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.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.