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.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.