The mantra for the 2014 season for the Oakland Athletics appears to be that they are going “all in.” The busy offseason lends itself to the notion that the organization has its sights on the Fall Classic, and a parade through downtown Oakland the first week of November. Without a doubt this is a team that needs to take the next step after failing to escape the ALDS two years in a row, or they run the risk falling backwards to the ineptitude and mediocrity that prevailed in the years prior to 2012.
With the dire stadium situation looming like a dark cloud over the franchise, the team has taken something of an approach to live for the moment, and eschew any plans of hoping to compete at the next level in the future. That’s not to say that the team won’t pay attention to building a strong foundation, but with so much uncertainty around the team’s future, it makes no sense to plan for a future that may or may not come. The team has indeed made a number of moves with that very mindset: fortifying the bullpen by adding Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Eric O’Flaherty (who may be on the mound by June following Tommy John surgery), and Fernando Abad, replacing the departed Bartolo Colon with the resurrected Scott Kazmir, and mortgaging the career of Michael Choice to bring in the speedy outfielder Craig Gentry.
Whether the flurry of moves ends up paying dividends is yet to be determined, but the thought process behind them was sound. That’s why it seemed puzzling that the Athletics appeared content to stand pat afterwards. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity either, as players such as Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana all were, or still are there for the taking. Of course they all come with the consequence of forfeiting a draft pick, which has to weigh heavy on the organization’s mind.
Sure, losing draft picks is never desirable, but sometimes you have to pay a price to make an improvement to your team that will help put you over the edge as a World Series contender. Aside from Jimenez, any of those players could have been, or can be had on a 1-year, “get me on a roster now” contract with Spring Training already in full swing. Cruz did sign a 1-year pact, and Jimenez of course signed a multi-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. For a player like Santana, the player with the most upside of this group, a solid 2014 would likely net the A’s an extra draft pick in 2015 through the qualifying offer process. Yet, Santana appears to be on the radar of many teams, none of which are the Athletics. Swapping out a starter like A.J. Griffin for Ervin Santana would make the A’s markedly better right away. Yet all indications are that Santana will not don the green and gold in 2014.
Aledmys Diaz was a player that had been talked about on this very site for over a year, he seemed like a perfect fit for the team. Diaz could have occupied the shortstop position, allowing Jed Lowrie to slide over to the less defensively straining second base, and would have put Eric Sogard into the utility role he is more appropriately suited for. It was presumed the cost to bring in the young shortstop would be steep, costing upwards of $20 million, yet he signed for just $8 million over 4 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, who introduced him this afternoon. Diaz could have been the final piece of the puzzle for an already solid lineup, and he would have represented a solid, cost effective, and controllable player for the A’s
Whether it was an edict from ownership to cap the acquisitions there, and thus the payroll, or if it was an uncommon case of gun-shyness on the part of Billy Beane, it appeared the A’s were content with that they had done. There is no doubt that this team still has room for improvement, and there is very little doubt that the room for improvement won’t be addressed by the team anytime soon. Certainly there remains a chance that the team will make moves as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, and hopefully their hesitance now doesn’t put them in a hole by then.