2012 MLB Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

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2011 Season Recap

As has been apparent for some time now, the Oakland A’s are in a holding pattern. Oakland’s financial situation leaves them with among the least resources of any team in the league, and team brass maintains that their only hope is a relocation to San Jose, a proposition which a Commissioner’s Office committee has been considering without resolution for what seems like an eternity. 2011 continued Oakland’s pattern of developing pitchers, establishing their value, then trading them for promising prospects and aiming at another date in the future for contention.

The A’s finished 74-88 last season, in third place in the AL West at 22 games behind Texas. That was fairly respectable considering Brett Anderson, a key cog in the team’s rotation, made only 13 starts before going under the knife for a Tommy John procedure, and won’t return until after the All-Star Break. In Anderson’s absence, the team was led by two heralded young starters, in Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez who have since been moved for prospects, and one post-hype top prospect in Brandon McCarthy, who achieved success last year after falling off the map.

McCarthy, 28, led the team with 4.7 WAR last year, a big breakout considering that it more than doubled his career total. McCarthy was the top prospect for the White Sox as recently as 2005, was traded to the Rangers after the 2006 season, and stuck with Texas despite losing the majority of 2008 and 2009 to injury. Last season, McCarthy signed with the A’s for $1M, then developed a cutter and mowed through basically everyone he faced for the majority of the season. He’s re-upped in Oakland, so he’ll get a chance to prove that 2011 wasn’t a fluke as the de facto staff ace.

Gonzalez, 26, put up 3.5 WAR last season, and showed some signs of developing control, which has been a major concern for the walk-prone starter so far in his career. This offseason, Gonzalez was flipped to the Nationals for an impressive package of four prospects. Two of them, starters Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, could be major contributors to the big league club this year. Interestingly, Gonzalez was second in the 2005 White Sox system behind McCarthy, though both took very different routes to Oakland.

Cahill, 24, went to Arizona in December along with reliever Craig Breslow for former top prospect starter Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and reliever Ryan Cook. Cahill put up only 2.5 WAR last year, but he’s signed affordably through 2015 with club options for 2016-17 thanks to an extension he signed with Oakland at the beginning of last season, which makes him a valuable commodity. Parker spent all of 2010 rehabbing from Tommy John, but bounced back at Double-A last season and regained some of his prospect luster.

To cap off the yard sale, Billy Beane sent closer Andrew Bailey (and Ryan Sweeney) to Boston for outfielder Josh Reddick and prospects Raul Alcantra and Miles Head. Overall, 6 of the team’s top 10 Baseball America prospects for 2012 were acquired in the last calendar year, so they’re clearly resetting their horizon for contention and hoping the stadium situation is resolved by the time they’re ready.