Keith Law: Oakland A's

Scouting 'other guys' in Samardzija deal 

December, 9, 2014
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Marcus SemienDavid Banks/Getty ImagesMarcus Semien posted a .234-.300-.372 triple-slash line in his rookie season with the White Sox.
Oakland's teardown of their 2014 wild-card team continues unabated with the Monday trade of Jeff Samardzija for a package that seems to emphasize quantity (especially in terms of total years of control remaining) over quality, the inverse of how they acquired Samardzija in the first place.

The most recognizable name for the A's is infielder Marcus Semien, a utility guy who might be a passable starter at second base but whose passive, low-contact approach at the plate makes it more likely he'll end up an extra guy.

White Sox fill two major holes on roster 

December, 9, 2014
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Jeff SamardzijaCary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsJeff Samardzija will slot in nicely behind Chris Sale in the White Sox's rotation ...
The White Sox do not have time for your so-called "rebuilding process."

Their Monday night acquisition of starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija via trade and signing of closer David Robertson continues Chicago's acceleration back into contender range, probably to the point that they're comfortably a .500 team (assuming a healthy rotation), while addressing the two biggest needs from the 2014 roster.

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Indians upgrade offense with Moss trade 

December, 8, 2014
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Brandon MossDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesBrandon Moss posted a higher WAR in 2014 than in '13, but his triple-slash numbers slipped.
When healthy, Brandon Moss, who was traded by the Oakland Athletics on Monday to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder Joey Wendle, is an excellent platoon player, capable of handling first base or left field and is adequate in right, with plus power and adequate patience when facing right-handed pitching.

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Josh Donaldson a surprising haul for Jays 

November, 28, 2014
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The Toronto Blue Jays won the offseason two years ago with their huge deals with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets; those were mostly aimed at remaking their rotation. So far this winter, their moves have focused on overhauling the lineup, and while wins in November don't always mean wins the next October, a deal that nets them Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects is a damn good start for Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He's added one of the best players in baseball for a package of prospects that doesn't quite add up.

[+] EnlargeJosh Donaldson
AP Photo/Ben MargotJosh Donaldson, pointing northeast, presumably.

Donaldson turns 29 next month, is just entering

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White Sox bridging a gap with deals 

November, 24, 2014
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Adam LaRoche Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsNew White Sox player Adam LaRoche, at two years, $25 million, was a modest overpay.


The White Sox made two modest signings late last week, landing first baseman Adam LaRoche for two years, $25 million, and left-handed reliever Zach Duke for three years, $15 million. LaRoche fits well as

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A's built for October, Sox for 2015 

July, 31, 2014
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Yoenis Cespedes AP Photo/Ben MargotWhile Yoenis Cespedes isn't even among the top three A's in offensive WAR this season, his power isn't in question.
Strange as it seems, the 2014 A's don't lack offense, so they could afford to part with a player as productive as Yoenis Cespedes in a deal that makes the team better overall.

Even if Jason Hammel hadn't had one of the worst four-start stretches of his career, Jon Lester still would be a significant upgrade over him. And the A's needed more help in their rotation, which has been around the league median so far this year, than they needed Cespedes in their lineup, which has been among the AL's most productive thanks in large part to smart, cost-effective platoon pairings. Oakland's rotation to date has relied on Jesse Chavez, a career reliever who's already 30 innings over his professional single-season high, and Tom Milone, who's struggled away from home because he's an extreme fly ball guy with a below-average fastball. (Milone is now a Twin, traded for Sam Fuld in a swap of last-roster-spot guys.) Adding Lester and Jeff Samardzija to the rotation this month gives the A's high-impact starters for the playoffs and significant bulk innings to ward off September fatigue from pitchers such as Chavez or Drew Pomeranz, who haven't handled these workloads before. It makes the A's a win or two better the rest of the way, and it also sets them up far better for October.

They also added Jonny Gomes -- whose one major baseball skill is smacking around left-handed pitching -- to an outfield platoon mix that also considers who's on the mound for Oakland (since Fuld is a better defender than Gomes).

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Addison RussellMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesThe Cubs have added one of the top prospects in baseball in Addison Russell.
The A's have added a huge injection of both quality and depth into their rotation, but it does come at a cost -- their last two first-round picks, both excellent prospects right now, who will boost a Cubs system that was already among the top five in baseball. In a significant deal, both sides add impact, with different timelines in mind.

