Admit it, it’s one of your favorite things to do. You study the team you love, pick it apart piece by piece, and come up with solutions to solve all of the team’s problems. Because if there’s anyone who knows what they’re talking about, it’s you. Unfortunately though, the GM doesn’t exactly pay much attention to you and your opinions. As they say, if you spend too much time listening to the fans, you’ll end up sitting with them.
We’re getting down to crunch time for Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics as this afternoon will mark their final Cactus League game of 2013, at least as far as games in Arizona go. With that crunch time comes a roster crunch as the team has to select the 25 best players to head into the regular season with, and that’s when the decisions become exponentially more difficult. Options, injuries, Rule 5 statuses, and versatility or a lack thereof have to be taken into consideration when putting the final pieces of a roster together. The marquis names don’t have to worry about their status, the team clearly cannot succeed without them, so they won’t dare try.
With the A’s there are a fair amount of players who’s presence on the 25-man roster is set in stone, so this piece will not focus on them necessarily. But there are some distinct differences in how I believe the roster will ultimately look, and how I think it should ultimately look.
This is what I expect to see Monday:
Dan Straily/Bartolo Colon (I lump them together because Straily will in all likelihood make the one start to cover Colon’s last few suspension games then be optioned to Triple A when Colon is activated, in this case they are one in the same to me)
There isn’t much in the way of earth shattering news as far as I can tell. Hiro Nakajima isn’t on the roster because I expect the A’s to use his hamstring injury to place him on the 15 day DL whether he really needs it or not. This will buy him some extra time to get comfortable here. Also conspicuous by his absence is Daric Barton , who will have been designated for assignment if he isn’t on the roster (or maybe his intercostal strain flared up a la Adam Rosales). I’ve been extremely critical of Barton for his lack of aggressiveness at the plate over the years, and despite his oddly successful 2010 campaign, he’s failed to make any kind of positive impression on me at the plate. But at this point, his presence on the 25-man roster is necessary and important.
The trade of Chris Carter to the Houston Astros left a hole in the roster at first base. Brandon Moss has been entrusted as the primary man at first, and I’m not saying he shouldn’t be, but going without a capable backup for him seems foolish. Enter Nate Freiman. Our own Andrew Brown looked at the waiver claim that brought him and his Rule 5 status into the fold last night, he could turn into the Brandon Moss 2.0 like Andrew coined, or he could turn into the Brandon Allen 2.0. Barton’s defensive skills though should be of utmost importance though, the A’s have their fair share of power already.
As great a story as it has been (as great as a Spring Training story can be), I’m also still not sold on the Eric Sogard emergence. I can’t help but continue to believe that we’ve seen this before. Just last year Sogard had a very productive spring and did next to nothing with the Athletics during his stints with the club. There are always late bloomers, and I’ll grant you the possibility that this could be one of those cases, but I’m not holding my breath on this one. Assuming Hiro Nakajima is well enough to be able to play somewhere around Opening Day, he should be on the roster. As he continues to acclimate himself to life in the US, feeling like he’s part of the team that brought him over from Japan is imperative. Sure, he could barely buy himself a hit during the majority of Spring Training, but we all know the talent is there. If this was a stretch during the month of July, I highly doubt his presence on the roster would be questioned as much as it is right now, let alone in an effort to replace him with Eric Sogard. The more comfortable he gets, the more productive he will be.
The team may suffer without the presence of Daric Barton (I still can’t believe I’m writing those words) and Hiro Nakajima, perhaps not in a season crippling fashion, but enough to make things a little bumpy from the get-go. With the presumed juggernaut Los Angeles Angels, and the surely vengeful Texas Rangers in the division, not to mention an improved Seattle Mariners squad, and I guess the Houston Astros (I didn’t want them to feel left out, especially since they’re new) too in the division with the Athletics, they can ill afford to stumble out of the blocks. They had almost zero margin for error in 2012 on their way to the AL West title, and in 2013 I expect there to be even less.