In case you were still left comatose by the right arm of Justin Verlander, the Oakland Athletics have been busy this offseason. Billy Beane was once again up to his old shenanigans.
With one swing of the bat, Miguel Cabrera silenced the towel-waving, drum-playing, noise-making crowd of 46,000 at the Concrete Jungle back in Game 5 of the Division Series. With one swing of the bat, the A’s entered the hot stove league earlier than expected.
The A’s started off by exercising their $7.5 million option on Mr. Bernie Lean, Coco Crisp. Picking up Crisp’s option was a no-brainer. He is the catalyst, the igniter, the table-setter, the je ne sai guoi of the swingin’ A’s.
Next was a move that surprised and shocked most. Nick Punto landed a one-year deal worth $2.75 million. Punto, 36, played in 116 games last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers and batted .255. He owns a career batting average of .248 over 13 big league seasons. That’s right, $2.75 million for a guy who has a career average of .248! At least he’s a good clubhouse guy.
This was the calm before the storm.
Over a two-day span, Beane embodied the spirit of “Fast Eddie” in The Hustler.
First came the signing of Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal worth $22 million. The signing of Kazmir shut the door on a possible Colon reunion.
With the rotation in tact, Beane and his boys turned their attention to the back end of the bullpen. Mr. Moneyball hustled the Baltimore Orioles by trading for Jim Johnson, the American League saves leader the past two years. And what did Beane give up? Jemile Weeks, a once promising prospect that had fallen out of favor within the organization. Never mind that Johnson is expected to make $10 million this year; the elephants virtually traded a guy that wasn’t going to play for an All-Star closer.
Pitching and defense wins championships. Well, that’s the mantra. So with the A’s already bolstering one of the game’s best pitching staffs, defense was next on the offseason checklist. Craig Gentry was acquired from the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Michael Choice. Gentry is coming off a year where he hit .280 with 24 stolen bases. He is not only regarded as one of the game’s best defensive outfielders, but he also hits left-handed pitching to the tune of a career average of .288. He could platoon with Josh Reddick in right field and fill in when Coco takes a day off. Choice was going to be a fixture in the outfield for years to come, however, the A’s are in win now mode.
The green and gold kept wheeling and dealing by trading Eli Manning‘s backup at Ole Miss (Seth Smith) to the San Diego Padres for premiere setup man Luke Gregerson. Gregerson, 29, will become a free agent after the year and had another strong season in the bullpen for the Padres. He capped the year off with a 2.71 ERA, and an 8.7 K/9 ratio. With the hard-throwing combination of Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, paired with Gregerson and Johnson, the A’s starters will only have to go five innings. Memo to the other 29 GMs in the league: If Billy Beane shows up on your caller ID, let it go right to voicemail.
Brett Anderson was supposed to be the ace of the A’s staff, when healthy that is. Will the rest of the league ever get to see the real Brett Anderson? The A’s didn’t want to wait around. They shipped him and his $8 million option off to the Colorado Rockies for the fifth pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Drew Pomeranz, 25, climbed the ranks of the prospect ladder only to fall on hard times. He struggled with the Rockies last year, posting a 6.23 ERA in eight games, four of those in which he started. However, the left-hander does own a 2.97 career ERA in the minor leagues. Maybe all he needs is a change of scenery. Going from the homer happy air of Coors Field to the spacious confines of the O.Co could do wonders for his career.
As for Anderson, Beane has a track record of trading pitchers at the right time. Look when he dealt away Rich Harden, Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, Mark Mulder and Trevor Cahill. Not one of those players ever duplicated the success that they had in Oakland.
Maybe Billy does know what he’s doing. They did make a movie about him.
Adam Kreamer is the Athletics writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @adam_Kreamer.