Tuesday, January 26, 2010

posted by James - 9:09 PM

Ben Sheets finally stepped up to the altar today and uttered those magic words... I sign, agreeing to a contract today with the Oakland Athletics for the 2010 season. The deal has a $10 million base with another $2 million in incentives, according to the Athletics official website.

This sounds like an astounding figure, but truth is the Athletics have had the money to spend... and very few takers for it.

This doesn't mean the Athletics haven't been active. In fact, they've been one of the more active teams over the winter.

They got their hands in the Cliff Lee blockbuster, acquiring Michael Taylor - a possible impact outfielder - for INF Brett Wallace, who they really didn't have a place for regardless of his potential hitting prowess.

They added Coco Crisp to their glut of defensive-minded, yet offensively competent outfielders. They also acquired Jake Fox and Kevin Kouzmanoff to give their team plenty of options in the infield and at DH.

They did all of their positional acquisitions without sacrificing any value from their current roster OR dipping much into their available money.

So they then turned to their very-young, potentially-explosive (in a good way) pitching staff. They re-signed two-time All-Star Justin Duchscherer to an extremely team-friendly, incentive-laden deal, leaving them with money to burn and nobody to spend it on.

...until Ben Sheets astounded all who watched in his throwing session last week. With rotation slots open in Chicago, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles (ok, every rotation could use him), Oakland GM Billy Beane put together a guaranteed offer no other team would... an offer born from Beane's previous frugal acquisitions. His owner gave him that $10 million to spend, so even in the lowest end of his value, which could happen with Sheets' injury history, the A's lose nothing.

If he's healthy in July and the A's are out of contention, Sheets becomes a valuable commodity to easily get back the cost of his acquisition. If the A's young rotation is as good and deep as possible, they could deal Sheets regardless of their place in the standing.

Beane sees an incredibly weak AL West. The Mariners are improving, but still flawed in the lineup. They should be the front-runners, but every game will be precious for them to win. Any team with an offense can beat them on every given night. Texas is young and improving, but also similarly counting on an injury-prone pitcher in Rich Harden and an overflowing-bucket of unproven youth. The Angels are so desperate to hold on to their past success, they're over-committing huge money to mediocre relievers for the second year in a row, and hoping Joel Pineiro isn't just another Dave Duncan special, while seeing their competitors successfully court away their organizational bedrock (Chone Figgins - Seattle, Vladimir Guerrero - Texas, John Lackey - Boston).

Beane combines his philosophies with opportunism, which is why his teams reach his goals more often than not.

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