Quietly, Oakland has done a nice job of building their roster this offseason. While other teams have stolen the headlines, the A's are making low risk moves to bolster a team that already has some solid, young pieces. Last season, Oakland was 81-81 last year, finishing nine games behind the Rangers and holding their own in the division. While they didn't light up the scoreboard and score a ton of runs, they were consistent on the mound with a good nucleus of young starters and a decent bullpen. Apparently Billy Beane isn't satisfied as he's added some pop and helped the pitching staff this winter.
Its been well documented that the A's made a hard run at Adrian Beltre, only to get spurned and see him go to a division rival in Texas. Since they didn't get their "big fish," Oakland has made several smaller additions. They added David Dejesus to play left field, Josh Willingham to play right field and Hideki Matsui to DH. Dejesus could hit second, behind Coco Crisp. A combination of Matsui and Willingham will likely hit fourth and fifth. Its not a "murderer's row" but in the AL West, it will be competitive. Expect Oakland to move up from 11th in the AL in runs scored in 2011.
The pitching staff has seen improvements as well. Brandon McCarthy was recently added and could serve as the fifth starter. While adding a fifth starter isn't exactly earth-shattering news, one has to remember that the A's have a solid core of young pitchers in Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. Rich Harden will be in the mix, too, depending on his injury situation. The bullpen got help from free agent signee Grant Balfour who came over from the Rays where he's been very impressive. Recent reports are that the A's are moving agressively on lefty veteran Brian Fuentes, as well. They've got an established closer in Andrew Bailey and solid contributors in Craig Breslow and Brad Ziegler. Add Balfour and potentially Fuentes and Oakland may have one of the best bullpens in baseball.
The AL West will be a tougher division in 2011. The Rangers will be very strong again and offensively dangerous. Their pitching will suffer with the loss of Cliff Lee and it will be interesting if CJ Wilson can have a similar season in 2011. The Angels will have Kendry Morales back and should be better this season, too. The Mariners will be weak again but hope to bounce back somewhat and King Felix can shut anybody down. Oakland will have strong chance to contend in 2011 and they haven't had to overly inflate their budget to do it.
Oakland's offseason grade: an A!