What The Oakland Athletics Should Do

Overview

For a little while, it seemed the Oakland Athletics could emerge as the victors from 2010’s AL West survivor pool. At the close of May, the A’s were 28-24 and led the division. They have gone 6-16 since and now sit over ten games back and without the sort of talent advantage that would allow them to make up such a deficit.

Buy or Sell?

The answer then is to sell, though Billy Beane has long been anything but predictable. The next question is what to sell, and, like the Mariners, the A’s lack a plethora of sought-after assets. After the seemingly obvious Ben Sheets, nearly all the players that would be interesting to other teams for performance reasons are cherished by Oakland for their youth and contractual status in addition to their solid stats, thus they seem unlikely to go anywhere.

Daric Barton might find himself theoretically expendable thanks to Chris Carter, but Oakland shouldn’t ditch Barton for Carter unless Beane finds himself a steal. Barton is still under a mammoth amount of team control and there is also the DH spot if Oakland wants to get Carter out of Sacramento.

On the Farm

Where Oakland dips into its farm system might depend more on which players are kept around from the 2010 team than on any elite prospects pushing their way onto the scene. Tyson Ross was a name to keep an eye on, but he’s been with the big team all season. 2011 might see him return to the rotation after Ben Sheets’ turn is up. Shawn Haviland might be on the scene sooner than previously expected, but his numbers in the upper minors are still too small to judge.

Chris Carter should be called up sometime soon, but he still needs to provide more value from his bat given his defensive shortcomings. Josh Donaldson could make a similarly valuable, but perhaps underwhelming addition behind the plate for Kurt Suzuki.

Budget

Sticking to a budget of around $60 million each year, the Athletics have an unholy amount of payroll space freed up in the future. Eric Chavez will have his option declined and be paid $3 million for the privilege, which is currently the highest expense on the books for Oakland in 2011. Michael Wuertz is signed for $2.8 million, Brett Anderson for $1.25 million, and there are club options on Mark Ellis and Coco Crisp which both carry half million buyouts but that is it as far as guaranteed expenditures go.

Many of their players are arbitration eligible and therefore will see some raises but it’s difficult to see that adding more than $20 million to the books which still leaves Oakland with something in the vicinity of $25 million to spend in this coming offseason assuming the same budget room. The A’s were never built to run away in 2010, but rather to take a stab at a winnable division but bide their time for the future. They are going to miss the brass ring, but the future still looks intact.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

30 Responses to “What The Oakland Athletics Should Do”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    Oakland is a good example of a team that should “ride it out” and “play the kids”.

    A lot of the teams that should be “sellers” (as usd in this series) do not have much to sell that they’d be willing to sell. Many of the teams would just be in “trade a guy, eat a big chunk of his money” just to free up some budget space in the future … Which seems (in many cases as much con as it is pro). But the A’s are not one of those teams.

    The A’s were hoping that Sheets would be awesome and they’d either compete or have a valuable trading chip. So, now they just have to play out the season and hope for some good luck for them and bad luck for some others.

    Not sure of the list of players coming up in FA that the A’s can afford, but they’re likely looking at a similar situation in 2011. The question will be whether the teams in their division get better or start rebuilding.

    Always an interesting team to follow. They’re a good example of how an injured young star with a big contract decimates a small budget team, wheras a big budget team just replaces him with a player of equal production. Such is the life in MLB.

    I’m old enough to remember when OAK had 3 straight ROYs. 20 years ago. Wow.

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    • Dan says:

      “I’m old enough to remember when OAK had 3 straight ROYs. 20 years ago. Wow.”

      Ah yes, the days of Canseco, McGwire, and Weiss have gone by the wayside.

      I have to agree with M.C. here – they took a couple of gambles (Sheets, Crisp) that haven’t paid off. If they can get any trade value for someone like Wuertz or Ziegler, they should deal them.

      Barton doesn’t really have much trade value, and provides three serviceable qualities (glove, plate discipline, and affordability). Maybe a team like the Pirates takes a stab at him, but in the end, he’s the new version of Scott Hatteberg, which isn’t all that bad…unless you have 6-8 of them amongst your 13 offensive players.

      The issue is trying to import/develop some impact players, preferably those with power. Carter & Taylor are a good start – just keep ‘em coming!

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  2. oompaloopma says:

    The A’s should give up until they get a real payroll. Baseball needs a salary cap or something to get small market teams a chance. 1. Get rid of supplemental picks, it only seems to help out big market teams who sign a guy for half a year then get two picks when he signs with another big market team. 2. Set a base team salary like for example 80 million, for every 10 million your over or under you lose a draft pick starting a round 1. The A’s would lose first 3 round picks for being under the cap. The Yankees lose 1 – 12 for being over the cap, and my Cubbies lose 1 -7. Most teams would be sure to get to 80 million or decided amount.

