The Rangers have had a busy offseason. They added Shin-Soo Choo, an on-base machine and a HEAVILY declining Prince Fielder. That’s a weight joke. Fielder is signed through 2020 and has $168M left on his contract. Choo is signed for 7 years/130M. The Rangers have been the biggest competition for the A’s over the past two seasons, but due to these two contracts, their time is over. The A’s will stay on top for years to come.
Yes, Choo and Fielder have had past success. So had Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. The problem isn’t these team’s offenses. The problem is they don’t have enough pitching. Both the Angels and Rangers have an ace each, in Jered Weaver and Yu Darvish, respectively. The rest of their staffs are shaky. What makes the A’s successful of late is their excellent pitching AND their bats.
Prince Fielder has struggled against A’s pitching in his career. Fielder is a combined 2/19 against the A’s projected rotation (Parker, Gray, Kazmir, Griffin and Straily) for a Batting Average of .105. Thats 19 games for Fielder to worry about.. The Seattle Mariners have a pretty decent staff as well, led by King Felix. That’s another 19 games. His former team, the Detroit Tigers, have one of the best rotations in the majors. That’s another 7 games. With just those 3 teams, that’s 28% of his games this season. The team he would probably want to face is the team he’s on. Their staff has been ravaged by injuries this spring.
The Angels and Rangers are done competing because they have their money locked up on decaying contracts. Long-term deals may get a player to sign with your team, but they also cripple the team’s finances for years to come. The shorter the contract is, the better. A’s GM Billy Beane has said,
It’s better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late.
Words of wisdom.
Last offseason, the Red Sox focused on signing players to shorter deals so that they wouldn’t be handcuffed in the long term. These are the Red Sox, one of the most profitable franchises in the game. The key is producing a winner. The Sox 2012 season was a disaster, but they had had success in the recent past, so free agents knew they were a destination. They were rewarded with this trust in 2013 with a World Series trophy.
If your team is winning, players are more open to playing there. The same is becoming true in Oakland. Yoenis Cespedes has expressed an interest in retiring as an Athletic. Before 2012, the A’s were seen for where they play, not the team they could become. Now that they are back-to-back AL West Division Champs, free agents are putting Oakland on their list of acceptable destinations.
But there is still the financial concern. If we look ahead, the A’s are going to get a new ballpark sometime in the (near?) future. Once they do, they will be basking in all of that “new ballpark” money. The key for them will be to lock up a core player or two that is essential to the team’s success. A Crisp or Cespedes from the current squad. Perhaps a Sonny Gray before too long. They would also gain the ability to sign their young players into their prime years, maximizing their value, before letting them go. It takes time to build a ballpark; 3 years or so. That is about how long it will be before the Mariners or Astros begin to compete at a high level. The time until then won’t be a cakewalk, but this A’s squad is up for any challenge that comes their way.
The contracts may be bigger in Texas, but the win totals will be higher in Oakland for years to come.