What if you got a new job, even on a very temporary basis, and had virtually nothing to do? That is the situation I find myself in as I fill in as the Athletics' general manager while Billy Beane takes the day off.

Beane has already crossed many items off the to-do list, most notably exercising the club options for 2011 on second baseman Mark Ellis ($6 million) and center fielder Coco Crisp ($5.5 million) while sending third baseman Eric Chavez into retirement by buying out his 2011 option for $3 million.

Furthermore, Beane has whittled the list of arbitration-eligible players down by from 12 to eight by dropping right-hander Boof Bonser, infielder Aki Iwamura, and outfielders Jeremy Hermida and Gabe Gross off the 40-man roster. Beane even made the right decision when pitching coach Curt Young decided to leave for the Red Sox by promoting well-regarded bullpen coach Ron Romanick.

Even better, the pitching staff is so good and so young that I don't need to make any changes or worry about being unable to afford eight-figure contracts on a small-market budget. No reason messing with a staff that gave up the fewest runs in the American League in 2010.

However, there is one pressing issue that faces the A's this offseason and I'm going to make it my objective to fix during my 24 hours. The A's need a big-time power hitter, as their 89 home runs last season were the fewest in the major leagues and their average of 4.09 runs per game was just 11th in the AL and 23rd in the major leagues.

The most logical place to add the power bat is either right field or designated hitter. Catcher Kurt Suzuki certainly isn't going anywhere, and I'd keep the infield intact with first baseman Daric Barton, Ellis, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, and shortstop Cliff Pennington. Crisp fills the leadoff and center-field holes just fine when he is healthy, and the time has come for rookie Chris Carter to be the starting left fielder, as he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.

Ryan Sweeney spent the majority of last season as the right fielder and hit only one home run in 331 plate appearances before undergoing knee surgery. Designated hitter Jack Cust's home run total dropped to 13 last year, and even his .395 on-base percentage can't mask the decline in power, as he had averaged 28 homers over the previous three seasons.

Considering right-hander Ben Sheets' $10 million is off the books now that he is a free agent—and he's not coming back on my watch—I have some money to play with on the free-agent market. Optimally, I'd rather sign a free agent than trade from my pitching depth.

The DH I would target is a player who, in the fickle eyes of many media members, went from Comeback Player of the Year candidate to washed up in the past week. That would be Vladimir Guerrero, who became a free agent Wednesday when the Rangers declined the mutual option in his contract. While Guerrero had an awful World Series by going 1-for-14 with five strikeouts, it shouldn't mask that he had a .300/.345/.495 slash line, 29 home runs, and a .288 TAv in 643 plate appearances during the regular season while showing he can stay healthy for a full season if used as a DH.

Perhaps Guerrero's stock fell enough in the span of five bad games that I could get him for less than the $5.5 million he made this season. I doubt it, though, which is why I'd be willing to offer a one-year, $8 million contract with a vesting option for 2012. At 35, Guerrero still has something left in his bat, which is why I'd go to $10 million if his side really pressed the issue.

My Plan B at DH would be Hideki Matsui, who isn't quite the player he used to be with the Yankees but is still a productive hitter at 36. He was solid for the Angels this year, hitting .294/.361/.459 with 21 homers and a .294 TAv in 554 plate appearances. If Guerrero won't take my money, I'd start the bidding at $6 million for Matsui and give up to $8 million, but I won't include an option.

As far as right field is concerned, I would try to work out something with Conor Jackson, who is arbitration-eligible and coming off two awful years, the first of which was ruined by a case of Valley Fever. Jackson did show some signs of improvement after the Athletics acquired him from the Diamondbacks last season, as he posted a .267 TAv in 69 plate appearances before suffering a hamstring injury.

