Hot Stove Daily: Oakland Athletics

Steve Henson

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Oakland Athletics.

2007 record: 76-86

Finish: Third place in American League West

2007 Opening-day payroll: $79 million

Free agents: Shannon Stewart OF; Jeff DaVanon OF; Mike Piazza DH


Barry Bonds? Don't count him out. A central tenet of the Moneyball philosophy is to acquire players with "warts that don't matter." Whether general manager Billy Beane believes that an indictment on perjury charges falls into that category is unknown, but there is little doubt Bonds can be had for a steep discount. And, yes, there is a need, although in a perfect world they would prefer a right-handed power hitter to complement lefties Jack Cust and Eric Chavez.

The A's desperately need to get healthy. Long overachievers with a sound, oft-copied blueprint for roster-building, they dropped to 10 games under .500 chiefly because of injuries, particularly to Chavez, shortstop Bobby Crosby and starter Rich Harden. A healthy Justin Duchscherer is another important piece because he could be moved from the bullpen to the rotation.

Beane's wish list probably is stacked with players the casual fan has never heard of. They are minor leaguers in other organizations his scouts and statisticians have targeted to acquire in trades. He might have picked up two when he traded valuable utility infielder Marco Scutaro to the Toronto Blue Jays for Class-A pitchers Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey.



Beane has a difficult decision as he heads to the winter meetings. Blow up the team by trading top-notch starters Dan Haren and/or Joe Blanton before they hit the upper reaches of arbitration salary, or build around them, hope for health and try to rebound.

The Athletics' payroll spiked last season even as their victory total declined. Beane might be inclined to unload Haren or Blanton for a rash of prospects, an idea given momentum by the dearth of good young players in the team's minor league pipeline. First baseman Daric Barton, who hit well during a September call-up, might be the only major-league-ready hitter.

It's possible the Athletics will opt for a four-year plan – building to make a splash when they make their anticipated move to a new stadium in nearby Fremont in 2011.

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