Jeff Samardzija has gone from DFA candidate after 2011 to mid-rotation starter in 2012. Now, he's throwing

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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Anderson a sensible snag for Rockies 

December, 10, 2013
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Brett Anderson Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsWhen healthy, Brett Anderson has shown flashes of being an elite starter.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The trade for Brett Anderson is exactly the kind of deal the Colorado Rockies should be making -- rolling the dice on a pitcher with some upside, accepting the risk as the price they have to pay to get someone whose stuff and command could make a real difference pitching at Coors Field.

"Finding Brett Anderson" would actually make sense as a reality show on the Discovery Channel given how frequently he's been injured in his major league career. Banking on him for any kind of regular workload is risky, as he has qualified for the ERA title only once, in his rookie year in 2009, when he looked like an ace in the making.

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Michael Choice a nice snag for Rangers 

December, 3, 2013
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The Oakland Athletics traded some long-term value for short-term value in acquiring outfielder Craig Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom from the Texas Rangers, but the Rangers walk away with a potential everyday player in outfield prospect Michael Choice and a sleeper from low Class A in second baseman Chris Bostick. I see the value here for Oakland but prefer the Rangers' side of the transaction.

Craig Gentry does two things very well: He's an elite defender in center and he has a career .376 OBP against lefties; one of those skills is very useful, the other one is a little like being the world's best horse-and-buggy driver.

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Tigers make a mistake in strategy 

December, 3, 2013
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NathanAP Photo/Jim CowsertCloser Joe Nathan signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Viewed in a vacuum, the Tigers just misdiagnosed their bullpen problem as an isolated issue with the ninth inning rather than a lack of depth or quality across the board. Signing Joe Nathan to a two-year deal isn't excessive, as he probably has at least that many years of production left in the tank. But Nathan has started to lose velocity and had to shift to heavier usage of his slider as a result, and he's a traditional, one-inning, break-glass-only-in-case-of-save-situation closer, the kind of player usage foisted on us by a stupid stat invented by a writer decades ago.

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Kazmir a shrewd investment for A's 

December, 2, 2013
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Scott KazmirJason Miller/Getty ImagesScott Kazmir didn't pitch in 2012, but struck out a man per inning in 2013.
The Oakland Athletics probably have outgrown their reputation as a team operating on a shoestring that forces them to shop in the bargain bin during free agency and in the trade market, as they've handed out a few larger deals -- such as the four-year, $36 million contract they gave to Yoenis Cespedes -- in the past couple of seasons.

That said, they do still look for hidden value or potential upside plays, now a little less out of necessity and more because it's just smart business for any team that doesn't have an infinite payroll. Giving two years and $22 million to Scott Kazmir entails significant risk -- the guy was out of baseball a year ago -- but has the potential upside to make this the kind of high-ROI deal Oakland needs.

Kazmir replaces Bartolo Colon, who was in similar straits when Oakland first signed him after a shocking return to the majors with the Yankees in 2011.

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Who looked best in Arizona Fall League 

October, 14, 2013
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Kris BryantAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastKris Bryant, Chicago's first-round draft choice in 2013, has been impressive so far.
I miss living in Arizona for many reasons, but one is the loss of easy access to the Arizona Fall League. This year, I just had a four-day, eight-game trip to scout the many prospects in that circuit. I did get to see every team's BP and two-thirds of the league's pitchers, so while it wasn't as much as I would have liked, it was enough to form some quick impressions and start some fresh evaluations.

Today I give you notes on the players who, in one way or another, stood out to me in a positive light, in most cases raising my opinions of those players. Two stipulations here:

1. I didn't see everybody, so the omission of any player isn't an indictment of his performance
2. The Fall League is a great place to scout, but sometimes players are tired or rusty from the layoff since the end of the minor league season, so the looks aren't always ideal.

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Royals punished by CBA; LDS picks 

October, 3, 2013
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RoyalsOtto Geule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Royals get punished by the new CBA for being good but not making the playoffs.

By the standards of their own recent history, the Royals had a very successful season. The team won 86 games, their best record since 1989, and they outscored their opponents on a season for the first time since 1991. Their two biggest offseason acquisitions, Ervin Santana (in a dump trade with the Angels) and James Shields (in the Wil Myers trade with Tampa Bay), both pitched very well for the big club, helping the Royals allow the fewest runs of any team in the American League, 23 fewer than the division-winning Tigers. Some young players took strides: Eric Hosmer hit .317/.365/.492 after the team fired hitting coach Jack Maloof; catcher Salvador Perez had his first full, healthy season in the majors and performed well.

There were plenty of positives for the Royals, but because the season went well, some of the structural reasons that helped the team get to this point will now work against the team.

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