Putting the Finishing Touches On A Contender


As we all sit captivated by the NFL Playoffs, even though the games weren’t exactly thrilling this weekend, Major League Baseball General Managers are quietly working to mold their teams into the best shape for the 2013 season.  While many of the prime free agents have chosen their new destinations, a few All Star caliber players do remain on the market (Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano to name a couple), and for those players they need to maximize their value in a very short amount of time.  The A’s though have been conspicuously quiet this offseason as Devin Pangaro examined on Monday, and with that the doubters have reemerged.  The Los Angeles Angels went at it again by throwing money at their problems and ending up with Josh Hamilton, the Texas Rangers have swung and missed on every big move they’ve attempted to make (No, signing A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman do not count as a big moves), the Seattle Mariners seem destined for mediocrity once again, and oh yeah… the Houston Astros are now in the AL West and they lost 106 games last year.  The A’s are in a position to fight for the division crown once again, but have they done everything they need to do to withstand the Angels and the Rangers onslaught?

Dec 18, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (left) presents shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima (right) his jersey and hat during a press conference announcing Nakajima

The short answer is yes.  Despite what the experts on national television and the national writers want you to believe, this Athletics team was not full of magic.  They won because they were talented, and they are still just as talented if not more so with the additions of Chris Young and Hiroyuki Nakajima.  With the moves they’ve made they can win the AL West once again, but there could still be work done that would make that task a whole lot more manageable.  While at this point there are no more glaring weaknesses on the team, there are still some aspects of the team that could afford some reinforcement.

I advocated earlier in the offseason that the A’s should be looking to sign a veteran catcher to hold down the starting job while Derek Norris gets a little more seasoning in Sacramento.  Norris may still be the answer for the future behind the dish, but right now he’s just overmatched at the plate on many occasions.  I still believe adding a Miguel Olivo/Yorvit Torrealba type player would be a good move.  Neither of them will cost much of anything, and they can hit just enough to about equal the production Norris gave the A’s last year along with George Kottaras as the backup.  Typically any offense from your catcher is a bonus provided they call a good game and give the team solid defense, Norris didn’t quite live up to that standard in 2012.

As I outlined Saturday, Javier Vazquez is making a comeback to the Major Leagues, and it really makes sense for the A’s to look to shore up the starting rotation.  You really can never have too much pitching.  Not many of the other remaining starters represent enough of an upside to warrant taking a spot from either Dan Straily or A.J. Griffin, but Tim Stauffer, Jeff Karstens, Jair Jurrjens, or Erik Bedard someone of that ilk might be a useful signing.

Lastly, the outfield is razor thin… just kidding.  I think the A’s are very well set out there.

Billy Beane is in a good position in that he may have done such a good job last offseason rebuilding this team that he doesn’t have to make any major impact moves this year.  That’s just fine by me, I must say I liked how last year turned out.  Perhaps once again flying under the radar, and turning the defending AL West Champions into underdogs is all part of his master plan to sneak up on everybody in 2013.  This time take it a few steps further though.