it would be easy to see Young get some at-bats there instead of Seth Smith.

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