Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Should I stay or should I go ?

I really wanted to save this post for later, but so many people are talking about, I guess I'll have to post this before I wanted to.

Already the media and the internet is buzzing about changes for next season, who are the A's going to hang onto, who will they let go, and which players are available for Billy Beane and the A's ? In this post I will try to put it all together for all of you out there :

First off, the Contra Costa Times has a great A's players chart listing the players' current status and their probable future with the A's. It's a great place to start if you are just trying to figure out who is under contract, who is arbitration eligible, and who will become free agents. For those of you who are fascinated by contracts and numbers, here are 2 great websites that go into much greater detail on contracts and dollar signs : Dugout Dollars and MLB Contracts .

From Mychael Urban's article this past Monday, he speculates that there are only 9 A's who are assured of going nowhere during the offseason :

3B - Eric Chavez - Signed a 6 year contract this year, signed through 2010
SS - Bobby Crosby - Club owns rights
OF/1B - Nick Swisher - Club owns rights
C - Adam Melhuse - Club owns rights
CF - Mark Kotsay - Under contract through 2006
P - Tim Hudson - Under contract through 2005
P - Mark Mulder - Under contract, I believe A's have an option for 2006
P - Rich Harden - Club owns rights
P - Ricardo Rincon - Under contract through 2005

I am going to agree with Mychael Urban's prediction. While I am not a Rincon fan, he is a rather effective pitcher against left-handers and his numbers during the second half were a huge improvement from the first half. I see no reason why the A's would cut him loose. The rest of the players on that list are no-brainers.

Now let's go through the list of players who are free agents :
P - Jim Mecir
C - Damian Miller
Infield - Mark McLemore
OF - Jermaine Dye

I can only pray and hope that Jim Mecir is gone. He is contemplating retirement (good idea!). Even if he doesn't retire, the A's would be stupid to hang onto him, I think they will let him retire or try his luck on the free agent market.

Damian Miller has been one of my favorite players. Valued as one of the best defensive players in the game and seeing how the A's are now valuing defense, I don't see why Billy Beane would let Miller go. He was a surprise with his offense after a dismal season in Chicago and I think he will sign with the A's without too much trouble.

Mark McLemore is most probably going to retire. Even if he doesn't, with Scutaro and German as back up infielders - young and cheap - I don't see why the A's would clutter the bench with an aging infielder. Consider him gone.

That leaves Jermaine Dye. I know he has a lot of fans and some people are pulling for him, but his performance simply doesn't justify the price to exercise his option for 2005. Even Dye himself said that while he would like to stay, he wouldn't for less money. Consider him and his $14 million dollar option gone.

Now that we have gotten the free agents out of the way, let's look at our arbitration eligible players :
P - Chad Bradford
P - Octavio Dotel
DH/1B - Erubiel Durazo
OF - Eric Byrnes
OF - Bobby Kielty
OF/PH - Billy McMillon

Chad Bradford had a decent season at best. He was up and down all season long and struggled at times, but still shines as a right-handed specialist. However, with call ups like Justin Lehr and Joe Blanton in the mix - and much cheaper, I might add - Bradford might just be expendable. He is one of my favorite pitchers, but I think the A's will let him go and give the job to the youngsters rising through the ranks.

Octavio Dotel is a white knuckle closer - you never know when he is going to blow a game wide open or shut down his opponents with ruthless efficiency. Still, I think he is better than his numbers with the A's show and before Dotel arrived onto the scene, the bullpen had no anchor and it's doubtful the A's would have even made it as far as they did. I think the A's will try to hang onto Dotel while developing one of their new younger pitchers into a future closer. I predict a 1 year deal with Dotel.

Erubiel Durazo finally had the kind of year that everyone has been waiting for. Hitting for power and average, he was an offensive powerhouse. He is a fan favorite and with Jermaine Dye leaving, the A's will need a power bat in the lineup. The question is : was this year a fluke or a vision of seasons to come ? I am going to go out on a limb and say that the A's will keep Durazo for at least another year. This could all change though, depending on Dan Johnson's health.

Eric Byrnes had a career year this season. He was strong in the outfield and smacked 20 HR. With Jermaine Dye gone the A's need every bat they can get and can't afford to weaken their outfield. While some are saying that Byrnes could be trade bait in the offseason in a multi player package, I think the A's will hang onto Byrnes.

