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.
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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