Athletics For Life

And Then That Happened.

July 31st, 2014

When I first saw the news on Twitter that the A’s had acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, I thought it was a joke. Certainly the A’s wouldn’t trade away Cespedes in the middle of a pennant race, even for an ace like Lester. But then it was tweeted by other recognizable sources and it began to sink in. This really happened.

Billy Beane has made some shocking trades over the years but this one might take the cake. Major league talent for major league talent trades don’t happen all that often to begin with, at least on this large of a scale, but then you throw in the fact that a team in a pennant race traded away their All Star left fielder and this one’s on another level.

Yoenis CespedesJon Lester is an ace. He is that probably more than Jeff Samardzija is an ace, more than Scott Kazmir is an ace, and more than Sonny Gray is an ace. They’re all great pitchers but Lester has gotten it done in the postseason and on the big stage. He’s the guy you match up against Verlander (or David Price, this year) in a Game 1/Game 5 matchup with Detroit and actually have a chance to win.

But what do the A’s do about the loss of Cespedes? There’s no doubt that he’s an imposing hitter and a game-changing player with tons of talent. Jonny Gomes was acquired along with Lester in this deal but he’s not going to replace Cespedes’s production, at least versus right handed pitching. Versus left handed pitching, well he’s pretty good and will do just that:

Cespedes vs. LHP: .232/.319/.455 this season and .275/.348/.496 career
Gomes vs. LHP: .302/.400/.431 this season and .279/.379/.495 career

As for versus righty pitching, the A’s have enjoyed the emergence of Stephen Vogt this season as not just a clutch hitter but as a versatile player who can play the corner outfield spots and first base as well as catcher. He’s been kind of ridiculous:

Vogt vs. RHP: .365/.396/.524 this season and .286/.328/.421 career

We have to figure he’s somewhere between those two lines. He’s a good hitter, but not one of the top hitters in the game. And then there’s Cespedes:

Cespedes vs. RHP: .263/.298/.467 this season and .257/.306/.459 career

Also a good hitter, but not one of the top hitters in the game. Sure, he’s got big time power but the overall numbers do not appear irreplaceable. I think the offense will be fine, and isn’t necessarily that much worse without him.

He’s been an exciting player to have on the A’s and get to watch play every day but this season is about winning the World Series, and to do that you need top notch pitching that can shut the opposition down. In 2012, the ALDS games were started by Parker, Milone, Anderson, Griffin, Parker versus Verlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander. In 2013, it was Colon, Gray, Parker, Straily, Gray versus Scherzer, Verlander, Sanchez, Fister, Verlander. This year, baseball gods willing, we’ll have Lester, Samardzija, Gray, Kazmir. That’s a quartet of number ones like nothing we’ve had in recent years. I’ll miss Cespedes but as always I trust Billy Beane knows what he’s doing.

So That Happened.

July 5th, 2014

Something was bound to get me to write a blog post this season. It wasn’t going to be the fact that the A’s own baseball’s best record or the best run differential by a large margin halfway through the season. No, it had to be one of those Billy Beane “*%$#ing A” trades, and we got that one last night when the A’s parted with seemingly untouchable prospect Addison hi-res-169794006-starting-pitcher-jeff-samardzija-of-the-chicago-cubs_crop_exactRussell, last year’s first rounder Billy McKinney and Dan Straily to get Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs. The best team in baseball got better, but will it be worth it?

There’s no way to tell when it’s July and there’s lots of baseball to be played between now and October. But the A’s were running into a potential disaster relying on some of the arms that have gotten them to this point in the season. Sonny Gray is sure to pitch a career high in innings. Same goes for Jesse Chavez, who has been a reliever most of his career. Scott Kazmir has had injury issues, was out of baseball completely two years ago, and hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2007. There are just too many question marks, and even if all three of these guys are capable of holding up and pitching well into October, there is one thing in baseball that there’s no such thing as and that’s having too many good players.

So they add two veteran arms who are having really good seasons, surrendering two former first rounders and last season’s ALDS Game 4 starter. Samardzija has a 2.83 ERA and a 3.07 FIP through 17 starts, while Hammel has a 2.98 ERA and 3.18 FIP through the same number of starts. How that is going to translate to the American League remains to be seen, but I’m sure neither guy is complaining about going to the pitcher’s paradise that is Oakland. Hammel is a rental as his contract expires after this season, while Samardzija is under team control through 2015. That puts him within the window that the A’s have on Yoenis Cespedes, and before guys like Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss get expensive, so there’s your competitive window – two years.

It’s likely this trade will be talked about for more than just the next two years, however, if Russell pans out like everyone expects him to. Whether they’re saying good things or bad things about the A’s depends on if Billy Beane finally wins the last game of the season. World Series or bust, here we go.

New Year, New A’s

March 31st, 2014

Well it’s that day – Opening Day! The 2014 A’s are ready to kick off the long season against the Cleveland Indians tonight. Despite my lack of blogging, it was an active offseason for the A’s. Not necessarily anything jaw-dropping but plenty of activity and new players to fill the holes vacated by some ex-A’s.

kazmir-oflaherty-ap2The biggest adds were to the pitching staff. After letting Bartolo Colon go as a free agent, the A’s picked up lefty Scott Kazmir on a two-year, $22 million deal. The money in this deal was surprising, but not as surprising as picking up a closer that makes $10 million, which the A’s did when they sent Jemile Weeks to the Orioles for Jim Johnson, to replace departed free agent Grant Balfour. These two pickups are a bit of a head-scratcher when you consider that Colon and Balfour will make a combined $14 million in 2014, while Kazmir and Johnson will combine for $21 million. The new duo is younger though, and Johnson comes with only a one-year commitment while Colon and Balfour both signed two-year deals. We’ll see over the course of this season which pair of pitchers ended up being the better get.

The A’s didn’t stop adding pitchers with those two, however. They also traded Seth Smith to the Padres for Luke Gregerson, which in my opinion is probably the best value deal of the winter. Smith didn’t really have a roster spot on the A’s anymore and was a potential non-tender, so it almost feels like the A’s picked up Gregerson for free. And it’s not like Gregerson is a replacement level reliever – he’s a really good setup man, with a 2.88 career ERA in 5 seasons.

Also added to the bullpen were Fernando Abad, who will begin the season in the big leauges, and Eric O’Flaherty, who will begin the year on the disabled list and probably won’t be a factor until mid-summer.

A number of other pitchers will begin the season on the disabled list, the most notable of course is Jarrod Parker who will miss the season with his second Tommy John surgery. This is clearly a big blow to the A’s, as it’ll be hard to replace the production of a guy they’ve recently trusted with Game 1 of a playoff series. Many will point to a full season of Sonny Gray as a possible cushion for the blow, but I think someone else is going to have to step up and I hope that guy is Dan Straily. He’s entering his third big league season and now would be the perfect time to turn that corner and show that he is a #2 or #3 guy on a big league staff.

Ryan Cook and A.J. Griffin will also begin the season on the D.L., which opens up a spot for Jesse Chavez, who had a really good spring, to start out in the rotation. New acquisition Craig Gentry is also starting the year on the disabled list and minor league signing Sam Fuld will get a shot as the fifth outfielder after his strong spring showing.

Is that it? I probably missed someone but I think I’ve covered the main guys. It all will play out over the next 162. #1 tonight! Let’s Go A’s!

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