The A’s season ended in disappointing fashion last night, falling 9-8 in 12 innings in a one-game wildcard playoff in Kansas City. Oakland had the best record in baseball at the All-Star Break, but went ten games under .500 in the second half of the season while sputtering into the playoffs. Here’s what they need to do this offseason to help ensure that next year ends on a successful note.
1. Re-Sign Jon Lester
After shipping fan favorite Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for the Sox’ ace to load up for the playoffs, the A’s now find themselves at risk of losing Lester to free agency and having nothing to show for Cespedes. Oakland might have been able to stomach the loss of Lester had they made a deep playoff run this year, but after losing in one game, they desperately need to keep Lester to justify trading away an everyday player.
2. Tighten Up The Middle Infield…
Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie, and Alberto Callaspo hampered Oakland this year with their shoddy defense and spotty hitting. Offense can be tough to come by from middle infielders, but that’s usually a fair trade if you can get strong defense. Those three contributed very little in either aspect this year. Asdrubal Cabrera and JJ Hardy hit the free agent market this offseason, both of whom are capable of providing pop on offense as well as playing sure-handed defense.
3. …And The Outfield
The trade of Yoenis Cespedes hurt Oakland more defensively than it did offensively. Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, when healthy, form one of the strongest outfield duos in baseball – a duo that is almost completely negated when you have glorified designated hitters like Jonny Gomes in left field. The idea would be that Gomes would have enough offense to nullify the defensive shortcomings, but Gomes delivered a .234/.327/.330 slash line – numbers that would be weak even by a middle infielder’s standards.
4. Add Depth To The Bullpen
After losing Grant Balfour in the offseason, Oakland did everything they could to help replace their closer. $10 million to Jim Johnson? Seems like a great plan until he forgets how to get outs and doesn’t even make it through the season on the roster. Sean Doolittle’s performance was admirable when he was handed the closer’s role, but his numbers declined late in the season. Luke Gregerson can get strikeouts, but his inability to consistently find the strike zone cost the A’s in their playoff when he delivered a wild pitch that gave up a critical run. Finding good relievers is a bit like playing the lottery, but Oakland would be well-served to shore up the middle relief.
5. Fire Bob Melvin
Melvin certainly deserves praise for what he’s done in his tenure as manager, but unfortunately, his legacy will likely be marked by a need to over-manage to work his team of a slump. Inconsistency in the lineup, questionable bullpen decisions, and an inability to keep the team on an even keel throughout the course of a 162 games ultimately came to a head last night. Mismanagement of his pitching staff, the decision to start Geovany Soto behind the plate (despite having never caught Lester prior to the playoffs), and leaving Adam Dunn to rot on the bench in what turned out to be his final Major League game all led to A’s fans believing that Melvin should take the fall for the team’s collapse.