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    • Not Steve says:

      That is by far the worst idea I have ever heard regarding salary caps.

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      • oompaloopma says:

        Its definitely a big splash, and it would work to get smaller market team in competition. What is your idea to solve the problem, and what team do you root for?

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  3. Cidron says:

    Why do you have to be a buyer or a seller? Why not jus hang tight with the cards you have?
    Yeah, A salary cap would be nice. Not some lame luxury tax that the rich can already afford.. heck, they are RICH, remember!?! KC, Pitt, Oak, and a few others need to be allowed to play with the big boys on an even footing, rather than be merely a AAAA farm club for them, that happens to THINK they play the same level of competition and all.

    But, if you put in a salary cap, put in a salary basement too. This way, it will insure that at least some real money is spent on the on-field product. Not lining the owners pockets etc etc. I got no problem with some of the wealth being spread to the minors and scouting, but it needs to be spent on keeping a quality MLB team intact for a time too. Not some cyclical period of 1-3 yrs good, then 7-10 yrs bad while waiting for the next wave of youngsters to make their way to the big club, (so they can showcase their talents for the Yankees, BoSox or some other big $$ club to take them away).. Not that I am bitter.. seeing this how many times.. (KC with Damon, Beltran, Dye, Ibanez.. in the OF, with a decent pitching staff and some up and comers too.. *shrug*)

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  4. CircleChange11 says:

    KC, Pitt, Oak, and a few others need to be allowed to play with the big boys on an even footing,

    The problem is that when you do that the small market teams can and do win titles. See the 70s and 80s for examples.

    Obviously it benefits the league to have the major markets in the playoffs … probably much more $o that it doe$ to have parity.

    At this point, I would be in favor of decreasing the number of teams in the league.

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    • sleepingcobra says:

      So you’re a baseball administration fan? I can dig that. I’m just a baseball fan so we probably can’t see eye to eye on this, and I know this might slightly cut into the unfettered monopoly of the Boston Red Sox that you seem to be so enamored of, but a more equal distribution of resources is likely to generate more interest in respective local markets. The net profit for the league would ultimately increase using an economic model based on production (like China!) as opposed to the current model, which is based on credit (like the U.S.!).

      Alas, people on the East Coast sure do love their Invincible Giant narrative.

      Also: the A’s aren’t a “small market” team. The Bay Area is huge, even when cut in half. The A’s are a “small payroll” team. It’s an easily identifiable distinction.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I have no idea where you’re getting the “monopoly Red Sox stuff”.

        As I said, at this point, I favor the reduction of the number of teams because a cap or some type of “equalizer” is not going to happen … and there are essentially a few “dead franchises” and/or teams serving as 4A teams. The desparity has become absurd.

        You’re right it’s not market size, but payrolol that counts. I;’ve used the terms interchangeably on occassion, and I’ve differentiated between the two other times. I’m inconsistent when using the words.

        My favorite decade of baseball was the 80s. Lots of different teams were good, and the teams won in various ways/construction.

        I’m just not a fan of pretending that everyone has a chance. Let’s just eliminate the teams that have “no shot”, or at least have to do everything perfect to make a run once every 5 years.

        The problem is that MLB wants teams there, as you correctly state, they just don’t want to do anything meaningful that would assist the competitiveness because it upsets that teams/markets that are best for the league. So, yes.

        As I said before, when payrolls are much closer, teams like OAK, CIN, PIT, etc have shown what they can do.

        Now, that the payrolls ahev increased in desparity, the diversity of playoff teams *should* be diminished. I say *should* because the league doubled the number of playoff teams, and then used the number of different otrganizations in the playoffs to tout parity. Go back to the 2-deivisions per league, and over 10-15 years I think we’d see very much like what occurred in the Golden Era … where a handful of teams dominated the game.

        It’s not as obvoius to us now because of the divisional realignment and wild card.

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  5. Cidron says:

    Not saying they dont win titles. But, their window of opportunity is so small, given that their stars will be seeking big dollars when contracts are up, and the small markets cant do that. So, it all has to come together and it wont last long. You never hear the KC, Pitts, Oaklands “reloading”.. they rebuild.

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  6. Kyle says:

    The A’s had a more talented team than the Yankees back in the day, but couldn’t pull it off. Then they began losing every free agent wanting money…

    I’m with most people, it’s not an even playing field so why bother? They don’t have anyone who’d bring in amazing prospects like they used to. At one time they had Hudson, Zito and Mulder back when they were all aces. Plus Giambi and Tejada(while making slick trades to bring in a big time player who was just playing for his next contract.)

