In the wake of the Oakland Athletics loss to the Detroit Tigers in game five of the ALDS, the Oakland organization and its fans immediately began to contemplate the future of the team. Hours after the loss, General Manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin made it clear that the time for the A’s to win is now, and the off-season will reflect that.
Coming off of one of the more remarkable regular seasons in recent history, it is not hard to see why the future is a much discussed issue in Oakland. Relying upon a plethora of talented young players, the A’s shocked the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels by winning a division that had been pegged as a two-horse race months before the season began.
However, in 2013 the A’s will not be shocking the world again. They bear the title of division champions and the bull’s-eye that goes along with it. The Rangers and Angels both project to be, once again, two of the more talented teams in the American League, and now they’re angry and gunning for the young team that upstaged them in 2012.
Oakland is likely to return the bulk of its team next season, but will it be enough to once again topple the mighty powers that be in the division?
That is the question that the front office must answer as it prepares for the off-season.
The one area that seems set in Oakland is the pitching staff. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily all began proving that the amazing stuff they had shown in the minors could project out to the big league level as well. Throw in Brett Anderson, who is one of the best lefties in the AL when healthy, and the A’s look to have a very strong rotation, whether or not they can afford to resign Brandon McCarthy.
As the bullpen is also young, talented and reliable, the A’s should once again have one of the best all-around pitching staffs in baseball.
However, at the plate, the A’s must answer a lot of questions. Yoenis Cespedes might be a future star, but aside from Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Brandon Moss (for the last couple of months), there was not a lot of production around the rookie outfielder.
True, Oakland found that mashing home runs compensated for being one of the worst teams in the AL at getting on base, but if the A’s experience any sort of a power outage next season, they are going to have a difficult time scoring.
Ultimately, it seems unlikely that the A’s can afford to hit .238 as a team again and still beat the Rangers and Angels for a playoff spot. Figuring out how to improve the offensive numbers is going to be a key to Oakland’s off-season approach.
Perhaps the A’s already have the pieces on the roster to improve their hitting. Maybe minor leaguers such as Michael Choice and Grant Green will provide a spark, or the natural progression of the young players already in the majors will yield better numbers. The A’s will possibly have to look outside the organization for ways to improve the lineup.
The good news for A’s fans is that Beane has been in this exact situation before. For all of the comparisons to the 2002 “Moneyball” A’s, this Oakland team was built much more like the 2000 Oakland A’s, who won 91 games and the AL West. That team featured a young but stellar pitching staff (the Big Three) and a couple of promising hitters.
In the off-season between the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Beane bolstered a lineup that had finished near the bottom of the AL by adding bats such as Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Mark Ellis. The end result was a team that won 102 games in 2001, and had the talent to do so much more (if only Jason Giambi thought to slide).
As the playoffs wind down and the off-season is set to begin, you can bet that the A’s are hoping to find the same sorts of deals that in 2001 turned them from a contender to a powerhouse.
Recently, Oakland has spent the winter months shipping off top performers in the hopes of building a brighter future. That future is now here, and this off-season the A’s just might become buyers instead of sellers.