Prior to the 2012 baseball season, the A’s were viewed as the laughing stock of the MLB, unable to make the playoffs since being swept in the ALCS in 2006 and failing to win a playoff series since their World Series win in 1989. Now it’s the boys in green and yellow who are atop the always powerful A.L. West, and it appears the A’s have acquired the escape plan from the basement of the division for years to come.
Going into the 2012 season it seemed the Texas Rangers were the clear cut winner-to-be of the division, after loosing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series after an unbelievable clutch performance by David Freese; but 2012 was a whole new year. The A’s took the league by storm in 2012, winning the West on the last day of the regular season, resulting in a first round exit to the eventual American League champs Detroit Tigers.
Things were finally looking up after 2012, and in 2013 the A’s claimed the West title again, this time being the only team from the division playing October only to see the same result as the previous year. The A.L. West has seen a big overhaul this offseason, but if the A’s continue the strong play they’ve shown the last two years, they could be in perfect position to make a deep run into the playoffs.
The 2013 A’s team success was drawn from their talented young pitchers headlined by the veteran and former Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon. 2013 also proved the A’s could provide run support for their youngsters with the emergence of Josh Donaldson and by signing the marquee free agent slugger Yoenis Cesepedes. Though the 2014 offseason has seen the departure of Bartolo Colon and the trading of their oft injured up and coming ace Brett Anderson, there is plenty of things to be optimistic of.
GM Billy Beane worked his magic again this offseason, giving A’s fans a reason to forget why he didn’t bring back the 18 game winner in Colon. Beane’s start to the offseason began with him exercising the $7.5 million option in Coco Crisp’s contract. Beane made some minor additions to the offense by first signing the thirteen-year veteran infielder Nick Punto to a one-year deal, who will not only fill the A’s lack of depth in the infield, but will also provide some veteran leadership for a young team. The next significant move for the A’s offense came when they received Craig Gentry in a trade with their division rivals the Rangers in exchange for Michael Choice. The significance of Gentry will only be determined once the season starts, but the team feels he is the perfect fourth outfielder to rotate in after coming of a year where he hit .280 to go along with 24 steals.
While there has not been any drastic changes to their offense, Beane showed his true inner-GM genius when he made the trade for the A.L.’s leader in saves the last two years Jim Johnson. Beane traded away the once highly regarded prospect Jemile Weeks, who had become more and more unfavorable with the organization, for a perennial all-star and elite closer. The A’s further bolstered their bullpen when they traded utility man Seth Smith to the San Diego Padres for one of the leagues premiere set up men Luke Gregerson.
Going into 2014, the A’s will have one of the most feared bullpen’s in the MLB after the respective trades to along with the already successful relievers Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. In order to complete their rotation after Colon’s departure, the A’s handed a two-year contract to the once dominant lefty Scott Kazmir who proved to the MLB world he still has something left in the tank after a good year with the Cleveland Indians.
If the A’s can pick up where they left off last year, there is no reason they can’t reach the ALCS or even the World Series.