With the 2013 regular season drawing to a close at the end of September, it is easy to start thinking about what changes will be made to the Oakland Athletics dugout in the offseason. This can be a daunting thought, seeing as almost all of the A’s in the current lineup have contracts expiring at the end of the season, including some star players. The only player who will definitely be on the team in 2014 is Yoenis Cespedes. The rest is up in the air.
Since the Athletics have one of the lowest payrolls in the MLB, it is easy for teams with larger wallets to snatch up star Athletic players. There are a few of these on the A’s 2013 team. Here is who I predict will definitely be plucked up by bigger teams come the 2014 season.
Donaldson is one of the most underrated players in the MLB this season. Even though his annual salary is only $495,250, this above average defender can hit with power and gets on base consistently. Donaldson received a lot of recognition for being the biggest 2013 All-Star snub, but the third base spot he was competing for was stacked with some big time hitters. However, his hard work did not go unrecognized and Donaldson earned the Oakland Athletics’ Heart and Hustle Award in August.
With a .297 AVG, 71 RBI, and 18 HR so far this season, this third baseman is in need of a team that will give him more national recognition and a much needed pay raise. Even though he has been in a bit of a slump this August, I am sure some teams are already drafting contracts as we speak.
By Athletics standards, Balfour is earning a pretty good annual salary at $4.5 million, which is the third highest player salary on the team. However, this year’s success could drive higher offers his way as he finishes up the 2013 season. Additionally, Balfour was able to gain nationwide recognition after taking Bartolo Colon’s spot on the AL All-Star team. With 31 saves and a 1.84 ERA, I would not be surprised if Balfour had a couple options to join more successful teams before the 2014 season starts.
Freiman was not very hot nor got a lot of playing time during the first half of the 2013 season – probably due to the fact that he had never played above Double-A before his start with the Athletics. Because he lacked experience in the major leagues, Freiman ended up with one of the lowest annual incomes out of all the A’s: $490,000. However, this rookie has shown that he has been a underestimated. Even though he started out a bit rocky, Freiman has been heating up lately and taking many by surprise.
For August, he has an .421 AVG, which includes 6 RBI and 2 home runs. Additionally, he has the third highest overall average out of all the Athletics with a .285 – just behind Donaldson and Alberto Callaspo. As Freiman slowly gains more playing time, he is proving that he will be successful in the years to come. The Huston Astros must be kicking themselves now for letting him go during spring training. Even though he might need to seek out better opportunities on his own time, I do believe Freiman will end up in the dugout of another team in 2014.
Like Freiman, Sonny Gray is fairly new to the MLB scene and has pitched as a middle relief pitcher a couple times and has started in only three major league games. However, in this short period of time, it is clear that Gray has talent, and he has already become a regular in the A’s pitching rotation. In 25 innings pitched, Gray has a 1.44 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 27 strikeouts. At only 23 years old, Gray has a lot of potential and a long career ahead of him. If the Athletics were smart, they would try to keep him for one more year. But knowing the Athletics, Gray will probably go to a big name team for more money.
Billy Beane will need to offer these four players more money, or they are definitely going to be snatched up by larger teams with bigger wallets. Additionally, players like Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, and Derek Norris, who are signed to one-year contracts, could also leave the A’s looking for better opportunities.
The Athletics are definitely going to lose some star pitchers and key defensive players during the offseason. Beane will have some rebuilding to do before the 2014 season starts, but, hey, that’s just a typical offseason in Oakland.