After being ousted from the playoffs by Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers for the second year in a row, general manager Billy Beane responded with one of his busiest offseasons.
To prepare for this season, Beane added veteran Scott Kazmir to the starting rotation, signed closer Jim Johnson and brought in some new players to give manager Bob Melvin more options for his famed platoons.
Overall, the Oakland A’s starting lineup will look similar to last year, since most of their offseason moves aim to add depth to their bench and bullpen.
Switch-hitting infielder Nick Punto provides a veteran glove and will most likely play a role similar to the one Alberto Callaspo played last year. Outfielder Craig Gentry will likely be in a platoon with Josh Reddick in right field and could see some time as designated hitter.
The bullpen has been overhauled with the additions of Johnson, Luke Gregerson and Fernando Abad to replace Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins and Pat Neshek. Because of the restructuring, the A’s bullpen, which still includes relief pitchers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook, should be stronger than last year.
The last two seasons, the A’s success has come from solid pitching, defense and clutch hitting. This year will be no different.
The performance of the starting rotation will play the biggest role in determining the success of the A’s 2014 season. The starting staff has a high ceiling for potential, despite the fact the pitchers are young and unproven.
Veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon signing with the New York Mets was a big blow to the rotation, but Kazmir should help to soften it.
Kazmir had a 4.04 ERA last year with the Cleveland Indians, according to Baseball-Reference.com. It was his first full season at the big league level since 2010. If he continues his resurgence, he could fit nicely into the number two spot in the rotation.
Sonny Gray was a key component down the stretch last year and held his own in two playoff starts against one of the game’s best pitchers, Justin Verlander.
Gray posted a 2.67 ERA in 10 regular season starts and had a 2.08 ERA in two postseason starts according to Baseball-Reference.com. These are outstanding numbers for a rookie, but this year he will handle the workload of a full season.
Last year, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily all had solid seasons and if they repeat their 2013 performance, the A’s will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The A’s won the American League West with ease last year, but it won’t be so easy this season.
The Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners all had busy offseasons as well.
The Rangers upgraded their lineup by trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, the Angels signed David Freese and Raul Ibanez, and the Mariners signed Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney.
As long as the pitching staff performs the way it is capable of, the A’s should have no problem capturing their third consecutive pennant and breezing through the American League to reach the World Series.