The Oakland Athletics offseason leading to spring training 2013 was not as busy as last year’s offseason. Going into 2012 GM Billy Beane acquired Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes, flipped Gio Gonzalez for a young starter and swapped highly regarded pitching prospects with Arizona. This offseason, with a contending core in place, Beane concentrated on adding versatile players players that provide manager Bob Melvin with quality depth and lineup flexibility.
Perhaps trying to find the next Miguel Tejada, Beane made an over abundance of moves involving shortstops. Following the season, Oakland bought out Stephen Drew’s contract, making him a free agent. Beane then traded Cliff Pennington, who had transitioned to second base when Drew arrived, to the Diamondbacks.
The A’s signed shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Nakajima hit .312 with 13 home runs and 74 RBI for the Seibu Lions in 2012. He hit 20 plus homers four times and drove in 80 or more runs five times in Japan. Nakajima seemed to be the presumed starter for Oakland until Beane swapped his right handed DH Chris Carter to Houston for shortstop Jed Lowrie earlier this week.
Lowrie, a former Red Sox prospect, finally emerged for the moribund Astros in 2012, hitting 16 home runs in less than 100 games. He has played other infield positions in his career, but his power would be a rare commodity at second base. Given the struggles of Jemile Weeks at second last year and the A’s relative weakness at third base, Lowrie will likely start at one of these positions in 2013 and is a bargain at $2.5 million in 2013.
Outfielder Chris Young was picked up as part of the trade involving Pennington. Young is an immensely talented player who has 20-20 potential, was an All-Star in 2010, but had a down 2012. Young was a center fielder in Arizona and could spell any of the A’s starters and may be the primary right handed DH. Acquiring a player with the tools of Young for the positionless and disappointing Pennington was an excellent move by Beane.
The major move in the pitching department was exercising the team option for $4.5 million on closer Grant Balfour. At that rate, given his 24 saves, 2.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, Balfour represents a steal.
Though Beane made the A’s more athletic and flexible, losing Carter via trade and Jonny Gomes through free agency did cost the A’s valuable right handed power. Carter and Gomes combined for 34 home runs in 2012.
Beane has done a masterful job constructing the 2013 Oakland A’s. The roster has undervalued gems like Josh Reddick, a successful free agent, Yoenis Cespedes and a talented young rotation. Many of the A’s young players are under contract for multiple years, giving them an extended window to compete in the tough AL West.
Leading into the 2013 season, Beane continued to mold his roster, identifying undervalued assets, and making low risk, high reward transactions. His roster shaping has given the A’s a chance to compete in the AL West with the Angels and Rangers despite being outspent roughly two to one.