A new era has begun in the East Bay as two of the A's "Big Three" pitchers have moved on. They're just the latest in an alarming trend of players lost that has the A's making you remember the Expos of the 1990s. In the past two years, Oakland has lost Miguel Tejada, Keith Foulke, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Ted Lilly, Jermaine Dye, Ramon Hernandez and Jose Guillen. Since the other three teams in the division have all improved, I have a hard time fathoming Oakland finishing anywhere but last.
Worth Every Penny
He signed a six-year, $66 million contract last year, so you know Eric Chavez won't be going elsewhere anytime soon. The emotional leader of the squad off the field as well as the offensive catalyst on it, Chavez has as much talent as any third baseman in the game today. The lefty is in his eighth major-league season despite the fact that he's only 27. It's safe to ink him in for another .285-30-100 season.
About To Blossom
Dan Meyer owned the envious label of top pitching prospect in the Atlanta Braves system before going to Oakland in the Hudson trade. Last season Meyer, a 6-foot-3 southpaw, struck out 146 batters in 126 1/3 minor-league innings. He has three out pitches including a nasty slider and a moving fastball in the low 90s. Though not a lock for the rotation out of training camp, he'll be a member of the rotation for the majority of the year, perhaps even a darkhorse candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.
Barry Zito was one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2001 to '03 but last season became just another hurler with a 4.50 ERA. As a pitcher who relies on his control, his pitches were high in the strike zone for most of the year, translating into a lot of hard hits against him. Zito allowed a career-high 28 home runs last year, and it's no guarantee that he'll be back to his old self this season.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Nick Swisher was one of the stars of the book Moneyball and reached the majors last season for the first time. He also hit more home runs in Class AAA last season (29) than he had for his entire two-year career up to that point (21). He's the only player on the 40-man roster to walk 100 times last season, a big plus in GM Billy Beane's book, yet he still hit just .269.
The stolen base isn't a big weapon in the A's arsenal, but there are a few players who will run. In addition to last season's stolen-base leader Eric Byrnes, there's Mark Kotsay and a pair of newcomers, Charles Thomas -- an outfielder who can flat out fly -- and catcher Jason Kendall, who had double-digit steals in seven of his last eight seasons.
If Something Should Happen To Octavio Dotel
Rookie Huston Street was the most impressive pitcher in Oakland's camp early on. With a fastball in the mid-90s and good command, the former Texas Longhorn has closer's stuff and is right in line in the A's pen. Kiko Calero, who saved two games for the Cardinals last season, is another possibility.
Don't Forget About
Keith Ginter, Kotsay, Rich Harden, Keiichi Yabu
Don't Bother With
Adam Melhuse, Mark Ellis, Bobby Kielty
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).