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.

Orioles acquire Jeremy Hellickson from Phillies

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In their second trade on Friday, the Phillies dealt right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league lefty Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus slots. The Orioles will also receive cash considerations from the Phillies.

Hellickson will bolster a pitching staff that, while not well-positioned to contend for a division title, still stands a slim chance of reaching the postseason this year. The Orioles have not yet revealed where he’ll land in the rotation, though MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli speculates that the right-hander could supplant either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez.

The 30-year-old righty went 6-5 in 20 starts with the Phillies, racking up a 4.75 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.2 SO/9 through 112 1/3 innings in 2017. It’s a bit of a comedown from his performance in 2016, during which he maintained a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2012. While Hellickson’s numbers haven’t been outstanding, he’s been relatively healthy and hasn’t sustained anything more serious than a mild knee sprain and back tightness over the last year. His presence should bring some consistency to an ailing Orioles rotation that currently ranks third-worst in the league with a cumulative 5.90 ERA and 2.2 fWAR.

The Phillies will receive some outfield depth in 29-year-old left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, who carries an underwhelming .232/.305/.288 batting line with five extra bases and 10 RBI through his first 142 PA in 2017. He made just 33 starts in left field this season and could step into a similarly limited role in Philadelphia’s outfield after the club traded Howie Kendrick to the Nationals on Friday.

Cleavinger, 23, has seen mixed results in his first Double-A stint this season. The left-hander dragged a 6.28 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through 38 2/3 innings with Double-A Bowie and has struggled to improve both his control and velocity during three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system.

Although the deal netted Baltimore some much-needed pitching depth, they still have a long way to go before they can give the AL’s top teams a run for their money. Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, it doesn’t look like they’re done adding at the deadline just yet:

Mets acquire AJ Ramos from Marlins

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The Mets acquired closer AJ Ramos from the Marlins, the team reported Friday. The Marlins will receive two prospects in the deal, right-hander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes.

The trade comes as some surprise given the Mets’ current status as non-contenders in the NL East, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo points out that they could position themselves for the division title again in 2018. They also have a proven closer in right-hander Addison Reed and will presumably continue to field offers for him before he hits free agency following the 2017 season.

Ramos, 30, is coming off of his first All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2016. He racked up 20 saves in 40 appearances and compiled a 3.63 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 over 39 2/3 innings in 2017. He’s due $6.55 million this season and will remain under team control through 2019.

The Marlins, meanwhile, will receive the Mets’ No. 9 and No. 22 prospects. Gonzalez, 21, began the season in rookie ball and advanced to High-A St. Lucie in June, pitching to a cumulative 1.78 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 106 innings. He was ranked No. 5 among the Mets’ pitching prospects and No. 9 in their system, and has found some success in the lowest rungs of New York’s farm system despite some command issues and trouble defining his breaking balls.

Cespedes, 19, progressed to Short-Season A Brooklyn in 2017 after several stints in rookie ball. In 81 PA with Brooklyn, the center fielder slashed .240/.278/.280 with a double and 12 RBI before getting sidelined with an undisclosed injury.