Sunday, December 31, 2006

Possible 2007 A's Roster

Update: Thanks to the very useful Cot's Baseball Contracts I have updated the tentative roster below with contract numbers. Those missing are players under club control (figures not known yet) or players with whom the A's are still negotiating with under arbitration.

Antonio Perez will be back in 2007. This makes things interesting for the 25-man roster as the A's will have to decide who is the odd-man out come opening day.

As the winter continues the A's 2007 roster is beginning to take shape. The A's lost Frank Thomas only to sign another aging slugger in Mike Piazza. Zito left for a boatload of green while Joe Kennedy prepares to compete for the open spot on the rotation and the A's sign LHP Alan Embree to fill out their bullpen. Jay Payton moved on to Baltimore but Beane and Co. manage to get OF Ryan Goleski from the Devil Rays in the rule 5 draft only to find out later that he had been injured and might not be available at the start of the season. Without further ado, here are your 2007 A's as I see them now:

SP - Rich Harden - $2 million
SP - Dan Haren - $2.2 million
SP - Joe Blanton - $0.380 million
SP - Esteban Loaiza - $6 million
SP - Joe Kennedy - $2.8 million

C - Huston Street - $0.380 million

RP - Justin Duchscherer - $1.18 million
RP - Kiko Calero - $1.6 million
RP - Chad Gaudin - $0.380 million
RP - Alan Embree - $2.25 million
RP - Kirk Saarloos - traded to the Reds
RP - Brad Halsey - $0.380 million

C - Jason Kendall - $13 million
C/DH - Adam Melhuse - $0.815 million

1B/DH - Dan Johnson - $0.380 million
1B/DH - Mike Piazza - $8.5 million
2B - Mark Ellis - $3.5 million
2B/SS - Marco Scutaro - $1.55 million
SS - Bobby Crosby - $2.5 million
3B - Eric Chavez - $9 million
3B - Antonio Perez - $0.500 million

OF - Mark Kotsay - $7 million
OF - Milton Bradley - $4 million
OF - Nick Swisher - $0.380 million
OF - Bobby Kielty - $2.1 million

That's the 25-man roster as I see it now. It's possible the A's could use Scutaro as the backup for all three infield positions so that Chavez could get a rest now and then but that's doubtful as Scutaro has spent scant time at 3B and is more effective in the SS/2B positions. That means the A's could drop Halsey from the 25-man roster to make room for Antonio Perez to back up Chavez. With Goleski recovering from injury, the A's could also roll the dice with a 4-man outfield which would also allow Perez to be on the 25-man roster and Halsey to stay. It all depends on what the A's see as their most pressing need come opening day.

I also think Jeremy Brown will be called up sometime during the season and that Adam Melhuse's days are numbered. Brown is becoming somewhat old for a prospect and Beane likes him, so expect Melhuse to be involved in some kind of mid-season trade while Brown becomes the back up catcher and occasional DH.

Erubiel Durazo is an interesting mix. If he performs well in Spring Training the A's will have some interesting decisions to make. The A's made this move strictly for depth, an insurance policy for both Dan Johnson and Mike Piazza should they struggle. He may start the season at AAA Sacramento but expect him to be called up at some point or perhaps even start on the 25-man roster.

I think Beane & Co., barring another wacky season of team-wide injuries, will wisely keep Barton in a full season of AAA, with the chance to be called up come September.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Zito to the Giants: What can they expect from him?

The big news this week was the signing of Zito to a 7-year, $126 million contract (that's roughly $18 million per year), the largest contract ever for a pitcher - but not to the Mets, who were widely considered the front-runners in the race until they balked at adding more years to the contract. Instead, Zito gets to stay in the Bay Area (he lives in San Francisco) ending up with the Giants.

Blez from Athletics Nation says he is "...kind of done with Zito..."

Mike from Barry Zito Forever seems to be content as he can still flip over to the Giants games to watch Zito pitch.

