After a disappointing season that saw them finish in the basement of the AL West, you might think the Oakland Athletics would spend the off-season looking to get better, making trades and signing a few key free agents to help complement their stable of young prospects, many of whom were acquired in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade. You would be wrong.
Despite a glaring need to improve their defense and baserunning, the majority of the A’s off-season transactions have been signing a glut of arms to minor league contracts (names like César Valdéz, who hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2010, or Michael Brady, who is almost 30 and hasn’t made it to the majors yet). They did make an intriguing pickup in Norge Ruíz from the international free agent market, a 22-year-old Cuban with a decent fastball and an occasionally plus changeup who probably profiles best as a reliever; he’ll need to spend some time in the minors, probably starting at the AA level. Their other big pitching addition is our own Paul Blackburn, acquired in the Danny Valencia trade. While Blackburn was effective enough for AA Jackson this year in his 7 starts, his strikeout numbers continued to be minuscule, something that’s plagued him throughout the minors. He does keep the ball in the park, something that no Oakland Athletics pitcher not named Rich Hill could do, so that might have encouraged Oakland, who liked Blackburn enough to put him on their 40-man.
The A’s have been even quieter on the offensive side. They replaced Danny Valencia with Matt Joyce, a 32-year-old career .242 hitter, for two years at 11 million dolllars. Jeff Sullivan thinks Joyce might be headed for a breakout year, and his argument, based on a new hand position, is compelling. If 32-year-olds are the new market inefficiency, I am very excited to have my stock go up. The A’s were reported to be in on Edwin Encarnación, reportedly even offering him more money than Cleveland, but the parrot decided to fly near the picturesque shores of Lake Erie. Having missed out on EE, the A’s might be pursuing Mike Napoli, although it seems like the Rangers have him pretty well locked in their blue-and-red tractor beam. The A’s sorely lack a center fielder, although they might roll with Brett Eibner, acquired in the Billy Burns trade, rather than pay for a year of, say, Austin Jackson.
The Athletics aren’t in “win now” mode; they’re in “suck less” mode, and it’s looking more and more like Oakland, never big movers-and-shakers in the off-season, might stand pat and work on developing their young core instead of spending money on less-than-ideal free agents. They do have a fair number of prospects to use as trade candidates, though, especially at the SS position (top prospect Franklin Barreto, but also guys at various levels of the organization like Richie Martin, Yairo Munoz, and Chad Pinder) and in pitching, and in order to put a watchable product on the field in 2017, they might have to consider trading from some of their depth.
OR: they could just keep giving away cool stuff at the ballpark, like the A’s emoji shirt or Hello Kitty in uniform or the pet calendar or whatever, and people will come anyway, because A’s fans are loyal as anything, and that penny-pinching garbage-stadium team doesn’t deserve them. Let’s just have a look at this 2017 promotional schedule and...
For those of you who don’t know G-Eazy, he is the producer version of Macklemore, and responsible for that “Me, Myself & I” song that you’ve had stuck in your head a million times (yes you do know it, it’s that annoyingly smug and yet self-pitying slide-whistle oooo-woo it’s just me myself and I). Forget it, Athletics. You deserve to suffer.