The A's continued their impressive offseason this week by announcing the signing of former Angels and Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. The A's will give the lefty $10.5 million over the next 2 seasons to serve as the primary left-handed set-up man to Andrew Bailey.
Bailey will join fellow newcomer Grant Balfour as main set-up men, as Billy Beane has turned this A's bullpen into a powerhouse. Not only has Beane added Josh Willingham, David Dejesus and Hideki Matsui to the offense, and Rich Harden back to the rotation, but he's quietly put together a bullpen that should challenge anyone's in baseball. Bailey is one of the brightest young closers in the game, and he already had a nice supporting cast around him last season, know it's dominant. The A's are bringing back only 1 reliever who had an era over 4 last season (Michael Wuertz) and will also be getting some help from one of the starters now that Harden has joined the team. With the former A's ace back in tow, it gives Beane an extra starter to add to the bullpen, or possibly use as trade bait to obtain more offense. As they sit right now though, the A's are in pretty good position in the AL West. The Rangers still look like the team to beat, but they lost a huge piece of their team in Cliff Lee, and the Angels have yet to replace Vlad Guerrero, and their pitching staff has some question marks. I actually think the A's have a shot in this division if they can stay healthy and get a few breaks.
When looking at the names they've lost and the players they've gained, they have to be considered as one of most successful teams this offseason. The only guys they've lost are Rajai Davis, Jack Cust and Vin Mazzaro, and they've replaced them with Dejesus, Willingham, Matsui, Harden, Balfour and Fuentes. Clearly, they're in a much better position now than they were at the end of 2010 and they actually had some good things going for them towards the end of the year. I think Beane is taking a page out of his cross-bay rival Brian Sabean's book by acquiring all of these players outside the organization. Normally Beane does his best to pile up young prospects and develop them into major leaguers. But I think in this case, Beane sees how good of a young rotation he has in play, and probably figures that if he can add as much depth to the team and get as much talent in as realistically possible, then they should do it, even if it means going outside the organization. He's made smart trades and a few key signings and has put together a team very similar to the Giants team that won the World Series in 2010. Not really one big star on the diamond, but a bunch of talented players who play the game hard, and fundamentally sound while hopefully letting their pitching set the tone.