The Professor sums up the life of an A's fan : "We envy in the winter, but smirk during the playoffs."

The Pastime is sorry to see Zito go, but reminds us that no matter what players say, it is always about the money.

Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News says this was nothing more than a "...risky public-relations decision...":

The Giants not only met the market price for Zito, they also went crazy high over it. They were more desperate than the Texas Rangers and they outbid the Mets! By more than $40 million! Do you know how amazing that is?

No, this was not really a baseball move. This was mostly an incredibly expensive and risky public-relations decision. A buy-a-big-name-now desperation decision. A well-timed nod-to-the-fringe decision.

This is the way the Yankees do business to fend off the Mets or what the Rangers do to fend off their awfulness or what the Dodgers do to fend off boredom.

This is what the A's never do. Think Billy Beane is cackling privately about his cross-bay rival locking up $18 million to Zito from now until 2013 while the A's consistently churn out better teams?

And Eric Gilmore of the Contra Costa Times wonders openly "How Long Will the Zito Fest Last?":

Zito isn't going to carry this old, light-hitting Giants team to the playoffs on his back, even though he has never missed a start in his professional career.

In Zito, the Giants signed a very good and dependable starting pitcher, but one who hasn't come close the past four seasons to matching his Cy Young numbers of 2002, when he went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA for the A's.

Since his Cy Young year, Zito has gone 55-46 with ERAs of 3.30, 4.48, 3.86 and 3.83.

Zito's winning percentage the past four years is .545. That's lower than the A's overall winning percentage of .568 during that span.

I like Zito and I definitely think there is some good value in paying for durability - particularly when you find a guy who has never missed a start - but Gilmore is on to something with Zito's numbers.

I was talking to an old colleague of mine (who lives in San Francisco and is a Giants fan) who was absolutely ecstatic that his team outbid everybody else to secure Zito. I told him he should be happy because he was getting a good starter who had proved to be very durable, but that he should also curb his enthusiasm because Zito would prove to frustrate Giants fans with his up and down pitching performances throughout the year. As I said in my end of season review of Zito:

Zito can go out and give you 8-9 shutout innings, striking out 7-8 batters in barely 100 pitches. Or he can barely get through 6 innings with 120 pitches, 4-5 earned runs, and a boatload of walks. Sometimes he'll manage to string several solid performances together - other times it'll be a string of duds. But regardless, over a 162-game season, his better performances outweigh the bad.

Zito has always walked a lot of batters, but this year he walked a career high of 99. Like Haren, he too has given up a fair number of HR. Zito also completely fell apart at the end of the season, putting together a string of forgettable performances at the end of the season, but his saddest outing could also have been his last - a complete disaster in the ALCS against Detroit.

Here's Zito's numbers from 2001-2003 (I omitted 2000 because he only pitched 92 innings):

2001 - ERA 3.49 / HITS 184 / HR 18 / BB 80 / K 205 / WHIP 1.23 / AVG 0.230
2002 - ERA 2.75 / HITS 182 / HR 24 / BB 78 / K 182 / WHIP 1.13 / AVG 0.218
2003 - ERA 3.30 / HITS 186 / HR 19 / BB 88 / K 146 / WHIP 1.18 / AVG 0.219

Here's Zito's numbers from his last three seasons 2004-2006:

2004 - ERA 4.48 / HITS 216 / HR 28 / BB 81 / K 163 / WHIP 1.39 / AVG 0.263
2005 - ERA 3.86 / HITS 185 / HR 26 / BB 89 / K 171 / WHIP 1.20 / AVG 0.221
2006 - ERA 3.83 / HITS 211 / HR 27 / BB 99 / K 151 / WHIP 1.40 / AVG 0.257

From looking at these numbers it's possible Zito's best years are behind him. He has never replicated his Cy Young winning year of 2002 and his overall numbers have trended downward since 2003. His walks are up, his strikes are down, and that is not a WHIP to be proud of.

