Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
So the World Series is set. The Boston Red Sox and the St.Louis Cardinals will be representing the American and National League in the Fall Classic. Most experts believe these are the 2 “Best” teams in MLB and have been all year. Each team had great years which resulted in having the best records in their respective leagues. These 2 teams are very similar with both being very well-balanced and led by great pitching staffs and solid veteran hitters up and down their lineups. This brings me to the A’s, and I can’t help myself from comparing what the Athletics “don’t” have to what the Cardinals and the Red Sox have. What I have concluded being the major difference between the two World Series bound teams and the A’s is the everyday lineups. Of course I recognized the huge difference in Payrolls and the limitations that are placed on the A’s as an Organization, but Billy Beane has been able to perform back room magic numerous times and put together deep and youthful rosters. This years roster was very indicative of why Billy Beane is considered one of the best GM’s in Pro Sports. The roster was very deep with most positions being shared by two quality players, but there were 2 positions on the infield that produced very poor offensive numbers the whole year. The positions of Catcher and Second Base definitely need to be upgraded in order for the A’s to reach that next level. No disrespect to Eric Sogard and “Nerd Power” but the A’s desperately need more production out of that position, and then there is the Catcher position. Now I know I’ve heard A’s Tv and Radio Broadcaster Ray Fosse say “any” offensive production from the catching position should be considered a bonus and that their defense is the biggest asset they bring to the team. This may be true on big budget teams who can afford to fill an important roster spot like Catcher, with just a defensive specialist, but small market teams like the A’s need maximum production from every position. The Catching rotation of Derek Norris, Stephen Voght and later Kurt Suzuki after John Jaso was lost due to severe post-concussion symptoms was serviceable during the regular season but got exposed as a weakness in the playoffs. The same could be said of the platoon at 2nd base by Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo which produced average numbers in the regular season but basically had little to no impact in the ALDS. Upgrading these 2 positions is essential if the A’s want to put to an end their 1st round playoff blues.
There are going to be a few available free agents to hit the market this summer that can possibly provide that needed upgrade at both positions. To fulfill their 2nd base issues the A’s may want to look at these two players Jhonny Peralta and Ben Zobrist. Both players would be a definite upgrade over Sogard, and With Callaspo only having 1 year left on his contract the possibility of him being traded is very high. The drawback in signing Peralta is that he is coming off a season which he got suspended 50 games because of his Biogenesis connection and the A’s may not want to deal with another player involved in that whole mess. Now his past suspension may also work in the A’s favor by lowering the potential offers from other teams, and allowing the A’s to compete in a potential bidding war. Peralta hit .303/11hr/55rbi which the A’s would surely take any year. Ben Zobrist who hit .274/12hr/71rbi was an All Star in 2009 and should also be in the A’s price range. This brings us to the offensive void at the Catching position and the available free agents the A’s should target. Both Jarod Saltalamacchia and Ben Zobrist would be quality additions and provide the much-needed batting production from the Catching position that the A’s haven’t had since 2009 when Suzuki hit .274/15hr/88rbi. It may be wishful thinking hoping the A’s can land anyone of those free agents, but in order for this team to get through that brick wall known as the ALDS, Billy Beane must provide some more of his magic, and add a solid bat to fulfill at least one of these two positions.