This is an ESPN Insider article on the A’s by Dan Szymborski … I happened to find his analysis of Billy Beane‘s moves similar to my own and I think that more than just ESPN insiders should see it. So here it is …. after the article I will post the comment that I posted on the ESPN website. Thanks for taking a minute to learn a little more about the Oakland Athletics and how we roll …. Buster Olney also wrote an A’s article making it seem like the fans just don’t care or that the A’s don’t care about their fans … I didn’t like this article but if you’d like to read it you can by clicking HERE.
“You didn’t really think that Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane was done making moves, did you? There are only three things in life that are certain: death, taxes and the A’s making big offseason trades. Unless you’re running an AL West franchise that isn’t in Oakland, that last one is by far the most pleasant.
After the trades of Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija, the natural assumption by many was that the A’s were throwing in the towel on the 2015 season. That assumption would have been a mistake; even with the loss of two top pitchers, it was very likely that Beane and Co. could still put together an above .500 team.
If you were one of the people who figured Oakland was done, the team’s acquisition of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar ought to have disabused you of that notion. Since it became clear that the Tampa Bay Rays were going to clean house to a greater degree than usual, Zobrist was rightfully one of the most desired players in the market.
Zobrist in many ways was the classic Tampa Bay Rays story. Acquired from the Houston Astros back in 2006 along with Mitch Talbot in return for two months of Aubrey Huff, Zobrist wasn’t a hyped prospect. He wasn’t an immediate performer, putting up three lackluster seasons in part-time roles with the team. But Zorilla was on a franchise that trusted his consistent minor league track record and kept giving him chances, and eventually it paid off, as he broke out with a .297/.405/.543 slash line in his first full MLB season in 2009, finishing eighth in the MVP voting while playing everywhere on the diamond but catcher and pitcher.
Several teams were involved in the Zobrist trade sweepstakes; with Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie off the market, there just weren’t many practical middle infield options. But it’s Oakland that landed him, and given the team’s preference for players with positional flexibility, it’s not likely the A’s will just plug him in at second base for 150 games and forget it. Despite turning 34 in May, ZiPS still projects Zobrist as a 4-WAR player, with a .264/.350/.415 projection in Oakland and solid defense anywhere he plays.
A .765 OPS might not sound exciting on its face, but that’s because we’re still getting over the high-offense era. A .765 OPS comes out to an estimated 115 OPS+ in Oakland. Just to indicate what type of season a 115 OPS+ is, consider that star middle infielders such as Ryne Sandberg (114), Derek Jeter (115), Lou Whitaker (117) and Roberto Alomar (116) posted career OPS+ marks right around that.
Escobar’s projection in Oakland (.256/.318/.350 and an 89 OPS+, with middling defense at short) obviously doesn’t come close to Zobrist’s, but it also gives the A’s depth at a position at which they were weak in 2015. Marcus Semien, acquired from the White Sox in the Samardzija trade, is not ideally suited to shortstop in the long-term.
With Zobrist and Escobar now in the mix, ZiPS now estimates (in very early returns) that the A’s are an 87- to 88-win team in an AL West that has quality teams, but no real juggernauts. Winning the division won’t be easy, but the A’s look to enter the season with a serious shot. That’s an impressive feat in an offseason in which you trade away your best position player and a top starting pitcher, not to mention lose a few key players via free agency.
While most of the teams have significantly instilled within their organizations some of the lessons of “Moneyball,” Oakland remains the team that is the most flexible with its roster and the most willing to take calculated risks. Inertia is just as dangerous to a team as a low on-base percentage is. That Beane recognizes this lesson is one of the reasons Oakland is the most successful organization at reinventing itself.”
You can follow Dan Szymborski on Twitter @DSzymborski.
Now here’s my comment on the article:
Excellent article and analysis of what Billy has done! Most people think the team is screwed but they fail to look any deeper than “they traded their best player and other All-Stars.”
The team looks better to me than last year’s team, assuming that Parker and Griffin comeback from their surgeries strong before Jesse Chavez or Jesse Hahn start to tire out – neither has thrown much over 100 innings in the majors before.
Could the A’s use a power bat? Sure. But will Zobrist hit a whole lot of doubles with the foul territory in Oakland? Likely.
I almost always support Billy and his moves and I don’t believe, like most, that the loss of Cespedes had anything to do with the second half collapse. That began a month prior to that trade due to injuries and some guys just averaging out. It unfortunately was just becoming extraordinarily clear around the time of the trade.
If ZIPS is correct an 84-88 season (preferably 88 like last season) could get us in the Wild Card or maybe even win the division considering that the Mariners, Angels and healthy Rangers will all be good and playing eachother just as often – and the Astros who aren’t bad will be stealing games from each team ….
Unlike a lot of A’s fans these days I look a little deeper and keep faith that Billy is doing the best he can with the resources given to him by Fischer and Wolff. Thank you for writing this piece! I really enjoyed it! Great read!!