Now surely Zito will fare better in the NL. But the Giants just made Zito their centerpiece of the future, and I think Giants fans may expect too much out of Zito who is likely to give them versions 2004-2006 instead of 2001-2003.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Return of the Holy Grail?

Sounds like the title to a bad Monty Python sequel :-)

According to the A's, Durazo could be back in the green and gold:

Currently starring for Hermasillo of the Mexican Winter League, Durazo on
Tuesday told a Mexican radio station -- after hitting three home runs in a game
-- that he was rejoining the A's.
Asked to confirm Durazo's announcement,
Oakland assistant GM David Forst, responding to a voicemail from while
traveling late Wednesday, promptly did so with a brief text message.
"On a
plane," Forst wrote. "Minor League deal for Ruby. Invite to camp."
The plan now is to bring Durazo to Spring Training, where he might get a
look at first base.

I always liked Durazo and felt that after his breakout 2004 season he was headed for bigger and better things. He received a pretty decent raise in 2005 but started off terribly, going 0.237 / 0.305 / 0.368 in 41 games and then injuring his elbow while practicing for first base. He was let go and spent 2006 in the minor leagues, where he played in 58 games split between 3 different teams and put up the following line:

BA 0.286 / OBP 0.389 / SLG 0.432 - 5 HR / 13 2B / 32 BB / 38 K

Currently in winter ball with Hermosillo, he has put up the following monstrous numbers:

BA 0.345 / OBP 0.454 / SLG 0.641 - 17 HR / 10 2B / 38 BB / 33 K

Durazo has always shown a penchant for getting on base, both in the majors (career 0.381 OBP) and in the minors, as well as in winter ball, which is probably why Beane was so high on him, dubbing him his "Holy Grail". But Beane obviously had no problem cutting ties with Durazo once his injury rendered him ineffective in 2005. But myself, along with some of my friends, always questioned letting him go so easily and openly wondered when the A's would pick him back up again.

It appears that Durazo will have his chance with the A's again in Spring Training, although I believe Durazo will have to put on one heck of a show if he wants to start with the A's. Even then, I believe Dan Johnson will be given the opportunity to prove he can be an everyday starter with Durazo on the bench before Durazo gets any opportunities at 1B. Then again, this could be clue that despite what Beane said about DJ there are doubts within the organization about his ability to hit, although I think too many people are putting too much weight into DJ's 2 incomplete seasons with the A's. He is young and judging a player on only 2 less-than-full seasons is a bit unfair.

But who knows, perhaps Durazo and Johnson could turn into quite the pair at 1B, with both splitting time at that position and occasionally spelling Piazza at DH. Having Durazo as a convenient back up in case Piazza struggles in his new league is a nice insurance policy - Durazo knows the A's, knows the AL, and knows how to hit in the Coliseum.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jay Payton headed to Baltimore and other news

I always liked JayPay. Sure, he had a pretty abysmal OBP, but he also didn't strike out too much. He was an aggressive contact hitter who played the game with the energy of a rookie and simply wanted to play, no matter what. My brain tells me Jay Payton is better off somewhere else but my heart tells me Jay Payton will be missed. He is headed for Baltimore to be their everyday RF.

With the Goleski pick in the rule-5 draft and the signing of Piazza as DH, the A's OF is starting to take focus. Goleski will most likely sit the bench - if he does well in Spring Training - as the A's fifth OF. That leaves a tandem of Kostay/Bradley in CF, both of whom are injury risks, and Kielty/Swisher handling the corners. Swisher's bat will keep him in the OF on a regular basis, but Kielty will be the odd-man out when both Kotsay and Bradley are healthy. Still, Kielty should expect more at bats than previous seasons: he's coming off his best year since coming over to the A's, he has a career OBP just a tick above 0.350, and he mashes left handed pitching. Kielty should be in the lineup everytime the A's face a left handed starter, Kotsay-be-damned, and Geren better check the job section of the newspaper if he doesn't.

