By Jason Wojciechowski on October 19, 2008 at 8:33 PM
I can't say I'm happy about Mark Ellis signing a multi-year deal to stay in Oakland. Regardless of how good his defense is, he's 32 next year, has played 150 games just once in the last four seasons, and seems more likely to repeat his 2008 90 OPS+ than his 2007 110 OPS+. Why did the A's get Adrian Cardenas and Eric Patterson in trades while also drafting Jemile Weeks if you're going to bring Ellis back for three years? (That's not even mentioning the existing second basemen in the organization, like Cliff Pennington and Kevin Melillo.)
So what does next year's offense look like, knowing that Ellis is inked in at second base? I think aside from Ellis, pretty much the only position we can say is locked down is catcher, as Kurt Suzuki isn't going anywhere. First base could be Daric Barton again, but youth or not, the A's can't afford another 226/327/348 year out of that position. They could try Wes Bankston there, but he didn't exactly mash in his major league time, either. I'd guess it'll be Barton. The A's aren't really the type to give up on young talent.
I'm going to guess that shortstop will belong to Bobby Crosby again. He didn't really hit this year, despite his 39 doubles, but who else is there? Cliff Pennington? Apparently Adrian Cardenas is working at shortstop in the Arizona Fall League. That lack of options makes me guess we'll see Crosby back for one more year in Oakland before heading out on free agency in 2010.
Third base is anyone's guess. I can't deal with another year of Jack Hannahan. I hope Billy Beane and David Forst feel the same way. Eric Chavez ... who knows. One would like to think he'll be healthy and ready to come back next year, but he played 23 games this year. You just can't count on it. Jeff Baisley? He got some time late in the year, and I'd guess his upside is higher than Hannahan's. I'm going to guess that Hannahan is done with the A's, and they'll hope that Eric Chavez can come back and play next year, with Baisley serving in the Hannahan role.
The outfield is just plain full up. I think Carlos Gonzalez will be back in center, Ryan Sweeney should be back, and Aaron Cunningham made something of a case that he's ready to play the other corner. I'd bring Rajai Davis back as the fourth outfielder, defensive replacement, pinch-runner, etc. His 25 steals added an element to the team that has been missing for years, and proved that the A's are not averse to running if they have a guy who can actually do it successfully. (They're just averse to actually paying money for that skill.) But what of Travis Buck? He only hit .226 this year, but he was the only power threat on the team aside from Jack Cust (.200+ ISO) and he's shown the ability to take a walk in the past. The outfielders also include Cust, although if Frank Thomas doesn't come back, he'll be the full-time DH. (Seeing as how Thomas was hurt and not really hitting for power this year, I'd advocate telling Thomas (again) "thanks for the memories.") The outfield I'd like to see is Gonzalez, Sweeney, and Buck, with Davis as the fourth outfielder, someone (Chris Denorfia?) as the fifth guy, and Aaron Cunningham (who's only going to be 23 next year) on the farm for another year (or partial year -- you never know with this team).