Billy Beane

The Oakland A’s in 2014

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Though they’ve since made moves geared more for the short-term in re-signing Coco Crisp and trading for Seth Smith, the A’s pretty much gave up on 2012 when they shipped out pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey for youngsters. That’s still true even after they anted up $36 million for Yoenis Cespedes. Their eyes are clearly on 2014-15, when they hope to have themselves a new stadium in San Jose.

A few days ago, I put in my forecast for Oakland’s 2012 roster. It still could look a whole lot like that, though the early reports suggest the A’s expect to avoid a Triple-A stint and open the season in center field. That could put Coco Crisp in left and Seth Smith at DH or it might result in Josh Reddick’s demotion from the starting lineup. That’s not at all what’s important, though.

Let’s instead try to figure out what the A’s might look like in 2014, when they’re hopefully ready to contend in the AL West once again.

Rotation
LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Jarrod Parker
RHP Sonny Gray
RHP Brad Peacock
RHP Tyson Ross

Brandon McCarthy and Dallas Braden should be gone by then. Whether Anderson will still be around is anyone’s guess. He’s under team control through 2015, but the A’s could always ship him out like they did Gonzalez and Cahill. The foundation of the new rotation arrived in this winter’s trades (Parker and Peacock, along with fellow 2014 candidate A.J. Cole) and in the 2011 draft (Gray). I gave Ross the fifth spot, but it’s just as likely that his future is in the bullpen.

As for the bullpen, I’m not going to try projecting that, except to say that Fautino De Los Santos should be a big part of it. He’s a candidate to take over as the team’s closer this year.

Lineup
2B Jemile Weeks
CF Grant Green
1B Daric Barton
RF Yoenis Cespedes
DH Seth Smith
3B Scott Sizemore
LF Michael Choice
C Derek Norris
SS Cliff Pennington

Call me crazy, but I’m still a believer in Barton. Of course, this is a make-or-break year for him, and though I think he’ll be a solid regular at first base for some team in 2014, it may not be Oakland. Smith, who is under control through 2014, could also have moved on by then. And the A’s big target at this point should be a prime prospect at third base (though, FWIW, they did give a 16-year-old named Renato Nunez a $2.2 million bonus to sign out of the Dominican Republic in 2010).

It’s the outfield that has gotten awfully interesting as a result of the Cespedes acquisition. Green, Oakland’s first-round pick in 2009, shifted from shortstop to center field last year. Choice was the team’s first-round pick in 2010. If those two fulfill their potential, then there won’t be any room for new acquisition Josh Reddick or former top prospect Michael Taylor. First base/outfield/DH-types Brandon Allen and Chris Carter are also left out in the cold here.

Catcher is another question mark. I love Norris’ bat, but he might end up at first base or DH. If that’s the case, then Max Stassi is the team’s best hope for a catcher of the future.

The A’s finished last year with one of the game’s weaker farm systems. That’s turned around now, though it came at quite a cost. I’m still not sure the above group is a winner, but considering that the 14 players there shouldn’t cost much more than $45 million in 2014, the A’s will have the cash to fill in some gaps. At the very least, the A’s are no longer meandering. The plan to build for 2014-15 might not work out, but it is a plan.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.