2014 outlook: Oakland Athletics

2014 outlook: Oakland Athletics
January 27, 2014, 5:30 pm
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2013 record: 96-66, 1st place in AL West

Manager: Bob Melvin, 4th season

Estimated 2014 payroll: $78 million

Key additions: LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Jim Johnson, INF Nick Punto, RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, LHP Fernando Abad

Key losses: RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Grant Balfour, OF Chris Young, C Kurt Suzuki, 2B Jemile Weeks, OF Seth Smith, LHP Brett Anderson, LHP Jerry Blevins

Projected lineup
CF Coco Crisp
3B Josh Donaldson
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Brandon Moss
RF Josh Reddick
2B Alberto Callaspo
DH John Jaso
C Derek Norris

Projected rotation
RHP Jarrod Parker
LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP Sonny Gray
RHP Dan Straily
RHP A.J. Griffin

Top relievers
CL Jim Johnson
RHP Ryan Cook
RHP Luke Gregerson

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Who becomes staff ace with Bartolo Colon gone? Laugh all you want, but Colon was invaluable to the A’s the last two seasons, going a combined 28-15 with a 2.99 ERA. Billy Beane decided to replace the departing free agent with Scott Kazmir, who had a decent bounce back in Cleveland last year but hasn’t been a true frontline starter since 2008 with Tampa Bay. So the pressure will be on a quartet of young, promising right-handers: Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin. All are 26 or younger. Gray, in particular, has the makings of a future ace.

2. Will the new-look bullpen carry the low-budget A’s? They don’t spend a ton of money in Oakland, but Beane did go all-out this winter to bolster his bullpen, making some major additions. He traded with the Orioles for closer Jim Johnson, who is making $10 million. He traded with the Padres for setup man Luke Gregerson, who is making $5 million. And he signed lefty Eric O’Flaherty (who won’t return from Tommy John surgery until midseason) for two years and $7 million. If healthy, that has the makings of a dominant bullpen. But if that group struggles, Beane will have wasted what few financial resources he has.

3. Can Josh Reddick bounce back? Reddick was Oakland’s best player in 2012, a 32-homer, Gold Glove-winning right fielder who appeared to just be hitting his stride. But he backpedaled last season, hitting a scant .226 with only 12 homers and a .686 OPS. He still plays a mean right field, but the A’s need more offense out of him in 2014.