The Major League Baseball Hot Stove season has been quiet for the Oakland Athletics, not to be unexpected for a small market team competing in a market where their free agent outfielder, Chris Young, whose numbers were dismal after his move to the American League last season, can command a one year $7.25 million dollar deal with the New York Mets. A signing like that is an indicator that player values on the market are very high this season.
Last season Chris Young was the highest paid player on the Athletics in 2013 making right around eight million dollars. To put this in comparison the highest paid player on the Yankess, Alex Rodriguez made $29 million last season. Having one of the lowest payrolls in the league the Athletics have little chance of signing who they need to make a run at what would be their third straight American League Western Division title: a little help in the bullpen, a veteran starting pitcher, and a big bat.
So far this off season the A’s signed utility infielder, Nick Punto from the Los Angeles Dodgers to a one year $2.27 million deal. Punto, 36, is better defensively than their current infielders but he is not exactly what the Athletics are supposedly seeking as an offensive booster, batting .255 in 116 games with the Dodgers in 2013. So far that is the only notable move the A’s have made this off season.
They’ve signed six pitchers to minor league deals and recently acquired Fernando Abade from the Washington Nationals for minor league outfielder, John Wooten. Nothing that appears to fill their current voids. This move does add a much needed south paw to an Athletics’ bullpen full of right handers. With the probable loss of All Star closer Grant Balfour to higher market teams the Athletics will look to promote 2013 set up pitcher Sean Doolittle to closer with either RHP Dan Otero or RHP Ryan Cook in the set up role.
The Athletics were in competition to sign star pitcher, former Athletic Tim Hudson a free agent from the Atlanta Braves. They lost out to the San Francisco Giants who signed Hudson to a two year $23 million deal with a no trade clause. The Athletics surprised the baseball world when they offered that kind of money to one player but they don’t have the luxury of money like the Giants do. With the 38 year old Hudson coming off a severe season ending broken ankle in 2013 the Athletics can’t gamble that kind of money if Hudson doesn’t return to his former pitching ability. There there was no way they could offer a no trade clause to Hudson, who will likely finish his career with San Francisco.
With a lot of the key name players already snatched up who is left? How will Oakland compete in this market? What does the Athletics’ general manager, the infamous Billy Beane have up his sleeve? Or (baseball gods forbid) is Beane as lost as to what to do next? Beane, considered one of, if not the best, GMs in the game, is known for his ability to find players undervalued in the market (preferably with the ability to get on base) and use them to win.
It’s no secret that the Athletics are very interested in re-signing 40 year old RHP Bartolo Colon. Colon finished last season second in the American League in both wins (18) and ERA (2.65). Confident that he has a few more good years of baseball left in him Colon has reportedly mentioned he may be looking for a three year deal. Again, like with Tim Hudson, this is not a risk the Athletics’ can risk financially. If Colon were to get injured or if his numbers were to decline, Oakland would have all that money tied up in a non producing player and no way to replace him except with a young prospect.
Supposedly the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have an interest in signing Colon and like San Francisco they have the money to spare. Colon however has said that he likes playing in Oakland, not to forget the fact that the Athletics signed the then 38 year old pitcher after a poor 2011 season and gave him a chance again in 2013 after a 50 game suspension for PEDs, so it is possible that Colon could remain loyal to the Athletics.
With most of the league’s premier pitchers already under contract or quickly snatched up by other teams, like Dan Haren who was rumored to possibly be making a return to Oakland but instead he recently inked a one year ten million dollar deal with the Dodgers, the Athletics are left with few options. The team has also expressed interest in Cincinnati Red’s pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is only 36, thus somewhat negating the age risk factor and has pitched 200 or more innings each of the last nine seasons. Last season Arroyo posted a 3.79 ERA over 32 starts with the Reds in 2013 making him a safe, sturdy choice. Unfortunately for Oakland, there is competition for Arroyo which could easily cause an increase in his player value. The Minnesota Twins have expressed a vested interest in Arroyo to improve their starting rotation. The Angels who are also in talks with the RHP, like with Colon, can easily out bid Oakland.
Without Colon the only “veteran” on their pitching staff is possible starter Brett Anderson at the young age of 25. With the temperature of the current market, Anderson’s player value is high despite his being injury plagued (most recently a fractured right foot) and showing only minimal success since coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2012. So far the Kansas City Royals have been in internal talks with the Athletics regarding an Anderson trade. Kansas City however would probably have to part with either LF Alex Gordon who led the team in home runs (20) or DH Billy Bulter who lead the team in both OBP (.374) and RBI (82) for the A’s to get the bat they are looking for,
The most seemingly logical move for the A’s to make is to forget about Arroyo and lock down Bartolo Colon as soon as possible. Hopefully for Oakland it appears Colon may be willing to compromise to maybe to a one or two year deal with a team option for 2015 or 2016. Oakland could then shop Anderson around the league to trade for a hot bat. It sounds easy enough but with so much (or so little as in the Athletics’ case) money involved, these decisions can pose big risks for such a small market team. Only Billy Beane knows what he’s the thinking and until he unleashes his latest plan to the baseball world, the rest of us will have to wait and see.
About the Author: Jen Rainwater
An Oakland A's fanatic and an avid MLB fan, Jen received her degree in Communications & Journalism from Saint Mary's College of California in 2005 and has since worked in sports television production and print media in Oakland, CA. Known locally for her trendsetting ways as the "Oakland A's Socks Girl" she is often heard saying "It's all about the 3 B's: Baseball, Beer and BBQ! It just doesn't get better than that!