Bobby Kielty was a huge disappointment, but Billy Beane has shown a strange stubborness towards some players and I think Kielty is one of them. As much as I hate to say it, I think Kielty will be back in 2005. Hey, look on the bright side, he is cheap.

Billy McMillon's stock skyrocketed after the 2003 season, he was decent outfielder and an incredible pinch hitter. What was his record as a pinch hitter in 2004 ? 0.080. Kiss him goodbye.

So that takes care of the players up for arbitration. Let's take a look at the players left :
P - Joe Blanton - I believe he has a good chance to be our #5 starter next season
P - Justin Duchscherer - My favorite pitcher in the bullpen. Our guaranteed long reliever for 2005
P - Jairo Garcia - Will remain at AAA Sacramento to begin the season. Possible call up mid-season next year.
P - Chris Hammond - Club option for 2005. A hefty price tag for his limited appearances, but the A's would be smart to hang onto him, great stuff. I think he's in.
P - Justin Lehr - Has potential, but has struggled all season. Still, he's cheap and young and for some reason the A's management like him. He will be in.
P - Mark Redman - I like him. However his salary is far too expensive to justify his home numbers. Look for him to be traded in the offseason.
P - Arthur Rhodes - Like T.Long before him, Billy Beane will have to package him in someway to another team in a trade. However, if Beane can get another Kotsay-like player in return, it will be worth it.
P - Kirk Saarloos - Faces surgery, he will either be demoted to the minor leagues or get picked up by another team.
P - Barry Zito - A lot of trade rumors have haunted Zito all season. Forget it. Billy Beane is awfully fond of his trademark "Big 3" and while he might be tempted, he will not trade Zito. Zito will be with us at least for 2005.
Infielder - Esteban German - Billy Beane may be forced to package him along with Redman or Rhodes, but I think he'll still be around as a back up for the infield along with Scutaro.
1B - Scott Hatteberg - Despite having a career year and being under contract for 2005, I think he will be traded off to make room for Dan Johnson. Durazo is younger and more valuable, Dan Johnson is one of our top prospects and deserves a chance.
1B/DH - Dan Johnson - Has Vertigo, which can come and go throughout a person's lifetime, possible long-term health concern. But his numbers at AAA demand he be given a chance for the team in 2005.
2B - Mark Ellis - Ellis will be back. Count on it. While still not 100% healthy, he has plenty of months to work on it. One of the best defensive 2B in the game.
2B/Infielder - Marco Scutaro has been the biggest surprise this season. He could easily be our starting 2B, but I think Ellis will get the nod over Scutaro, with Scutaro as our primary back up.

So if you are still reading, here is what I think our roster will look like at the beginning of the 2005 season :

Starting Pitchers:
Tim Hudson
Mark Mulder
Barry Zito
Rich Harden
Joe Blanton

If Joe Blanton lives up to his potential, Rich Harden pitches as well as he did during the second half, Mulder stays healthy (mentally and physically) for the entire season, and Zito can remain somewhat consistent, we will have the best starting lineup in the entire major league. That's a big IF though, folks.

Ricardo Rincon
Justin Duchscherer
Chris Hammond
Justin Lehr
Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel will remain as the closer until we can develop our own closer from our farm system. Both Jairo Garcia and Huston Street have potential. If Lehr can step up to the big league pressure, he could be a quality set up man, but he has a lot of work to do.

CF - Mark Kotsay
OF - Eric Byrnes
OF - Bobby Kielty
OF/1B - Nick Swisher

Unlike some people, I really think this will be a productive outfield. Kotsay is a gold glove caliber defender and a strong offensive player. Swisher is one of the top prospects in the game. Hopefully Byrnes can reproduce similar numbers to this season. Kielty has a lot to prove.

C - Damian Miller
C - Adam Melhuse
1B/DH - Erubiel Durazo
1B/DH - Dan Johnson
2B - Mark Ellis
2B/IF - Marco Scutaro
3B - Eric Chavez
3B/IF - Esteban German
SS - Bobby Crosby

Both Miller and Melhuse are capable catchers. Defensively, with the exception of 1B, I feel really good about this line up.

So there you have it, our rough lineup for 2005. Obviously there will be players to add to this roster and probably some of my predictions will be wrong, but it's fun to speculate.


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