The clock is ticking for the Oakland A’s to make the offseason moves necessary to remain a contender. As remarkable and talented as the young A’s were in 2012, they will not sneak up on the AL West for a second straight year.
If Oakland expects to make the playoffs again, it must improve. Stagnation, or even worse, regression, will doom the team to a second or third place finish in baseball’s toughest division.
And as of right now, the A’s seem to have regressed.
Yes, most of the team is still intact. The club even added a valuable power hitter and strong outfielder in Chris Young, but he only added depth to the strongest part of the lineup, the outfield. Young or one of the other outfielders will struggle to get playing time unless it is at designated hitter, but the organization already has a great option for that spot in Chris Carter.
Depth at some spots is nice in the event of injuries, but it does not do a whole lot of good if there are weaknesses at other positions.
And right now the A’s have a huge weakness at shortstop. There is not even a slightly below average starting caliber shortstop currently on the roster thanks to the trade of Cliff Pennington and the decision to let Stephen Drew test the free agent market.
Drew could still conceivably sign with Oakland, but as time passes, the chances of that happening grow slimmer and slimmer. That means that unless the A’s pull off a trade or a successful position switch, they could enter the season with one of the worst everyday shortstops in the majors.
Good luck winning the division with that.
As the team has not resigned Brandon McCarthy, there is a serious lack of pitching depth as well. Should Bartolo Colon fizz out post-PED suspension – and that is a strong possibility at the age of 39 – the A’s will have a rotation that is too young with too little veteran depth. Many pointed out that the team should acquire a veteran presence to solve that, and McCarthy was the logical choice. He was a leader of the staff and a good pitcher to boot. A still suspended Colon is probably neither of those, and the A’s may regret it if they fail to bring McCarthy back.
There is still plenty of time for Oakland to find a shortstop and add a reliable veteran starter. But the inability to make any significant moves to this point is a little concerning.
After all, the window for the A’s closes quickly. It has ever since the team moved to Oakland. From 1972-1974, the A’s had a glorious run of three straight World Series titles. In 1976, the A’s traded away much of the team with free agency looming and after the season, the crucial remnants of the championship rosters departed for bigger markets and more lucrative deals. A decade later, the A’s once again built a team that made it to the World Series three straight years from 1988-1990. By the mid-1990s the team’s core had departed through free agency and trades. Billy Beane built a powerful A’s team that dominated the regular season in the early 2000s, but once again, trades and free agency closed the window quickly, this time before Oakland could win a championship.
Now, about ten years later, the window has opened again with a talented team. History says that it probably will only last for a few years. Sure the team claims that it would increase spending with a move to San Jose, but there is no guarantee that such a move will ever happen or that it would actually cause payroll to spike (just ask Marlins fans).
Oakland must therefore seize this chance to contend while it is there. They have to make the moves necessary to get better and keep competing with the rest of the division while they can. Because it may be another ten years before an A’s roster looks as strong as this one.