What a difference a day makes.
On Friday, we covered what – at the time – appeared to be the Oakland Athletics waving the white flag on 2015 in preparation for a return to competitiveness down the road.
Naturally, Billy Beane decided to do what Billy Beane does and – by Saturday afternoon – the apparent A’s fire sale looked more like it was a setup for a quick reload.
Since the end of the World Series, the Athletics shipped out Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, and Brandon Moss in a series of trades to acquire minor league talent and replenish the farm system.
Beane also opted to let Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jed Lowrie, and Kyle Blanks walk via free agency rather than get into a bidding war for their services.
All the while, he brought back good, not great big league replacements in Brett Lawrie, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Jesse Hahn.
The Athletics looked like a club ready to play .500 ball in a treading water type of season while they waited for the prospects they’d acquired in the aforementioned trades to hit the show in a year or two and return the club to its winning ways.
Beane was either running a smoke screen the entire time or simply decided he didn’t have the patience for yet another systematic rebuild when he pulled the trigger on a major deal that sent John Jaso and minor leaguers Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson to Tampa Bay for middle infielders, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar.
The move immediately changes the dynamic of the 2015 Oakland Athletics.
In one move, the Athletics retooled the entire middle infield and bolstered an offense that looked ho-hum on paper, all the while losing nothing of substance from the big league roster.
The club will now feature a completely rebuilt infield with Davis at first, Zobrist at second, Escobar at shortstop, and Lawrie at third.
The loss of Donaldson is still significant, but this offense – with the addition of Butler and a return to health for outfielders Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp – could be one of the more potent lineups in the American League West.
There are still some holes in the armor: Stephen Vogt may be stretched as an everyday catcher and the club could use an upgrade over the Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry platoon in left field, but there are still plenty of free agents available and trades to be made.
The rotation – despite the losses of Samardzija, Lester, and Hammel – still figures to be one of baseball’s best. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir make an imposing one-two punch and they’ll be followed by some combination of Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Hahn, Chris Bassit, Sean Nolin, and Kendall Graveman.
All the while, the club has two potential front-line starters in A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker working their way back from Tommy John surgery. The pair could very easily serve as potential mid-season additions to the rotation that would rival any trade deadline acquisition.
The club is ready to compete as it’s currently comprised and there is a new crop of young talent waiting to join the ranks in the coming seasons to continue the crusade for a World Series title.
Needless to say, the club is no longer waving the white flag for next season.
Rather, the Athletics are geared to make a run for another division title in 2015…and 2016…and 2017…and so on and so on.
What a difference a day makes.
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