1/13/2014 5:42 P.M. ET
Inbox: Will A's be in on Tanaka bidding?
Beat reporter Jane Lee answers offseason questions from fans
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
Are the A's a sleeper team in the bidding for [Masahiro] Tanaka? If so, how do they know if they will get burned like they did with the [Hiro] Nakajima deal last year?
--Eddie C., Diggins, Miss.
Though the A's have plenty experience playing the sleeper role -- see: Yoenis Cespedes -- don't except a repeat performance in the Tanaka sweepstakes. They aren't even involved in the bidding war for the Japanese righty, who is likely to land with a big spender like the Yankees or Dodgers. Aside from their limited resources, the A's already boast enough pitching depth as is, so this shouldn't be very surprising.
No matter, keep in mind that the A's only gave Nakajima $6.5 million guaranteed. Tanaka is expected to command a contract in excess of $100 million and immediately slot into the No. 2 or 3 spot of a rotation. Nakajima was less of a known talent.
Do you think giving up a compensated pick for Kendrys Morales would be worth it for the A's?
--Uziah W., Oakland
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Outside of the compensation issue, which is a big one for a low-budget team that has to rely so heavily on its farm system, the A's have never spent that kind of money on a designated hitter, nor do they really have room for Morales on an already-packed roster that features several platoons.
They could wind up carrying three catchers -- John Jaso, Derek Norris, and one of either Chris Gimenez and Stephen Vogt -- and six infielders (Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto, Eric Sogard) to go along with four outfielders. And the A's expect their DH to come from this bunch, with Jaso potentially seeing the most time here.
Billy Beane had a relatively busy offseason. Which of his many moves do you think will have the most positive impact? My guess is the trade for Craig Gentry, assuming that Coco Crisp's production and/or health falls, but of course, if Michael Choice turns out to be the real deal, this one could have the most negative impact.
--Peter T., Oakland
The Gentry trade doesn't happen if the A's aren't in win-now mode, so if they win it all with his help this year, they can't ever necessarily regret giving up Choice, no matter how his future pans out. It was a gutsy move -- perhaps too gutsy -- but a potentially likable one for the A's. Even still, I think the additions Beane made to his bullpen could have an even greater impact.
It's almost not fair that the A's have Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook as setup options behind new closer Jim Johnson, when most teams would do almost anything to land one of them. Having all three on board allows the A's so much flexibility in the later innings, and it also helps them from overworking any one of these guys.
Are the A's finished building their bullpen? I see David Aardsma is still out there on the free-agent market. He had a nice season for the Mets last year and has past experience as a closer with the Mariners. Could he be on the A's radar?
--Jason L., Walnut Creek, Calif.
The A's have more bullpen depth than they probably know what do with right now, so it seems highly unlikely they would add another reliever by the time Spring Training opens. As many as 12 pitchers could be vying for seven bullpen spots in camp, and seemingly only three are actually open, with Johnson, Cook, Doolittle and Dan Otero essentially already guaranteed a job.
I feel really good about the returning staff and lineup this year. I think the bench is strong, as well as the bullpen. However, I feel second base has been a weak spot for the team. The platoon strategy has been OK and I know they brought in [Nick] Punto to contribute to the same situation, but maybe it's time Beane looks into acquiring a solid second-base acquisition via trade. Do you think there is any concern here for the A's front office?
--Eric A., Chicago
Second base still remains the A's weakest link, but it's not like there are many other second-base options elsewhere worth fighting for. The A's liked how the platoon worked at second base last year, and they're hoping that dynamic only improves this season with the addition of Punto. With Callaspo and Sogard also in the mix, this should be an intriguing battle to watch come spring. Because if the A's want to keep all three on the roster, it could mean keeping just four outfielders and not hanging on to a right-handed power bat to pair with Moss at first base. In this case, it would be Callaspo getting some time at first base against lefties.