While I wouldn't offer the 28-year-old Jackson arbitration as the most he can be cut is 20 percent from his $3.1 million salary, I would offer him the type of contract that would be enticing to someone looking to rebuild his value. I'd guarantee him $1.25 million for 2011, which he would have a hard time getting on the open market, with performance bonuses worth $3.5 million and a $5 million club option for 2012 with a small buyout of $25,000. I'd be rolling the dice without taking on too much risk, and Jackson could benefit to the tune of $10 million if he returns to his previous level of play.

If I get Guerrero or Matsui to come to Oakland and Jackson to agree to the creative contract, perhaps they would write a book or make a movie about me. It would have to be a short story, though, since my career would only span 24 hours.

Thank you for reading

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Sign Vladimir Guerrero and extend Connor Jackson? That's it? Well, it'd be an improvement, sure. But I hope Billy Beane gets more aggressive than that.
Vlad's famously loved hitting at Arlington (career 996 OPS there) and had a fairly dramatic home/road split in 2010 (882/797). He also fell off a cliff after a hot May and June, with a 919 OPS before the All-Star break and 748 after. $10 million for that? For a guy who simply cannot play defense? If that's the direction to go, why not get Hideki Matsui for less than half that price?
Agree with the previous two posters--this seems like a fairly underwhelming strategy. The problem, though, is that this may be the best the A's can do since hitters really don't want to seem to play for them. I'd really love to see them just blow a ton of money on Adam Dunn or Jayson Werth. Outbid the rest of the field by a decent chunk to make sure they get a legit hitter. That is, in my opinion, a better strategy than going after these cheap players who rarely pan out. Ben Sheets, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas et al. Thomas was fantastic, but if you're constantly building your team on guys who "might" pan out, it's going to be very hard to compete. Ironically, I made this same complaint about the Giants, telling a friend they'd be better off signing two really good players than keeping Renteria, Sanchez, DeRosa, Rowand, Molina, etc. And yet they won it all...
I'd like to see the A's get a Juan Uribe type to spell Kouzmanoff and Pennington.
So "upgrading" from Custs' .306 TAv to Vlad's .288 (does TAv adjust for park effect?) helps the offense score runs how exactly? Sure, Cust hit fewer HR last year, but he also had 200 fewer PA. His SLG was actually up from 2009. His OPS and Vlads were almost identical, expect Vlad's was more slugging dependent playing in a park that helps power.

I just don't see how you upgrade your team by spending more money to get the same or lesser production.

If you want to upgrade the offense, you should consider replacing Kouz at 3B with somebody who can find first base.
Points of interest:

*To put a popint on what other posters said, Vlad had an on-base of .322 and hit only 9 homers in the second half last year. At his age, I think it's fair to speculate that's the beginning of the end.

*With Chavez and Duchscherer also off the books, they get back 24.5 million from the two of them and Sheets.

*Beane has already sounded like he is going to be a Scrooge this Christmas, saying they don't want to overspend until they're ready to move into a new park.

*He has also said they don't want to compromise the defense so the DH might be the place to improve.

*Depending on the pythagenport record you choose to look at, the expected wins of the A's were between 85 and 86 while Texas was between 88 and 91.

*Texas will lose Lee and Guerrero while the A's will gain Carter.
2009 - man, Vlad was not too good, I guess he's cooked
1st half 2010 - Vlad's back!
2nd half 2010 - man, Vlad was not too good, I guess he's cooked

The moral of the story is that none of these are significant enough samples to judge on their own, and it appears people are breaking down his numbers along these time frames.
Well, a half season's worth of data may not mean much, but when you combine everything you said...two full seasons is a pretty significant chunk of playing time during a player's decline phase (he had 1050 plate appearances!). What would you suggest people use to project going forward?! Vlad's peak numbers? Career numbers?

Just look at your "small" sample conclusions: bad full year, good 1/2 year, bad 1/2 year. That adds up to 75% bad over the past two full years. Certainly an over-simplification, but that's not evidence worth considering?

