CHICAGO, October 11, 2013 — Last year the Oakland Athletics went 94-68, while winning the AL West, but lost in the ALDS to the Tigers in five games. This year, the A’s went 96-66 and won the AL West before losing in the ALDS in five games…to the Tigers, again, which means it is time to say better luck next year to the Oakland Athletics.
What Went Right: Josh Donaldson broke out in his first full MLB season posting a .301/.384/.499 slash line, good for a 148 OPS+, and provided 8.0 WAR, thanks to also being a great defender at third base. The A’s have Donaldson under team control for another four years, which will allow them to keep him as a building block going forward. Hopefully in 2015 shortstop prospect Addison Russell, if he continues to develop, will join Donaldson on the right side of the infield as he is the star of the A’s farm system that entered the season ranked 24th by Baseball America.
The A’s also received contributions for their #3, AJ Cole, #5, Sonny Gray and #6, Dan Straily prospects. Sonny Gray has so far been the best of the group as he logged 64 innings with a 140 ERA+ and started two of the A’s games in the ALDS.
Bartolo Colon is definitely not a prospect, but logged 190.1 innings with an ERA+ of 141 while striking out 15.2% of the batters he faced and walking just 3.8%. The A’s should not count on that type of production from Colon next year as it was his best season in a decade, but the young members of their staff should be able to pick up much of the slack.
The A’s bullpen logged a 3.22 ERA, good for sixth best in MLB, led by Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour. The A’s do not historically spend a lot on their bullpen so Balfour may not be back so the A’s will likely promote someone else to close next year.
Finally the A’s acquired Jed Lowrie from the Astros in the offseason largely for his defensive versatility, and got his first fully healthy season as a bonus. Lowrie posted a .290/.344/.446 line and provided 2.3 WAR. Lowrie will be a free agent after next season so the A’s would be well served to let him play out next year and hope he can stay healthy again.
What Went Wrong: Yoenis Cespedes struggled in his second year posting a .240/.294/.442 slash line although many of his counting stats were in line with 2012. Cespedes’ strikeout rate ticked up from 18.9% in 2012 to 23.9% in 2013 while his walk rate dipped from 8.0% to 6.5% this year.
Josh Reddick’s power lacked significantly this year, with his homeruns dipping from 32 to 12, and posted a slash line of .226/.307/.379. Reddick benefitted from a 12.6% HR/Fly Ball ratio last year, but some of the decline in power can be attributed to a wrist injury that bothered him all year. Both the A’s and Reddick will hope that he can come back healthy next year and regain some of the lost power.
Chris Young will likely not have his option exercised after posting a .200/.280/.379 slash line and saw his strikeout rate climbing to 24.8%, the second highest of his career.
Finally, Brett Anderson has thrown 163 innings combined over the last three seasons. While he is still just 25 years old and has great potential, the A’s must decide whether they should bring him back with their team option next year. Anderson’s salary will creep up to $8 million if they do bring him back, and given the young pitching depth they may be better off declining the option and resigning Colon. The team could also pick up his option and attempt to trade him if he can stay healthy for any period of time.
What to Look for in 2014: The A’s proved that 2012 was not a fluke, and have a lot of young pitching, while their offense is very versatile allowing them to take advantage of large statistical splits. It seems that they should be able to find their way back to the postseason next year if that young pitching can continue to develop and stay healthy.
Free Agents/Options: Chris Young (Club Option), Coco Crisp (Club Option), Brett Anderson (Club Option), Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon, Kurt Suzuki
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