Beane has also cleared up Dan Johnson's status on the team, so we can expect the A's to stick with DJ through his ups-and-downs at 1B and possibly the occasional DH role:

At this point, Beane said, the plan is for Nick Swisher to start in the outfield and to have Dan Johnson be the everyday first baseman. Beane said it is tempting to have Swisher's fielding ability at first base, but that giving Johnson another opportunity to play every day is more important.

"I just want to leave D.J. alone and let him hit," Beane said. "We're all big fans of D.J., and he's hit his entire career. He got off to a rough start last year, and it was sort of an uphill climb."

Emphasis mine. I'm a big fan of Dan Johnson as well and I was pretty disappointed to see him sent down, just when he was heating up (he hit 0.321 / 0.406 / 0.543 with 4 HR in June before being sent down). I think it's wise to stick with DJ and see what he does come 2007. He's a young player with less than 2 full seasons of major league duty under his belt, and he certainly has shown he can hit better than Crosby.

It will be interesting to see if Beane manages to snag a decent starting pitcher before Spring Training, but I doubt it will happen. It will be fun to watch Joe Kennedy, Brad Halsey, and Kirk Saarloos compete for the starter's job left vacant by Zito. Certainly none of them will be able to replace Zito, but I was impressed with Kennedy in the relief role last season. At the very worst we have 2 pitchers at AAA-Sacto very close to the major league level in Komine and Windsor should we run into any trouble. A strong and healthy Harden easily fills the gap left by Zito, since he barely pitched last season, so barring any long-term injuries and hopefully some improvement from players like Crosby and Chavez and the A's may just repeat or exceed their performance from last season.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A's Winter Meeting Notes

First off this quick blurb from FOX Sports regarding the A's and Piazza, which they awarded "Best Hole-Filler" :

The A's wanted a right-handed power bat to replace Frank Thomas, and they got
one in Mike Piazza. Last season, Piazza managed to slug better than .500 despite
playing half his games in a park that's positively hostile toward right-handed
batters. He'll fall a bit short of Thomas in terms of OBP, but his power numbers
figure to be quite similar. As well, the A's are committed to him for only one

It was especially nice having this follow immediately: "Worst. Gameplan. Ever."

The Giants. Apparently, their Winter Meetings plan of attack was to make an old
team even older and not give a moment's thought to the rotation. After the loss
of Schmidt, their rotation now consists of Matt Cain, Matt Morris and, well,
anything goes after that. If Barry Bonds winds up elsewhere, then this is the
worst team in the NL West.

Speaking of the Giants and the A's, Carl Steward's column from Inside Bay Area is a well recommended read:

Watching the A's and Giants do business at the winter baseball meetings is
a little like watching a hawk and an ostrich.

One quickly identifies what it wants, then swoops and snares its prey
without blinking. The other walks around aimlessly, sticking its head in
assorted holes in a frantic search for fulfillment.

Something tells me you don't have to be told which team is which. Once
again we are seeing that the Giants may have more wealth but they don't have
nearly the stealth — or the health — of the A's.

God bless Brian Sabean. He's sure been a busy guy this past week. But busy
doesn't necessarily constitute productive. The Giants have signed free agents
Ray Durham, Dave Roberts, Pedro Feliz, Rich Aurilia and Benji Molina this week,
but are they better? Not when they lose Jason Schmidt to the Dodgers, still
don't know about Barry Bonds and continue to carry Armando Benitez on their

The A's? They lost Frank Thomas and will lose Barry Zito any day now, but
Billy Beane hasn't even broken a sweat. He didn't even arrive at the winter
meetings until Wednesday, but by day's end, Oakland had signed left-handed Alan
Embree, agreed on an $8.5 million one-year deal with Mike Piazza and still had
time for a little fanciful chatter with the Mets about Beane's latest holy grail
fantasy, outfield prospectLastings Milledge.

