Well, after the A's dealt away right-handed ace Trevor Cahill, premiere lefty Gio Gonzalez and all-star closer Andrew Bailey, then let every single one of their free agents walk without attempt to re-sign any, most people thought the A's were entering full-rebuild mode.
However, the A's just signed center fielder and leadoff man, Coco Crisp to a very lucrative 2 year, $14 million dollar deal, which defies the logic they've been using all offseason. First off, most people thought the A's would be going all young this year and giving Michael Taylor his shot in center, but he'll now likely move over to left field with Crisp's return and the addition of Josh Reddick. Secondly, I think the A's could have gotten Crisp for a helluva lot cheaper than they did, probably closer to 2 years/$10M, but he does have gold-glove defense. It also makes me wonder whether or not Billy Beane may be pulling a page out of Brian Sabean's book and waiting until free agents get desperate enough to sign somewhere, then you get them at a reduced price. Problem with that strategy is that if the player is a good one, he normally finds a home before that plan can come to fruition. Anyhow, if Beane is indeed looking for cheap players to help get A's fans excited for 2012, and help their chances in moving to San Jose, there are plenty of bargain-bin players still left on the market who the A's could definitely use. The names that immediately comes to mind is first basemen Casey Kotchman, who fits Beane's type of player to a T. He's patient, gets on base, and has a good batting average, just doesn't hit for too much power.
Either way, he'd be a huge upgrade at first base over the incumbent Daric Barton and he's still pretty young at 28, so he still hasn't reached his ceiling. They also need some help over at third base, and no the answer is not Kevin Kouzmanoff, obviously. I'd take a gander at Wilson Betemit if I were Beane though, he's a really good hitter (.285, 22 doubles and 8 HR in 97 games) and his most comfortable position is third base. I know Scott Sizemore did some good things after coming over from Detroit last year, but if they could get Betemit on a 1 year/$2M contract, then why they heck not get some competition in there!? Also, they better have a plan B if they're seriously planning on starting the year with Chris Carter in the starting lineup, whether it's at first or DH. The man who's destroyed every level of baseball he's ever played at has managed a mere .178 batting average with a whole 3 home runs in 114 big league at-bats. Small sample, but ugly showing non the less. Plus the one spot where this FA class is still pretty stocked, besides with mediocre pitching, is with DH-types. Carlos Pena would be sweet, even as a first basemen, but probably out of the A's price range. Rual Ibanez though, could very well sign a 1 year, "prove-it" type deal after a huge falloff in 2011. Or even bringing back Johnny Damon if the price is right. Cody Ross or Ryan Ludwick would also be nice right-handed additions who could play outfield or DH.
As far as their pitching staff, after they've dealt away what they did, Billy Beane should add at least one veteran influence to help lead this group of youngsters and as insurance. You probably can't count on too much in 2012 from Brett Anderson, so that leaves the rotation like this at the moment: LH Dallas Braden, RH Brandon McCarthy, RH Guillermo Moscoso, RH Tyson Ross, LH Tommy Milone. They also have the prize from their deal with the D-Backs Jarrod Parker knocking on the door. It looks like a nice young group and you can see why he felt comfortable dealing away Cahill and Gonzalez, but what if Milone and Parker prove to still be a year or 2 away? Not to mention the injury history with Moscoso and McCarthy then Braden coming back from his season-ender in 2011, there are some real questions around that staff. If they could bring back a guy like Harden or Jeff Francis or Brad Penny. None will get more than a one-year deal and all are focused on proving themselves again in 2012 after less-than-spectacular 2011 seasons. As far as their bullpen, it looks like they have plenty of options to take over for Andrew Bailey (Brian Fuentes, Joey Devine, Grant Balfour), and with all those young arms they have in their system, I wouldn't expect any other pitchers to be signed for bullpen duties.