    Those days are dead. Ben Sheets with his 3-7 record and ERA of 5.01 will not get them 3 top rated prospects. He’s almost 32, has a career record that’s not even .500, and is always injured.

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    • mlbfan says:

      All fair arguments, but youre reasoning is also flawed. Just a couple months ago, carter/taylor were top tier prospects. Preseason they were consensus top 30 type prospects on lots of lists. I dont think they’ll suddenly give up on either yet. Grant Green yes its high A ball, but he’s been hitting great. Despite the injuries, weeks has a interesting skill set. This is fangraphs, to judge pitchers worth on W-L is pretty ridiculous. Sheets supposedly was tipping pitches in 2 terrible starts vs TB/Toronto early season, since then has around a 3.6 era. He’s not quite back yet, but getting there. This time last season people were dumping on matt holliday, who then suddenly got hot for a month and had trade value. Sheets has one more month to prove that to teams

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      • Kyle says:

        It’s a little flawed, because I do realize Ben Sheets has been far better than his ERA indicates. But do you really think he’s a guy teams are willing to give up any top prospects to get? He’s getting old and seems to be injured all the time.

        He’s just not the same guy he was 3 years ago… his fastball isn’t as fast, and he doesn’t rack up the k’s like he once did. I also always thought of him as a first half guy… he’d make so many all-star teams and then collapse or have a few bad outings and get shut down by his team.

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      • mlbfan says:

        No one is claiming he’s the same pitcher. He had not pitched for over a year. Also ive seen some velocity back in the 92-95 mph range. WIll he get multiple top prospects, unlikely. But after Lee and Oswalt who will require alot in return who else is there? Lilly will be a type A, so cubs will want the equivalent of 2 draft picks. If sheets is still healthy and fairly productive in late july they will get something decent at least. Maybe not worth the 10 mill investment, but they took that risk. Of course if he gets injured, all bets are off obviously. Rangers took a similar risk with harden this offseason. surprisingly it was their investment with colby lewis that paid off

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  7. Jim says:

    Yeah, it’s kind of a sad case for Oakland, who could also hope to trade Coco Crisp, perhaps, if just to free up a corner spot for Michael Taylor(or even Travis Buck for the rest of the season since Taylor isn’t ready yet, I guess.)

    The one bright note is that they still have a very good, if not great, minor league system that can produce quality players. The downside is that–aside from Chris Carter and Michael Taylor–I don’t think the system will producing many future stars in the next year or two(Grant Green is there, but is probably further away than that, right?). And the sheen of Carter’s and Taylor’s star power has worn a bit, I think–but they’ll have to wait and see.

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    • mlbfan says:

      They have pitching foundation at least w/ anderson (health), cahill, gio, and braden + a good closer bailey that should be around for a few years unless beane gets trigger happy on trades again. The current core of barton, sweeney, suzuki lacks upside, but overall solid complimentary pieces. Of course the problem is finding those couple middle order bats to build around.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    Of course the problem is finding those couple middle order bats to build around.

    When you compare the rosters of the A’s, Pirates Royals, etc to the rosters of the playoff teams, the number of things that must go RIGHT for them is just too numerous to take seriously (in terms of consistent hope of competing).

    Teams in those situations basically have to plan ahead to make a run every 5-6 years …. by being terrible, getting a lot of high draft picks, and having everyone develop together, with a couple of veterans having career years or a couple of recclamaition projects (like Carlos Pena) pan out in a big way.

    It’s actually kind of sad and frustrating all at once. When he desparity in budgets is much closer, so are the results.

    Small market teams get a 2 of clubs and 3 of hearts, and hope for a straight on the flop, to try and compete with the teams that have ‘face cards’ on the draw. Technically, it’s possible, but the odds against it are so great that it’s not worth getting personally invested as a fan.

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    • sleepingcobra says:

      Lumping the A’s in with the Pirates and Royals is folly, for myriad, obvious reasons, and you seem a tad too smart to make the mistake.

      Do you have some other motive at work here?

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  9. Cidron says:

    Agreed CC.. they HAVE to go right for them to compete. If they dont, its another 4-8 yrs… Teams with big (or huge) payrolls, simply absorb the “what went wrong, go out and buy a fix” and move on like nothing happened. If NY went out and got a Ben Sheets, and he is.. what he is.. he would be demoted to the minors to fix it, released, or put in another role. Come mid-season, they would simply find a replacement, oh, high-C.Lee, mid- J.Westbrook, etc etc. Nothing happened.. Oak/KC/Pitt cant do that.

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  10. mlbfan says:

    WIll be people stop putting A’s in the company of the pirates.

    Pirates havent had a .500 season since 1992
    Other than low payrolls what else makes them similar?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I was speaking from the perspective of budgets and market size.

      The A’s were successful because of innovation and taking advantage of market deficiencies.

