Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Oakland A’s are acting strange this offseason. They’ve been spending, a lot. The payroll is up to $71.9 million dollars, and they’re still open to more moves. The A’s don’t usually go on spending sprees like that. They usually sign a few new players make a trade or two and keep the payroll low. Many are saying that they are “all in” this offseason. But as Billy Beane puts it, they don’t know where they’re going to be playing the next five years, so every year they’re all in. It’s posing a lot of questions as to whether or not this increased payroll will finally get the A’s past the ALDS. Well the A’s will make it past the ALDS, but it won’t be because of the increased payroll.
Beane has assembled yet another great team. He’s managed to make an amazing bullpen even better, possibly the best in baseball. Most of the signing this offseason have been in the bullpen. There has been the signings of Fernando Abad, Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson (trade), Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom (both traded). Even more recently they went out and signed Eric O’Flaherty. That’s a lot of new pitchers to add to Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Jesse Chavez, and Evan Scribner. There’s a lot of spots up for grabs, and spring training will determine who gets to start the season in the ‘pen. Even Tommy Milone could vie for a spot in the bullpen with so many starting pitchers to pick from. If a pitcher needs a break they can be sent down to triple-A and send someone up who’s just as good to replace them. This bullpen is definitely the deepest, and now the best in baseball. Last season the bullpen was amazing as it was, shutting down a lot games. While the additions are nice, they are not necessary for this team to succeed.
Then there’s the rotation. With the loss of Bartolo Colon, Beane acquired Scott Kazmir to take his place. The rotation will end up looking something like this; Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Strailey. Drew Pomeranz can potentially win a spot, but he’d have to be amazing in spring training to take a spot from one of these other guys. With essentially the same guys coming back, the rotation isn’t too different. If Kazmir performs like an ace, then the additional $22 million over two years might help advance them past the ALDS, but the rest of the money spent wouldn’t have been a factor.
Then you have the utility players who were signed essentially as insurance for other players. Craig Gentry was signed to fill in in the outfield just like Chris Young Last year. The trio of Cespedes, Reddick, And Crisp will take most of the playing time though, and signing someone cheaper would probably still allow the A’s to move past the ALDS. When the playoffs come around it would still be the same trio out there assuming they’re all healthy, meaning no matter who was signed, the A’s would still be good enough to advance.
The second utility guy signed was infielder Nick Punto. He would essentially be giving guys days off. Guys like Donaldson, Lowrie, or even Sogard and Callaspo. He was added for the purpose of depth, not to be an impact player. The A’s would still advance no matter who was there as insurance, because it would still be the same core group of guys playing everyday.
So the takeaway from all these signings is that Beane has put together a fantastic team. A team that can take the no. 1 seed in the American League Postseason. But the signing were more insurance than anything else. The only reason the A’s didn’t get past the ALDS was because they had to wait almost an entire week to play again. The steaming hot A’s had cooled down. The players who usually do great on offense were cold. They weren’t getting hits. The week they had to wait was what caused them to lose a very close game 1. If they had won that game, they would have swept the Tigers rather than lose in game 5. Again. And we wouldn’t have had our hearts broken. Last year’s team was good enough to win the World Series. This upcoming season’s team is as well. But the money won’t be the reason they get further this year. If they get further, it will be because of Bob Melvin and his art of platooning. It will be because of Cespedes’s incredible power. It will be because of Coco’s and Reddick’s acrobatic defense. Because of Donaldson’s clutch hitting. The money has nothing to do with it. The A’s will win because of their Oakland magic.