Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A look at players who might not be back next season

While we are waiting to see who will be the next A's manager, let's take a look at the current roster and see if we can't guess who won't be back next season.

Octavio Dotel:

I really like Dotel, I think he is a fun player to watch who exhibits a lot of enthusiasm for the game. I also think he is not only a superb set up man, but an above average closer who would do well on any team's roster.

That being said, Dotel pretty much sealed his fate with the A's when he decided to go ahead with surgery early in the season despite several trips to several doctors, all who said he didn't need surgery. His decision to go ahead with the surgery despite contrary advice rankled Macha and possibly others in the A's front office.

But Dotel's early departure from the team opened a huge door of opportunity for the A's rookie closer Huston Street who quickly cemented himself into the closer role for the A's, surpassing everyone's expectations and becoming one of the elite pitchers in the American League and to think he was only drafted a year ago.

Huston Street's immense success as the A's closer made Dotel's decision to go ahead with surgery, thereby missing the rest of the season, completely irrelevant. With Street pitching so well as the A's new closer, there really is no need to bring back Dotel at all, especially at the lofty price he will bring. Plus, having been out a whole season, no one is really sure how Dotel will pitch coming back into 2006.

Ricardo Rincon:

In 2003 and 2004 it was "“Fear Mecir"” as everytime Mecir took the mound A's fans took to biting fingernails and holding their chair arms in white knuckle grips. You never knew what was going to happen when Mecir took the mound.

Ricardo Rincon, basically relegated to a one out lefty specialist, was the new Mecir for 2005. Everytime he took the mound it was like Mecir all over again. You just didn't know if he was going to blow the game wide open, fail to get his 1 batter out, or end up pitching 2/3 of a shutout inning. For the most part, Rincon had decent numbers, but I just have never felt comfortable seeing him walk to the pitchers mound.

Rincon is a free agent in 2006. Being a lefty specialist with mediocre numbers he probably wouldn't cost too much to retain, but do we really want to blow our money on a lefty specialist who sometimes has trouble getting left handed batters out ? It's all about value, my friends, how much do you want to pay Rincon per out ? Do the math, it just isn't worth it.

As for left handed pitchers in the bullpen, we already have Joe Kennedy, if he does not become the A's new fifth starter. We also have Ron Flores who was called up more than once during the season and pitched better than Rincon when he was here.

Scott Hatteberg:

Scott Hatteberg is a player I genuinely like. Last season I was singing his praises until age and fatigue finally wore him down to worthlessness the last month of the season. This year he started off fairly well only to breakdown earlier than expected and slog his way through the remainder of the season with rather lackluster numbers as a DH.

While his BA and OBP weren't too far off his career numbers, his power completely disappeared and with youngsters like Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher on the team, unfortunately there really is no place for him. Hatteberg is a team player and seems to be well respected among his teammates and is a favorite of Billy Beane's. But if you can't perform on the field or in the batter's box, then unfortunately you have no business playing.

Hopefully Hatteberg will retire or take a coaching job with the A's or another team instead of trying to squeeze another major league season out of his tired body. The A's would be unwise to hang onto Hatteberg as a player, but Beane has shown to be stubborn when it comes to certain players, so who knows what he will do. But we have a number of solid options both at 1B and DH.

Erubiel Durazo:

Erubiel Durazo had a breakout season in 2004 with career highs in BA, HR, and RBI. It seemed that Durazo had finally lived up to his potential as Billy Beane's "Holy Grail"”.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Durazo got off to a lackluster start, although not nearly as bad as Chavez or Kendall, and then he got injured -– throwing a baseball.

Durazo was placed on the DL and eventually everyone stopped asking Macha when Durazo would be back as it became apparent the $4.7 million dollar man was gone for the season.

There are 2 big questions being asked this off-season : (1) If Durazo comes back, will we get Durazo version 2004 or Durazo version 2003 ? (2) How much will the A's have to pay Durazo to stay for 2006 ?

Durazo is basically a DH as his 1B skills are average at best and after getting injured preparing for his turn at 1B, one has to wonder if he should ever handle the glove again. With that being said, the A's have several options at DH. They could come to agreements with Durazo for 2006 and then trade him mid-season once Daric Barton is ready for the big leagues. Or they could simply let him go outright, bringing up Daric Barton for the beginning of 2006 or rotating DH between Matt Watson, Kendall, Melhuse, and Payton (if they hang on to him).