Vlad's bb rate is becoming a liability, and he can barely move at all anymore. I have no problem with a one-year deal trying to catch the last of his ability to be a bit above average, but implying we can't draw significant conclusions from what he's done over the past 2 years is just silly.

I find it funny that now the sample size bias has swung pretty far back in the other direction, with people wanting enormous sample sizes to draw any conclusions. Players just aren't the same at age 36 as they were at 28. You can't put much weight in success that far back when projecting forward now (as I'm sure PECOTA and other systems realize). Recent samples become so much more valuable for aging players, as you're projecting imminent decline (vs potential future growth for youngsters).
Not that I'm implying Vlad was "bad" the past two years...he certainly wasn't, but the simplification made my point easier to explain.
Yay!!!! Yet again BP says that a really bad As team is actually really good and needs only the most minor of changes. An incredible blind spot for such a group of smart people.

As were 10th of 14 in the AL in OPS last year, yet no significant offensive additions?

I can understand if one had certain finaial constraints, but in a "what if" scenario like this, give the A's something!!!!!
Dude, they won 81 games. You don't need any fancy statistics to tell you they're not 'really bad.'
They finished 9 games back of the Rangers in the AL West. Playing the Mariners more than a dozen times helps the win total a lot.
The Rangers played them too, and as I stated above their run differential surpassed their actual record. You know, one might just as easily argue the Mariners offense would have been better if they didn't have to play the A's X times.
Winning 81 games in a week division doesn't make them good nor does it suggest there is not a great chasm of changes that would allow for improvement.
I didn't say it makes them good. I said it didn't make them 'really bad.' That makes it sound like they are one of the worst teams. The Pirates are one of the worst teams. I don't think the A's would have won 57 games in the NL central, and while someone posting on Yahoo might make such a comment I don't think you'd get much traction for that argument on here. Or, to put it another way, they wer 51 and 53 against teams outside their division.
Is this 1985? I've never heard of a 25K buyout. What is the point?
Ugh. I was hoping Karhl would do this. Being an A's fan and all.

You don't even address the 5th starter hole. Mazzaro is not the answer. De La Rosa has been tossed around and it makes a lot of sense.

What about Pena as a DH?

As someone already mentioned, Jack Cust = Guerrero, Matsui

"If I get Guerrero or Matsui to come to Oakland and Jackson to agree to the creative contract, perhaps they would write a book or make a movie about me. It would have to be a short story, though, since my career would only span 24 hours."

A movie? A movie! I know you are poking fun but its not funny and shows what effort you put into this "article".

I pay money to read this crap about my team. Can I get some effort please?

It doesn't even recognize that the A's might be a darkhorse for Beltre, Werth or Crawford. They did go hard after Beltre. The free agents mentioned are old veterans that have little value and can be replaced easily.

No imagination, not thought. Give us something! Please!

Again, Ugh.

I think you just made the A's worse add unnecessarily added to their payroll. Why does Chris Carter play LF when he really has no defensive position? Why not Carter as DH?

Vlad or Matsui hitting at the Coliseum half the time. Really?

You did not address back up catcher or Adam Rosales' role.

Further you glossed over Kurt Suzuki's poor performance at the plate and inability to throw out baserunners.

Why would you keep Kevin Kouzmanoff? What justification exists?

Joey Devine is due back and possibly makes Brad Ziegler trade bait and with Super Two status a likely scenario at some point.

BP needs to start filtering their content. This was beyond being a pointless exercise - the suggestions made actually would hurt the A's.

No mention of David Forst?

"Considering right-hander Ben Sheets' $10 million is off the books now that he is a free agent—and he's not coming back on my watch—I have some money to play with on the free-agent market. Optimally, I'd rather sign a free agent than trade from my pitching depth."

