Spring Training is right around the corner, and the A's and Giants both have some finishing up to do regarding finalizing their respective rosters before the mid-February reporting dates.
The A's have actually been a little more active than the Giants this off-season, as they both search for ways to improve their offense's. We've been discussing the Giants in-depth all winter long over at one of our partner sites, The Giants Baseball Blog, and encourage our readers to visit there for more in-depth Giants analysis, but we've only had the chance to discuss the A's a few times here this off-season, and I wanted to take a look at what their roster is setting up to look like in the spring. Just a couple days ago, the A's announced a new contract for their DH/RF'er over the last couple of years, Jack Cust. The 31 year-old Cust has been a guy the A's can count on for upwards of 25 homers, 75 RBI and an above average OBP, even though he doesn't hit for a particularly high average. The only knock on Cust besides the low average is his knack for striking out. He's whiffed 546 times in 1389 at-bats with Oakland, which is rate of more than 1 k for every 3 at-bats.
Cust's return, along with the signing of Coco Crisp and the trade for Jake Fox should help Oakland's offense out a bit, but they're still lacking that big middle of the order bat that Eric Chavez was supposed to provide. Jake Fox could very well become a 30 hr-a-year guy with full-time at-bats, but he's going to be learning a brand new league and is still a pretty raw ballplayer in terms of major league experience. Crisp needs to rebound from a sub-par, injury riddled season in Kansas City and try to regain that form he had in Cleveland, and I think playing with the low-pressure Oakland A's might be a good setting for him to do just that. The A's will also have a full season of Scott Hariston who, like Fox, has 30+ home run potential if given a full-load of at-bats.
The A's lineup seems to be taking shape, and with the return of Justin Duchscherer, their pitching staff is rounding into shape as well. There was some whisper earlier in the off-season that had the A's as one of the teams interested in 21 year-old Cuban phenom, Aroldis Chapman. The dominant 21 year-old lefty is drawing interest from a lot of teams with bigger checkbooks than the A's, so I don't necessarily like their chances of signing him, but I can't help but think of the capabilities of that young staff if they did. The same could be said for the Giants. Think of that potential of a Lincecum-Cain-Chapman-Bumgarner-Sanchez five-some could be! The A's don't have themselves a true number one starter like the Giants do though, and Chapman could eventually become that guy. I really like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson Dallas Braden and Duchscherer, and adding Chapman into that mix could eventually give the A's a dominant young rotation.
The number I've been hearing as far as contract offers being thrown at Chapman has been in the 5 year, $25 million range, which is obviously a lot for a 21 year-old arm without much of a track record. It would basically be like giving a college junior drafted in the amateur draft a 25 million dollar contract. That's a pretty big number when you consider that guys like Tim Lincecum only got around 2-3 million guaranteed when drafted. Left-handed starting pitchers who throw 100 mph and have the stuff that Chapman has just don't come around very often, and I think this kid is going to be something special. Here is a video from the 2007 World Baseball Cup of Chapman and and you can get a pretty good look at just what kind of stuff this kid brings to the table. Billy Beane, and too a lesser extent, Brian Sabean, should do whatever they realistically can to get this guy in the Bay Area.
Warriors Talk: We haven't quite gotten into as much Golden State Warriors talk here as I'd like to, but I did want to make sure our readers are checking out The Warriors Rundown regularly for updated Warriors analysis and chatter and the strength of their NBA Basketball Schedule this year.