Bang, zoom, in just a few hours of work, the A's no longer have any glaring
issues. Embree's signing clears the way for Joe Kennedy to challenge for the
rotation as Zito's left-handed replacement, and Piazza, whose deal only requires
the formality of a physical, is a more-than-satisfying tradeoff for Thomas at


What we know is that the Giants, with or without Bonds, will have another
old team with thin starting pitching and a questionable bullpen in 2007. It's a
recipe for mediocrity or worse, particularly with the Dodgers and Padres —
already markedly better than the Giants at year's end — making significant moves
to improve themselves.

Unfortunately, with a farm system almost bereft of true position-player
prospects, the Giants have no choice but to sign retreads. If they don't, they
become the 100-loss Kansas City Royals instead of their mere 85-loss selves.
Don't fault Sabean, fault the system under which Giants ownership chooses to

Read the whole thing. The latest rumor has the Mets interested in Danny Haren - NOT Rich Harden - but I can imagine Beane's price would be pretty steep. He would want a good young arm in addition to Lastings Milledge.

The A's also got rid of minor leaguer Dominguez, and it looks like they picked up some good young players in the rule 5 draft:

Marshall pitched for Single-A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox
organization last year and was 5-1 with four saves and a 1.02 ERA in 58 relief
appearances. He walked just eight and struck out 44 in 62.0 innings and allowed
a .210 opponents batting average, including .096 against left-handers. The
23-year old left-hander was originally selected by the White Sox in the 25th
round of the June, 2002 draft.

Goleski played in the Cleveland Indians organization last year and
batted a combined .306 with 27 home runs and 106 RBI in 125 games for Single-A
Kinston and Double-A Akron. He added 61 walks for a .391 on-base percentage. The
24-year old outfielder tied for sixth in all of the minor leagues in RBI and he
led the Cleveland farm system in home runs and RBI while ranking fourth in
batting. Goleski began the year by hitting .331 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI in
38 games at Kinston before he was promoted to Akron on May 27. He batted .296
with 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 87 games with the Aeros. Goleski was originally
drafted by Cleveland in the 24th round of the June, 2003 draft.

It's official: Welcome to the new A's DH

Via Inside Bay Area:

The A's late Wednesday agreed to terms with Mike Piazza to a one-year, $8.5
million contract, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The deal will not be announced until Friday at the earliest because
Piazza still needs to take a physical.

This is a good deal for the A's and it seems for Piazza, who wanted the flexibility of a 1 year deal in case he decides to head back to the NL after this season:

Beane did confirm that the A's were discussing only a one-year contract with
Piazza, contrary to the buzz Tuesday that the A's had offered a two-year deal
worth about $15 million. One industry source said Piazza probably wanted
flexibililty in case he wants to return to the National League.

has played his entire 15-year career as a catcher in the NL, but he'll be able
to leave his glove behind in the AL. Beane said Piazza likely will DH "99.9
percent of the time"....

As for what is expected of Piazza:

A's officials have insisted during the past week that they don't expect him to
put up the numbers (39 home runs, 114 RBIs) that Frank Thomas had as the team's
DH in 2006. But Piazza did hit 22 homers and had 68 RBIs with the Padres last
season, numbers that aren't as pedestrian when considering he played half his
games in Petco Park, a hitter's graveyard. He had a on-base/slugging mark of
.935 away from San Diego.

The quieter move the A's made, but equally important, was the signing of reliever Alan Embree, whom I have always liked, to a 2-year deal with a club option. This frees up a bullpen spot to be moved to the rotation and it is widely rumored that Joe Kennedy will replace Zito in the rotation. So going forward to 2007, the rotation most likely will be:

Loaiza (ugh)

If Harden can stay healthy, the 1-2 punch of Harden followed by Haren could be the edge the A's need to stay competitive. Forget Loaiza, hope that Blanton rebounds and Kennedy can pitch as good or better than the Saarloos/Halsey experiment and we still have a tough rotation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mike Piazza signing imminent?

