Strengths: The obvious one is Billy Beane. He continues to make the most of perpetually tight purse strings by bringing in productive players with team-friendly contracts. While I have always believed that Moneyball is a way overblown and overhyped concept, you can’t argue that building a line up with guys who get on pace, followed by guys that hit the ball out of the park, followed by guys who get on base, is a formula that works. You can’t tell me it took 150 years of professional baseball for that to be discovered…can you? The other big strength, accentuated by the recent acquisition of the underappreciated Luke Gregerson, is the bullpen.
Weaknesses: Budget. While they’ve opened up the coffers a little bit to bring in Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson (who may get upwards of 10 million in arbitration), they’re still hamstrung by finances and a lousy home ballpark. I’m not an accountant, but wouldn’t this team be scary if they had the resources to pursue a trade for a front-line starter like David Price and/or sign a middle-of-the-order bat like Robbie Cano while he was available?
Off-Season Needs: They’re pretty deep, and don’t really have any huge needs to fill in order to be competitive again in the AL West this year. That said, if they do want to be the out and out favorite to win the division, hitting pay dirt again with either a reclamation project, or a young player that vastly outperforms his projection would help. The last few years, the A’s have gotten more than they bargained or hoped for from Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, Bartolo Colon, and Coco Crisp. Is Craig Gentry the next guy to turn from borderline fourth outfielder with another team to semi-stud with Oakland?
2014 Outlook: Quite strong, actually. They might very well be better than 50/50 to win the AL West, and if they don’t, they probably have the inside track on a wild card. Until they get some more money, they’ll never win a championship, but not everyone gets to. This ain’t the 80s anymore.