      Now, the bigger markets are doing that as well. Advantage lost.

      Personally, I initially mentioned OAK, PIT, and KCR together because they were all powerful forces in the 70s. I should have thrown CIN in there as well.

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      • sleepingcobra says:

        The A’s are not a small market team.

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      • Wally says:

        They aren’t a small market in terms of the population their territory covers, but they have very limited financial resources due to factors they don’t have a ton of control over. Oakland is one of the poorest major cities in America. Alameda county (which is the majority of the A’s territory) isn’t much better. Which not only trying to sell tickets to poor people, it means selling ad space to people marketing poor people. The stadium sucks for baseball, Oakland city would hardly even have a conversation about a possible new site for a ballpark, much less actually approve one. So, now you’re trying to get poor people to go to a crappy stadium.

        So, to try and improve things, they have to fight MLB and the Giants to try and move to a more financially lucrative market in San Jose. San Jose, and Santa Clara county in general, is one of the richest cities (or counties) in America, and would have roughly the same population as Oakland. There is a lot of money in ad space directed towards the silicon valley market, not so much in the east bay. A move to San Jose would give the A’s the kind of market that could support a $100M payroll team. This is not only in the interest of the A’s, but MLB in general. MLB hasn’t tapped one of the richest and most populated markets in America.

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      • BX says:

        Totally agree with Wally. Oakland isn’t a small market, but it’s an extremely low income market. You’re not going to get a lot from marketing when people are barely surviving and the affluent are quick to move.

        You’re going to get the crowd that pregames on 40s before going to games, and sits in the cheap seats.

        Not good for a baseball team.

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      • BX says:

        And, the city of Oakland really doesn’t have the tax base to sustain a new stadium. At least, I don’t think it does.

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      • sleepingcobra says:

        @ Wally

        First off, if you think the A’s are “fighting MLB” to get to San Jose you most likely live in a cave. Second, Contra Costa County, which is directly next door to the Coliseum, and where a ton of A’s fans live, is the fastest growing county in the Bay Area and its median income is growing by leaps and bounds. Third, if the A’s built the new park in the 90s while the Giants stayed in Candlestick their positions would be reversed right now – a park in Oakland is wholly viable. Fourth, the whole “Oakland is poor” thing that everyone loves to pontificate about is likely tinged with racial semaphore, but of course we should avoid that subject. Fifth, San Jose is bordered by hinterlands on two sides and will actually cut the functional fan base to 2 million, or about the Kansas City Royals, and will leave the Giants with about 5 million, or about the Boston Red Sox. Sixth, selling $200 tickets to nouveau riche

        The facts are these: If the A’s move to San Jose, the Giants will be “a popular team with a fashionable ballpark” AND significantly better access to about 5 million Bay Area residents, putting them on par with the Boston Red Sox. The A’s will concede that market for better access to the 2 million Bay Area residents living south of Hayward and San Mateo, putting them on par with the Kansas City Royals. Pretty exciting stuff! Oh yeah, the A’s will have a shiny new 32,000 seat stadium so far from SF/Oakland that they won’t have to compete for those 5 million residents anymore. Yippee! It’s only short-term, when they’re selling $200 tickets to nouveau riche high-techies at a trendy new venue that there’s any sort of shine to this plan. Long-term, this is a disaster in the making. I think your mistake is in assuming 73-year-old Lew Wolff has given any thought to a long-term plan. I’m thinking he’s more likely in a short-term planning mode

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  11. Cidron says:

    We are talking money. And, yes, the Twins and A’s were successful due to “smart” front offices, innovative ways of looking and evaluating talent, not getting star-eyed at stars, etc etc.. But, now the big-boys are doing that as well. Hence, the only advantage the small markets had (because thats the only one THEY could gain) is gone.

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  12. CircleChange11 says:

    The “other” advantage smaller markets utilized was Latin America (namely the Montreal Expos). Larger markets, such as LA Dodgers, also did this.

    Now, there are no secrets in Latin America … as the All-Star lineups illustrate.

    The next “market inefficiency” perhaps would be pitchers whose FIP was much lower then their ERA (or pitchers who had horribly unlucky BABIP seasons, etc), and could be had for a steal, looking to have a rebound/regression season. But, most teams have some sort of sabermetric analyst on staff … so, unlikely.

    These teams will continue to sign the Ben Sheets, Rick Ankiels, Coco Crisps, Carlos Penas, of the world hoping for a career/rebound year. But, theres only so many Jake Taylors, Willie Mays Hayes, Pedro Ceranos, and Ricky Vaughns out there. *wink*

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  13. Cidron says:

    lol, love the Major League reference.. true, with todays PR etc.. who will scout the Penal Leagues for talent!

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