The Oakland A’s received a harsh reminder this week of their place in baseball’s pecking order, at least when it comes to free agency. The A’s might be able to outplay a team like the Boston Red Sox, but they can never hope to outbid them for even a borderline talent.
Jonny Gomes signed a two year deal with the Red Sox worth $10 million. That number seems astronomical for a guy who had a nice season as a situational hitter and is 32 years old. Small wonder Gomes turned down the A’s overtures early in the off-season. Whatever Oakland offered him, it certainly was not close to the contract that he received from Boston.
If Gomes got paid so handsomely for a decent season, what about free agents who were regulars in baseball lineups? Stephen Drew is almost definitely out of the A’s price range. A guy like Marco Scutaro? Forget it.
Oakland fans have long held out hope that Brandon McCarthy would return, but he was much more valuable than Gomes from a numbers standpoint and seemed like every bit the leader of the pitching staff that Gomes was of the hitters. Wherever McCarthy ends up, he will likely be making more than the A’s can afford.
While the A’s have never been able to sign stars in free agency, they can often acquire quality starters, or retain some of their solid, but unspectacular players. But in a year when the free agency pickings are slim at a lot of positions, the reigning champs of the AL West drew a lot of attention and have begun to see their starters and role players plundered for quite a bit of cash. It is a good thing that so few of the A’s had expiring contracts, following their big season.
Ultimately, the A’s might have to deal with the fact that Bartolo Colon’s resigning could be the biggest move the team makes in free agency.
With a talented young roster and a deep farm system, the team may well get better internally and successfully defend its crown. Trades also remain an option. Taking chances on promoting prospects will likely be a necessary risk if the A’s hope to compete again in 2013.
Everybody else in the division is going to get better next season, probably even the newly arrived Houston Astros. The A’s must also improve. Gomes’ departure for a huge contract makes it unlikely that the team will retain any of its remaining signature free agents, who all accomplished more than Gomes in 2012.
If that forces the A’s to find creative solutions and take some chances, it may end up being a good thing in the long run. After all, Billy Beane has always specialized in successfully implementing unique solutions to difficult problems. He has a good team that is a piece or two away from seriously contending in the AL for a second consecutive year. Those pieces may no longer be available in free agency, but Beane just might find them elsewhere.