Why don't you use some of that available money, and make a big splash. Go after Adam Dunn. He belongs in the American League, and he would be the most talented power hitter the A's have had in a long time.

for better or worse the A's are set on Carter in LF, and like almost every other A's player, Barton will be entering arbitration in the next year. I would not be surprised if the A's signed him long term.
Conor Jackson has never played right field at the major league level. He also misse the last part of the season with a serious hamstring injury. He's played more games at 1B than the OF and has similar numbers to Daric Barton.

Why not suggest trading Barton and moving Jackson to 1B where he is leas of a defensive liability? Or trade Barton and Rajai Davis (who you did not mention) to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez?

what do you mean by prin?
This was not up to BPros normally high standards.
Carter is the whole key to the A's. If he's the 0 for the call up guy we saw at first then they are going to be in trouble because it will take them the first quarter to half of the season to figure it out. If he builds on a better finish to the season and gives them something approaching his AAA numbers, they'll be in pretty good shape. In fact there are some other factors that suggest (assuming good Carter) the A's could compete for the division even as is. Specifically, I think Suzuki's season was derailed by his injury. Even when playing, he never seemed quite right. If he gets back closer to where he was offensively in '09, that's a good start. I think Cliff Pennington has the chance to be a pretty decent offensive player. He had some first full season ups and downs, but he showed that he's not overmatched at this level. Also, the A's didn't get anything close to a full season out of Coco. Granted nobody has gotten a full season out of Coco with regularity. Of course that's a lot of ifs, but what's an off season for?

I'm not really sure what they should do with Rajai. He went through some very bad stretches. He's also not as good defensively as you'd want him to be, especially in center where he seems to take a lot of bad routes and get poor jumps.

It's easy to say the A's should go after a big bat, but the fact of the matter is they probably aren't going to spend the money and players like Adam Dunn just won't want to play in Oakland anyway (see: Beltre last year). They'll probably give Jackson a shot (did just enough), maybe bring in a cheap Melky Cabrera type and put him on a short leash like they did with Jake Fox and if it doesn't work out, cut bait pretty fast.
For once, let's acknowledge that Beane has built a very good ball club with very little money. Like 3-card monte, it can be profitable as long as no one is truly watching what you do. So, some suggestions From Way Out In Left Field:

The Big Bopper: TRAVIS HAFNER. You have a great medical staff- you can keep him healthy when his current club doesn't seem that interested. He is owed $26+ million over the next two years; try out whether Shapiro would welcome being relieved of, say, half of that. BUT: Keep Cust (he actually plays in the field). Sign Vlady if you must, but as part of a DH platoon. Set a ceiling for the combined cost: $12.0 million.

HEALTH RISKS: Your infield is fine from a talent perspective, but not from a health perspective. Thus you need to have some depth here, which you won't necessarily need for the outfield crew. Suggest going after Uribe or, if he gets too expensive, Mike Fontenot, who will not add to your offense much but appears comfortable playing multiple infield positions.

PITCHING: No need to change a thing, but look at every spare arm available in ST, and add selectively for relief depth.
This is a disappointing effort. Following these suggestions would make the A's worse, not better. Or at the very least, leave them stagnant.

As has been mentioned, Cust at DH isn't the position that needs addressing. The A's need one (or two) COFs, and, as a secondary priority, a 5th starter and a 3B. The A's gave up the fewest runs in the American League, but a lot of the reason for that lies with the defense.

I'd love to see the A's pursue Crawford or Werth, but barring the impossible, at least make serious considerations towards trading for a quality COF bat, and not just adding yet another retread veteran to the long list of hopeful has-beens the A's have signed in the past 5 years.
Everyone seems to be down on John's solutions, but suggesting that the A's sign a big name free agent is no more helpful. It's hard to fathom, unless you're an A's fan, the disdain Lew Wolff & co. have towards Oakland. They want out desperately and don't care if the fans like the product on the field or not. They only signed Sheets to get MLB off their back. They permanently closed the upper deck, for god's sake, even for "premium" games that would fill up the Coliseum. So trades and scrap heap free agents are pretty much the options. But hey, it worked for the Giants!