There’s no doubt about it that the strength of the Athletics in 2012 was its starting rotation. It was remarkable no doubt how a group of pitchers who all happened to be rookies carried the load as the A’s took the AL West. The reason that they had to go about that with a crew of rookies at the helm was because of the injuries to Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, and the suspension of Bartolo Colon. They were able to stand up to the pressure and the workload, but that is not exactly the model of success, and shouldn’t be expected to be repeated.
Now that Brandon McCarthy is officially out of the picture and is headed to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 18 starts from 2012 are now missing. Not just 18 starts, but 111 quality innings will be missing. We can hopefully make the assumption that Bartolo Colon doesn’t get suspended or anything like that in 2013, and he’ll help cushion that blow with his presence. Brett Anderson will be in the picture from the beginning, but as long as the phrase “as long as he stays healthy” is being used, I don’t trust him. His elbow issues may be in the past, but as his freak oblique injury demonstrated he seems to have the injury cloud hovering over him. So while he may not miss any time in 2013 related to his surgically repaired elbow (Although that’s no guarantee), it seems the chances are high that some sort of injury will pop up that’ll keep him on the shelf for a period of time.
At this point in time the A’s rotation looks like this: Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Griffin/Dan Straily. Not too shabby overall, but it still makes me feel somewhat uneasy. And assuming the A’s and Brandon McCarthy negotiated to some degree until he decided to go to Arizona, Billy Beane and co. feel the same way. I harken back to something A’s Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi told us at the A’s Blog Day back in September, they don’t build 5 man rotations, they build 162 game rotations. They know some guys will go down, and they need to be prepared.
So that brings me to the premise of this article, do the A’s need to work to fortify this starting rotation to protect against injury? Are any of the young starters primed for a regression? I expect Parker to improve, and Tommy Milone to essentially be the same pitcher he was in 2012, but A.J. Griffin seems like a strong regression candidate, and Straily may not be quite ready to assume a full time role in the A’s rotation. So it may behoove the A’s to explore the free agent market for some insurance. The name of that insurance is Edwin Jackson.
Now before you all close this page and never return because of this nutjob calling for the A’s to sign Edwin Jackson, hear me out. If he’s looking for a long term contract, I would advise against the A’s pursuing him, they can use long term resources more effectively than investing in him. As Ken Rosenthal points out when discussing Jackson, he may be seeking a 4-5 year contract. Considering he’s played on every team in the MLB not named the A’s in the last 6 months, I understand him wanting a little stability. But say the market for him isn’t what he hopes and he has to settle for perhaps a 1 year with an option or a 2 year contract? I’m thinking if he doesn’t have something to his liking in 4-6 weeks, mid to late January, his demands may decrease dramatically. That’s when Billy Beane should swoop in.
Jackson is exremely durable, having made over 30 starts in each of his 6 full seasons. That could be exactly what the A’s need to protect themselves from the injury bug that has plagued them over the years and derailed potentially talented clubs. He has the potential to dominate at times, although he can be rather inconsistent as his career 4.40 ERA shows. But his durability is the key to his appeal.
They say you can never have too much pitching, and the A’s showed that to be true in 2012. There’s no reason to think 2013 will be different, so the A’s better be prepared if they want to make an impact.