This is one in a series of posts that will call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
The Oakland A’s had a pretty quiet offseason, mostly because almost their entire roster was already signed through 2007. But they wouldn’t be the A’s unless they lost at least one or two major stars to free agency every offseason, only to miraculously remain competitive the next year. This offseason, the A’s are losing team MVP Frank Thomas, who inked a two-year deal with the Jays, and longtime ace Barry Zito, who crossed the bay in a monster 7-year deal with the Giants.
The A’s did manage to find a pretty reasonable approximation to replace Frank Thomas at DH in the form of Mike Piazza, whose catching skills have deteriorated (insofar as he ever had any), but who still has some life left in his bat, as demonstrated by his good showing last season in an extreme pitchers park in San Diego.
Zito will apparently be replaced from within, as Rich Harden becomes the new team ace and Joe Kennedy is slated to step in as the fifth starter. Should Kennedy falter, the A’s also have Brad Halsey as an options for the fifth spot.
Other than Zito and Thomas, the only other player the A’s lost was fourth outfielder Jay Payton, who signed a two-year deal with the Orioles. But while Payton gave the A’s solid play at the corner outfield spots, he is not much of a loss as the A’s still have Bobby Kielty, Hiram Bocachica, and #1 Rule V draft selection Ryan Goleski as candidates for backup outfield spots.
The only other addition the A’s made besides Piazza was lefty reliever Alan Embree, who had a very solid season last year for the Padres and adds depth to an already solid bullpen.
Overall the A’s look to be treading water. The good news is, they are returning almost the exact same team that won the division last season. The bad news is, they are returning almost the exact same team that flamed out yet again in the playoffs. Zito’s loss will hurt a bit, but not as much as you might think going only on Zito’s lofty reputation, and the A’s can also reasonably expect some improvement in other areas, such fuller seasons from Rich Harden, Dan Johnson, Bobby Crosby, and Milton Bradley, and a return to form by Eric Chavez.
Offseason Grade: B
Mike Piazza, Alan Embree, Ryan Goleski
Barry Zito, Frank Thomas, Jay Payton
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
C Jason Kendall – .295/.367/.342 11 SB
CF Mark Kotsay – .275/.332/.386, 7 HR
RF Milton Bradley – .276/.370/.447, 14 HR
LF Nick Swisher – .254/.372/.493, 35 HR
DH Mike Piazza – .283/.342/.501, 22 HR
3B Eric Chavez – .241/.351/.435, 22 HR
SS Bobby Crosby – .229/.298/.338, 9 HR
1B Dan Johnson – .234/.323/.381, 9 HR
2B Marco Scutaro/Mark Ellis
RHP Rich Harden – 4-0, 4.24
RHP Dan Haren – 14-13, 4.12
RHP Joe Blanton – 16-12, 4.82
RHP Esteban Loiza – 11-9, 4.89
LHP Joe Kennedy – 4-1, 2.31
CL Huston Street – 37 SV, 3.31