The Oakland A’s had a busy December with multiple trades and acquisitions. With so much action happening all at once, it was hard to tell which moves would benefit the team and which would not. So, of all the players that the Athletics acquired, who will ultimately be successful in Oakland in 2014? Here are the top three new additions to the team:
1) Jim Johnson
Johnson will be taking over Grant Balfour’s role as closer for the Oakland A’s this upcoming season and many are wondering if he be able to live up to the Balfour rage. With Johnson leading the AL in saves both in 2013 and 2012 with 50 and 51 saves respectively, I think it is clear that the A’s have acquire a star. In 2013, he posted a 2.94 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 1.28 WHIP. He pulled off similar numbers in 2012 with a 2.49 ERA and 41 strikeouts. Let’s hope that three times is a charm and that his third and potentially most successful season will be on the mound at O.co Coliseum.
Even though Johnson does not allow many walks – only 18 in 2013 – he does seem to be more hittable that most closers. Perhaps this can be easily fixed if he works on being more unpredictable on the mound so that the batter has a harder time reading him and his pitches. Additionally, Johnson is five years younger than the A’s previous closer, which should help with more prolonged success. If Balfour can be overwhelmingly successful at 35, Johnson should be able to do the same or better at 30.
2) Luke Gregerson
Gregerson has been a constant force as the seventh and eighth inning set-up man in the San Diego Padres’ bullpen since 2009. However, in 2012, he truly hit his stride when he had a 23 scoreless inning streak that lasted from July to August. In 2013, he had a 2.71 ERA with four saves and 64 strikeouts over 73 appearances.
In the tail end of the regular season and in the postseason, the Athletics’ middle relievers and set-up men struggled when it came to getting out of tough situations. The Padres trusted Gregerson with getting the job done and he is respected by many scouts for being one of the most reliable yet most underrated set-up men. I believe that many underestimate Gregerson’s ability since he is not well known throughout the MLB, but it is clear from his time with the Padres that he is a consistent and precise pitcher that will fill the roll of set-up man perfectly.
3) Scott Kazmir
Out of the starting pitchers that have been acquired in this off-season, Kazmir has the most potential for success, which is why he is number three on the list. Kazmir was successful in the early and mid-2000s with the Tampa Bay Rays, but back and shoulder injuries plagued him from 2009 to 2012. When he went to the Cleveland Indians in 2013, he found his second wind. He ended 2013 with 10-9 record and a 4.04 ERA.
There is a hope that Kazmir’s second wind will be equivalent to the success ace Bartolo Colon found in 2013. With this second round of success coming at the age of 30 instead of Colon’s 40, there is much hope Kazmir will be able to fill the large void left behind by Colon. This trade could definitely turn sour if Kazmir does not perform, but I have a feeling that the Athletics will work some magic with Kazmir during spring training in order to prepare him for the 2014 season.
Even though the Athletics made numerous trades in December, many are looking back and questioning the reason for particular moves. The A’s definitely have a plan for all of these players, but what the plan is, we have yet to find out. For now, Johnson, Gregerson, and Kazmir will continue to be the top three potential stars for the 2014 season.