According to this article from the Contra Costa Times, which is really about Geren, we find this little tidbit:

The A's once again made little hard news -- though it now appears it's only a matter of "when" not "if" the team signs Mike Piazza --

And this:

Late Tuesday, the A's continued to be the leaders in the Piazza pursuit, and one major-league executive called the free agent's signing "imminent."

One industry source said the A's have offered Piazza a two-year deal for about $15 million, and that their chief competition, the Texas Rangers, have abandoned their pursuit. The Los Angeles Angels, mentioned by one source Monday as a possible suitor, were never all that interested, another source said Tuesday.

And Blez spells out his reasons why Piazza may or may not work out.

Apparently the expectation is that Piazza will DH with the occasional catching duty. Forget catching period - he should do nothing but hit. And get rid of Melhuse and bring in Jeremy Brown as the back up catcher. Kendall should be the primary catcher with Jeremy Brown backing him up. I don't think Jeremy Brown is our future catcher, but if he can get some solid at bats under his belt and play passable defense he could be used as effective trade fodder down the stretch. The A's farm system has a number of catching prospects, with some of them, like Kurt Suzuki, most likely to develop into better players than Brown.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mike Piazza - new A's DH?

I'm beginning to have my doubts about Piazza becoming the new A's DH now that teams like Texas and the Angels are interested in him, who will almost assuredly drive the price for the aging and declining super-star well beyond the A's range. However, if the A's can manage to pick him up for a 1-year deal (Barton is waiting in the wings) similar to Thomas, I think he would fit in nicely. Let's take a quick look at some numbers:

2006: 0.283 BA / 0.342 OBP / 0.501 SLG / 0.843 OPS / 22 HR / 19 2B / 1 3B / 34 BB / 66 K
Career: 0.309 BA / 0.379 OBP / 0.551 SLG / 0.930 OPS / 419 HR / 741 BB / 1052 K

While it's been 5 years since Piazza breached the 0.300 level for BA and 2006 marked his best year in OPS since 2003, Piazza has shown he can still hit for decent average with some above average power and passing plate discipline. While Piazza doesn't seem to walk too much he also, like many A's hitters, doesn't strike out too much either, which means he is usually making contact, always a good attribute in my humble opinion.

Another nice tidbit of information: He absolutely clobbers LHP to the tune of 0.312 / 0.406 / 0.530 averaged over his last 3 seasons and 0.359 / 0.421 / 0.650 in 2006.

Piazza, while probably not contributing at the same level as The Big Hurt, would still be a nice addition to the A's DH spot while Barton gets in a solid year at AAA Sacto.

Ty Van Burkleo - The New A's Hitting Coach

Not much in the press release:

Van Burkleo comes to the A's from the Los Angeles Angels organization where he was the minor league roving hitting instructor for the past six seasons. He began his coaching career as a player/coach for the Angels at Single-A Lake Elsinore in 1996 and also spent four seasons as a minor league coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization from 1997-2000.

In his entire professional career he played in only 14 major league games, but I never put much stock into major league experience - the big leagues are full of successful coaches and managers who never succeeded at the major league level (Billy Beane is a prime example). What's more interesting to me is his minor league experience and how well he did coaching and grooming the young up-and-coming players? If this season's ridiculously over-priced free agent market is a glimpse of years to come, the A's, as in the past, will have to continue to rely on young, rising talent from their farm system, and it will take patient and talented coaches to nurture these young players into future A's stars.

At this point I will settle for someone who can teach Crosby to lay off outside pitches and curb his violent swing, make sure we get the post-AllStar 2006 Mark Ellis instead of the pre-AllStar Ellis, and get Swisher to hit better with runners in scoring position while also improving his BA.