After a combination of disappointing results and a lack of development regarding the offers made to free-agents on their behalf (some of which were reported to include Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, as well as the now-infamous Hisashi Iwakuma), the Oakland Athletics finally found success on back-to-back days in the middle of December. On Monday, the 13th, the Athletics inked RHP Brandon McCarthy to a 1-year, $1 million deal that could be worth an additional $1.6 million with incentives. The very next day the A’s announced the signing of former Yomiuri Giant, former New York Yankee and most recently, former Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim, Hideki Matsui. Matsui’s deal was initially reported around $6 million, but a number of subsequent sources reported the deal worth $4.25 million. The A’s also avoided arbitration by reaching a 1-year agreement with reliever Joey Devine.
While the McCarthy deal is obviously the less publicized of the two, the A’s have added what many believe could be a “diamond-in-the-rough” fifth starter or long relief pitcher. Those well-versed in the career of Brandon McCarthy may be quick to point out that the 27-year old righty was ranked by Baseball America as the #49 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2005 season. His big-league progress has been hindered by shoulder injuries which have persisted since he was first called-up by the Chicago White Sox. However, McCarthy’s 8 minor-league seasons have resulted in a posted average of 9.8 K/9IP, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 5.26 K/BB ratio that everyone with the exception of Cliff Lee would envy.
Following the dissolution of the Iwakuma talks, the addition of McCarthy to the A’s staff saves the club $18 million ($19 million for the Iwakuma posting fee – $1 million for McCarthy). It also sets up an exciting and interesting battle for the final spot in the Oakland rotation, which already includes a talented Top-4 of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden. Two favorites for that fifth spot are McCarthy and the recovering Josh Outman (who missed all of 2010 due to Tommy John surgery undergone in 2009). Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross, and Clay Mortensen are among those who round out the remaining popular candidates for the job or for bullpen spots.
The addition of Hideki Matsui to the A’s lineup aids an offense among the worst in 2010. While Matsui’s power isn’t quite that of Adam Dunn, the 36-year old DH/OF provides a level of pop the A’s have lacked for the past few seasons. Matsui will go into the 2011 season with a career .848 OPS (the only Athletics over .800 in 2010 were the recently departed Jack Cust, and the young 2B Eric Sogard – who accomplished the feat in 4 games). Adding Matsui as the A’s primary DH allows the team to utilize a modified platoon. The left-handed hitting Matsui can take the majority of games against righties, while the young right-handed hitting Chris Carter will ease into the position against lefties. Although Hideki Matsui is certainly a welcome addition in Oakland, it is unlikely that the A’s are finished with their search for more offense. It is hard to imagine Billy Beane will rest before every stone has been turned.
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Written by Patrick Ryan