Keichi Yabu:

Oh man, do I really have to explain ? Billy Beane needs to stop these $1 million dollar experiments. They just don't work. Last year it was Karros, this year it was Yabu, a Japanese import making his first U.S. major league appearance.

Originally brought on as a possible 4th or 5th starter, Yabu ended up in the bullpen where he started fairly strong but was relegated to mop up work. Then for a long while he just seemed to disappear as Macha appeared to stop using him altogether, only to bring him out again near the end of the season in several crucial games where Yabu made a good case for assigning himself strictly to mop up duty.

1 year contract, $1 million dollars gone, no need to continue any further. He will be gone.

Keith Ginter:

Ginter is a complete mystery. Like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, it is impossible to distinguish which is the real man - AAA raker and right-handed major league pop ? or lackluster defensive infielder who couldn't hit a ball past the infield or hell, just hit the ball period ?

Ginter was brought in as insurance in case Ellis was not up to par after recovering from his season ending injury of 2004. He was also brought in as a power right handed batter to complement the lefty heavy A's, having raked 19 HR in just 386 AB with Milwaukee in 2004.

Luckily, Ellis exceeded everyone's expectations putting up stellar defense and having a career year at the plate. Not so luckily, Ginter struggled early in the season, putting up abysmal numbers for a major league batter and quickly got sent down to AAA Sacramento - where he proceeded to destroy AAA pitching. Which then earned him another call up to the big club -
where he proceeded to put up even worse numbers than in the beginning of the season, thereby earning him a well deserved place on the bench for the remainder of the season.

I don't think anyone could have foreseen this kind of performance from Ginter when the A's signed him. The guy has a career 0.751 OPS compared to a 0.497 OPS for 2005.I am sure Ginter is just as confused as the rest of us.

I think Ginter is better than what he gave the A's in 2005 and is ready for a rebound. The question is how big will that rebound be and do we want to take a chance on him again for 2006 when we now know that we have a healthy and incredibly successful Mark Ellis at 2B and Marco Scutaro as a very competent infield back up. We just don't need 2 back ups at 2B and I think hanging on to Ginter as an emergency back up for Chavez is not worth it, it is money better spent elsewhere.

Charles Thomas:

Why we bothered with Charles Thomas in the first place is a mystery to me. This is a guy who never excelled in the minor leagues except for 2003 and the first part of 2004 where his numbers were so far off his minor league norms one has to wonder if his flashes of brilliance were just that. Thomas then got called up to Atlanta where he played pretty well in 2004, which earned him a spot with the A's in the Tim Hudson trade.

Beane understandably likes cheap, young players, especially players that are undervalued or haven't reached their peak yet, but this was a gamble that Beane was to lose. Charles Thomas got off to a horrible start that quickly turned into a horrible year. Despite Macha regular trotting Thomas out in the lineup, Thomas continued to make his case as bench warmer. In June, Charles Thomas was sent down to AAA Sacramento where a hot start quickly turned into lukewarm waters. His final stats at AAA - 0.227 BA, 0.319 OBP, 0.361 SLG. With numbers like these, he doesn't even belong in AAA, much less the major leagues.

This was another Beane gamble that didn't pan out. Charles Thomas is long past the age of being considered a prospect and has few choices left in his baseball career. The A's would be wise to let him go or tender him a minor league contract with the hopes that he breaks out one day.

One noticeable name absent from this list is Juan Cruz. As painful as it was to sometimes watch him come into a game, I feel his numbers for 2005 are an aberration, not the standard. This guy was lights out for Atlanta and had he stayed in Atlanta he would have been a starter. When the A's sent him down to AAA, he posted outstanding numbers and mowed down batters. It is very possible that due to his lackluster performance in 2005 the A's may send him packing, but I am going to bet on him staying in the organization, either as a starter or back in the bullpen. If he still underperforms in 2006, then the A's will be forced to trade him, but I am hoping for a big comeback.

That's it for today, the next post will focus on a list of players that I believe the A's should hang on to for 2006.


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