BY AXEL BOADA
2013 Record: 96-66 (1st Place AL West, – GB)
The Oakland Athletics are out here Moneyballin’ on these fools.
Okay, so I really just wanted to throw in the phrase “Moneyballin,’” but the A’s are still one of the MLB’s top-tier teams. Two straight seasons winning at least 94 games and back-to-back division titles does that for an organization.
Pitcher Jarrod Parker will miss the entire season because of Tommy John surgery, which is a huge loss for Oakland. Actually, the injury bug in general has bitten the team. However, the team is surprisingly loaded and made solid offseason moves.
SP Scott Kazmir (2 yrs/ $22M)
RP Jim Johnson (1 yr/ $10M)
CF Craig Gentry (1 yr/ $1.15M)
After pitching 1 2/3 innings in the pros 2011 and not pitching at all 2012, Kazmir’s solid performance with the Cleveland Indians last season surprised many. He pitched 158 innings, the most since he pitched over 206 innings with the Tampa Bay (then-) Devil Rays in 2007. In addition to being durable, the lefty struck out 162 batters, his highest mark since 2008. Even though this season will be Kazmir’s 10th in the majors, he is just 30 years old.
Johnson recorded two straight 50-save seasons with the Baltimore Orioles the last couple seasons. He also had a sub-3.00 ERA during this stretch. However, the closer blew a league-high nine saves last season. Despite this, he tied the Atlanta Braves’ Craig Kimbrel for most saves. Even when Johnson is bad, he is really good. Oakland’s former closer Grant Balfour was a significant part of the team’s bullpen but Johnson—blown saves and all—is still quite an upgrade.
Gentry is one of many Athletics who will start the season on the DL. He should be back in mid-April, and could make contributions right away despite being the fourth outfielder. Gentry proved to be reliable for the Texas Rangers the last two seasons, appearing in 122 and 106 games, respectively. He has a career .280 batting average and a .355 OBP. Gentry can also steal some bases and is a very-capable glove at all three positions in the outfield. He could start for a lot of teams in the league, so having him on the bench is a huge positive for Oakland.
SP Bartolo Colon: It feels weird writing Colon is a key loss but it is absolutely true. The 40-year-old(!!!) had his best season since 2005. He went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, his best ERA since 2002 and second lowest of his career overall. His performance last season was a total anomaly, especially from a player whose best days were literally in the late-90s to early-00s. Don’t expect him to continue this resurgence during his time with the New York Mets.
RP Grant Balfour: At one point during his tenure in Oakland, the Sydney, Australia-native reeled off 44 consecutive saves, breaking the club record set by Dennis Eckersley back in 1992. He is a passionate player who is not afraid to get in a player’s face. While he will be missed in Oakland, Johnson is as good of a replacement as anyone.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Not many people knew who Josh Donaldson was prior to last season. So what did the third baseman do? Assert himself as a legitimate AL MVP candidate, coming in fourth in voting. Donaldson hit .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI yet somehow did not make the all-star team. No matter, since many figure he will join the ranks of elite third basemen this season. Do not be surprised if Donaldson makes the all-star team, fights for a gold glove, and even be named one of three AL MVP finalists.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
All the Oakland Athletics do is win,win,win, no matter what, and even a plethora of injuries shouldn’t stop them. Sonny Gray will be the opening day starter despite starting just 10 games in his very young career. The A’s will catch a break during the early parts of the season, seeing as the Texas Rangers are also dealing with some injuries. However, the loss of future-ace Parker will prove to be the difference between a third straight division title and a second place finish. Expect Oakland to win 92 to 94 games and get a wild card spot.