It wasn’t all that long ago that premier A’s blog Athletics Nation was wondering if Billy Beane wasn’t losing his touch, and a majority of voters in their poll said that Brian Sabean of all people was “out-GMing” Beane this offseason.
But now, in the fullness of time, Beane’s offseason is looking pretty good. Beane has completely rebuilt an offense that was among the worst last year by adding sluggers Matt Holiday and Jason Giambi, upgrading significantly at shortstop from Bobby Crosby to Orlando Cabrera, and now bringing in Nomar Garciaparra cheaply as a bat off the bench.
Beane was desperate to acquire a shortstop to replace Bobby Crosby, who can’t stay healthy and can’t keep his OBP above .300, but by holding the line on Rafael Furcal and waiting out everyone else, he was able to not only sign Cabrera to an unbelievably low 1-year, $4 million deal, but also had enough cash left over to get reliever Russ Springer and Nomar.
Who would have thought that Cabrera would have gotten only $4 million back at the start of the offseason, before the bottom fell out of the free agent market? It’s hard to blame Sabean too much, but his 2-year, $18.5 million pact with Edgar Renteria sure is looking pretty silly now, since Cabrera is probably actually the better player at short.
The Nomar signing is also very crafty, especially at such a low cost. The only real skill that Nomar still has left is that he absolutely crushes left-handed pitchers (1.067 OPS against them last season), and this fits perfectly with the A’s who remain one of the most heavily left-handed hitting teams in the majors (Cust, Ryan Sweeney, Giambi, Eric Chavez, Jack Hannahan, Daric Barton, and Travis Buck all bat left handed). Plus Nomar can still manage defensively at 1B and 3B, which are two positions where the A’s still have some uncertainty.
A lot still depends on a young and untested rotation stepping up, but as the dust finally settles, the A’s project as about an 84 win team right now. With the Angels expected to come back down to normal Pythagorean levels this season, they project as an 87 win team, so it should be a more interesting year in the AL West than many people expect.