They’re 61-76 and sit 20.5 games out of first place, but if you listen to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, the Oakland Athletics have a bright future:
“It’s one of the best collections of talent in baseball right now. They made some mistakes in deceiving themselves (that) they had a chance to do something this year rather than just fully committing to the rebuild, but all signs point to up.”
The reason for the optimism: A good draft, some key international signings, and most importantly, the 24 players they’ve received for Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Marco Scutaro, Matt Holliday and Orlando Cabrera.
Fans’ mileage tends to vary with this sort of thing. There are certainly a lot of people — myself included — who get excited about a promising-looking bunch of prospects. Who is going to make it? Who is going to bust? Who is going to get flipped for the guy who, in hindsight, constituted the final piece of the playoff puzzle? That sort of thing can keep a fan warm all winter, dreaming all spring, and exciting all the following summer.
But A’s fans have been through this before. There was a parade of great talent in the early part of this decade, and so much of it eventually went away. To be sure, what was left played some very impressive baseball for a while, but they ultimately fell short, and for some fans close isn’t good enough.
Between that and the fact that ownership has mentally abandoned Oakland, it’s completely understandable if folks fail to buy what Goldstein is selling.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.