After making the blockbuster Lester splash midseason, Billy Beane was determined to make a postseason run and earn Major League Baseball’s respect. By mediocrely finishing the second half of the season and blowing the divisional lead, the Athletics encountered the Royals in the AL Wild Card Game. The A’s pitched their newly acquired warhorse, Jon Lester, who did not live up to the club’s high anticipations. Over the offseason, numerous MLB analyzers censured Beane for his controversial trading of freak-athlete Yoenis Cespedes. Finishing 88-74, the organization has despondent fans after their disappointing playoff outcome. However, can Beane’s “Moneyball strategy” actually earn him a World Series? During the offseason, Billy has actively made moves, but not enough to replace what he has lost. Or has he?
In 2001, Billy Beane faced a similar task in losing three of his most important players: Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen. Giambi had a stellar on base percentage of .447. Johnny Damon had game-changing speed on the base paths. Jason Isringhausen was lights out in the bullpen with a 2.65 ERA. Nonetheless, the Athletics’ small market cap limited Beane’s capability of signing back three valuable players. Instead, Beane had to choose the next-best, cheaper options. He brought in veteran hitters like David Justice and Scott Hattenberg. Furthermore, he strengthened his bullpen by bringing in Billy Koch, the former Toronto Blue Jays closing pitcher. Although he could not replace Giambi and Isringhausen, he replicated their numbers by adding Justice and Hattenberg, who respectively posted .376 and .374 on base percentages. Moreover, Koch pitched in 84 games and astoundingly produced a 3.27 ERA with 44 saves. Additionally, Beane relied on unorthodox side arm reliever Chad Bradford to be his set up man. Yet again, Beane achieved 100 wins and recreated his previous team’s success with more affordable players. Can Beane reproduce his magic in 2015 and position his team to make another playoff appearance?
During the last couple of months, Beane has completed some disputable transactions. He has traded Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzja, Derek Norris, and Brandon Moss. How does Beane expect to make playoffs while losing these guys? Likewise, he lost Luke Gregerson, Jason Hammel, Alberto Callaspo, Jon Lester, and Jed Lowrie. Nevertheless, Billy has been truly dynamic during the offseason so far with a limited salary cap, similar to after his 2001 playoff run. Who has Beane acquired during the offseason to replace these players?
Lawrie made his MLB debut in 2011 with the Blue Jays. The 24-year-old Canada native has struggled so far in the MLB. Plagued with injuries, Lawrie had not been a reliable everyday starter for Toronto. Recently, the Athletics acquired Lawrie in a trade for all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson. While Donaldson is around his peak, Lawrie still has much potential. After the trade, Lawrie addressed the media and criticized Toronto’s turf: "I feel like it's a big thing. It treats my body kind of silly and throws it off. I just want to go out and be healthy, and I feel like this getting off the turf is a big step forward for me.” Maybe the A’s natural grass ballpark will relieve some stress on his body. Overall a questionable trade; however, Lawrie is a defensive upgrade that can hit .280 with around 25-30 home runs if healthy.
When trading left handed hitter Brandon Moss to the Indians, the A’s desperately needed a power bat to replace him. Billy Butler, former Kansas City Royal, provides the A’s a player with playoff experience and leadership skills. A couple years younger than Moss, Butler only batted .271 with 9 home runs last year compared to Moss’s .234 batting average and 25 home runs. However, can Butler be a David Justice like player in Oakland and get on base over a third of the time? Yes! Butler has averaged a .360 OBP during his career with a .295 batting average. If he can resurrect his home run hitting abilities and hit 29 home runs like he did in 2012, I confidently believe Butler will be a spark plug, middle of the order guy in Oakland. While Ike Davis may play first base, Butler will be the DH and solely concentrate on hitting. Butler is a great sign and will be an impact player with all-star potential.
Ben Zobrist will immediately contribute to the Athletics with his versatile fielding abilities. Traded from the Tampa Bay Rays, Zobrist has been a tremendously undervalued player the past five years. Starting in 2009 with his breakout season, Zobrist has played around 150 games every year and consistently averages around a .350 OBP. Zobrist is a doubles hitter with some speed, but he is 33 years old. As long as he can stay healthy like he has in the past, this is a fantastic move by Billy Beane. The two-time all-star will start at second for the Athletics and definitely will benefit the team.
Acquired from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade, Marcus Semien hopefully will replace Jed Lowrie at shortstop. During his two-year campaign in the MLB, Semien has only started four games at shortstop. The Athletics anticipate the 24 years old to start at shortstop. Although Semien has struggled so far, that is expected for a young player. Does he have the capabilities of staying the whole year in the MLB? The A’s better hope so or else they will be forced to start lifetime .235 hitter Eric Sogard, who also has limited MLB shortstop experience. Zobrist theoretically could start at shortstop, but the utility man could be needed for other positions. It will be interesting to see how Semien plays out; hopefully the Athletics see something that I don’t.
After losing Luke Gregerson to free agency, the Athletics bolstered their rotation by trading for 2014 all-star Tyler Clippard. Clippard, who has an unorthodox delivery, has averaged below a 3 ERA during his successful career and has been a phenomenal setup man for the Nationals. Beane has a reputation of pitching unorthodox-styled pitchers like Chad Bradford, which makes logical sense why he wants Clippard. Clippard raises his glove abnormally high and opens up very early. Transitioning over to the American League, Clippard will need to adapt to pitching to some new faces. The 6’3” pitcher has a low 90s fastball with great off-speed and will enhance the Athletics’ bullpen. I look forward to watching Clippard pitch in many games in 2015.
Billy Beane has brought in some key players to make up for his heavy losses. I believe he will make some more moves before Spring Training. Although this team does not have Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson like in 2002, the 2015 Athletics have ace Sonny Gray along with Scott Kazmir returning. Keep an eye on pitchers Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin coming off Tommy John surgeries midseason. The A’s certainly are not lead contenders like last year, but they will compete in a tight AL West race.
Baseball is,was, and always will be the greatest game in the world
Jake Wesley is now the only writer for MLB_NL_AL.com all of these articles are ether based on facts and pieces of his opinion.