Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Big Hurt Is Moving To Oaktown

Yes! The Oakland Athletics today signed Frank Thomas to a one-year deal worth $500,000. The deal can be worth another $2.6 million to Thomas if he stays healthy, but either way it is a steal for Billy Beane and the A's.

I would break down the numbers, but Athletics Nation has already done so. Here are the career stats from Baseball Almanac. Thomas is the right-handed hitter Oakland needs, and helps to solidify an already impressive roster. He also has one of the most beautiful swings you will ever see. If Thomas, Chavez, Harden and Crosby all stay healthy this season (which admittedly is a big IF), the A's are going to be hard to beat, as in "World Series Champions" hard to beat.


At 9:02 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I'm not sure I agree with "World Serie s Champion" hard to beat, but this was a good signing for them. I mean, the lineup is still very soft (although Thomas and Milton Bradley help) and the AL West is not easy. Not to mention Zito might be dealt and the real X-factor is Danny Haren. If he can step up and be a beast at #3, then the A's will be tough to beat. Lots of question marks with them though.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

You're right. I am about as enthused as a reckless Bears fan. I better calm myself down!

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

I think the keys to Blez’s analysis are:

1. The reminder that the “offense didn't need to get that much better. It only needed to marginally improve, especially with the addition of Esteban Loaiza.” The A’s were 26-24 in one-run games last season, and 6th in the AL in runs scored (their 772 runs put them 11 ahead of the Angels, 18 behind the 4th place Indians). A few more runs could take 88 wins into the mid-90s and playoff territory.

2. As long as Thomas can stand at the plate, he adds power. The 2003 Thomas slugged .562, and Blez points out that even the worst-case scenario would be a positive addition: “Thomas’ worst slugging percentage over a season where he played more than 20 games in his career was .471. The A’s only had one position player over that number last year.”

3. It’s a no-lose proposition. No prospects were given up, and Thomas’s injury history means that just $500,000 is committed. The bonus structure is beautiful: rather than one big payday, it’s divided into two components: $200,000 each time he passes a plate appearance milestone (set at 300, with a new milestone payout every 50 PAs), and $325,000 for being on the roster – and not on the DL with a foot injury – at key dates in the season (May 1, then the 15th of June, July and August). Those are great incentives for staying healthy and playing everyday, and they align the player’s interests and the team’s.

The core of the A’s remains their pitching, which is both exceptional (the team ERA of 3.69 was fourth in the league last year) and cheap (the starting rotation salaries equal what the Jays had on the books for Ryan and the now-departed Batista). I argued in an earlier post that Esteban Loaiza bears a striking resemblance to one Barry Zito, and stand by that. He makes a strong rotation first-rate.

I’m reluctant to forecast a trip to the Series: so many factors can derail a team during the year. But I feel great about their chances.


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