September 23, 2011
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade—whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines an overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski, and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview.
Today the sun sets on the Oakland A's, who watched their top two pitchers head for surgery and its offense sputter on life support.
Signs of hope: The A's have engineered a mostly successful mid-season infield makeover, trading their Opening Day second baseman and third baseman to Colorado and replacing them without missing a beat. At the keystone, 24-year-old Jemile Weeks, the Athletics' first-round selection in the 2008 amateur draft, has hit the ground running in his rookie season, accumulating 2.1 WARP in just over 400 plate appearances. At the hot corner, Scott Sizemore has amassed 1.6 WARP in just over 331 plate appearances. Overall, the A's have featured the AL's fifth-oldest collection of hitters, but their pitching staff is the league's fourth-youngest, and they haven't had to ask for a single start from anyone over the age of 29. Gio Gonzalez, Guillermo Moscoso, and Brandon McCarthy have combined for a 3.31 ERA over 470 1/3 innings, and McCarthy—who missed all of 2010 and entered the season with a career ERA over 4.50—owns the lowest FIP (2.81) in the AL.
Signs of disaster:The elbow injury to Brett Anderson put a damper on the success enjoyed by Oakland's other young pitchers. A season after signing a four-year extension, the injury-prone lefty set a new career-low in starts and then underwent Tommy John surgery in July. An optimist might see the surgery as a solution to his arm troubles, but it's also easy to regard it as little more than the latest in a long line of them. The A's are a team without a star: only the abysmal Astros and Twins lack at least one player with a WARP greater than the team-high 3.6 posted by both McCarthy and Josh Willingham. In related news, the A's remain in organizational limbo and dead last in average attendance as they wait for Bud Selig and his slow-moving, so-called "blue-ribbon panel" to determine the fate of their proposed relocation to a more attractive stadium in San Jose.
Signs you can ignore: The A's put together a productive outfield, as left fielder David DeJesus, center fielder Coco Crisp, and right fielder Willingham have combined for 8.9 WARP. However, this group likely won't be patrolling the pastures together for years to come: all three players enter free agency this offseason, and all three are on the wrong side of 30. —Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus
Bowden's Bold Move
But despite efforts to improve their offense this year with trades for DeJesus, Allen, and Willingham, as well as signing free agent Hideki Matsui, the A's were one of the worst offensive teams in all of baseball.
Therefore, the A's might have to make a bold move of trading Gonzalez or Cahill for a package of players that can help the lineup and bring back depth for the rotation. Brokering a deal with the Boston Red Sox might include a blue-chip prospect such as Anthony Ranaudo, or young major leaguer such as Josh Reddick or Jed Lowrie. A deal with the Cincinnati Reds could include some combination of Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, and Juan Francisco. Beane has made these type of deals in the past including the Tim Hudson deal to the Braves, Mark Mulder to the Cardinals, and Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks, which netted Carlos Gonzalez and Anderson. —Jim Bowden
Worst-case scenario: 68-94
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @benlindbergh