The general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, continues to make big offseason moves. After trading five All-Stars from last year’s team, Beane acquired second baseman Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays. The acquisition of Zobrist and Escobar squashed any notion that Beane was going to spend the 2015 season rebuilding his team. Zobrist and Escobar will join an infield that is currently comprised of catcher, John Jaso, first baseman, Stephen Vogt, and third baseman, Brett Lawrie. Oakland’s outfield will be manned by Sam Fuld, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir will anchor Oakland’s rotation. Here are five storyline to watch during Spring Training.
Storyline #1: Buying High on Brett?
Beane has a knack for ‘buying low’ on players with underrated value. Brett Lawrie could have been one of those buy-low candidates. However, with what Oakland gave up for acquiring Lawrie, All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, it’s clear Beane and the A’s think very highly of Lawrie despite inconsistent success thus far in his career. Since debuting in 2011, the 24-year-old Lawrie has shown glimpses of star potential, but has dealt with injuries. Lawrie has never played more than 125 games nor hit more than 12 home runs in a single season. Lawrie, however, was once a Top 10 prospect and possesses elite offensive talent.
Storyline #2: Losing Five All-Stars?!
It’s rare that a team trades five of its All-Stars during an offseason, but that’s what Beane did. Donaldson was traded to Toronto, catcher Derek Norris was traded to San Diego, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was traded to Boston, first baseman Brandon Moss was traded to Cleveland and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Oakland has made some moves to fill the voids, but will need multiple internal options to step up and fill the voids.
Storyline #3: The Health of Kazmir
When healthy, Scott Kazmir is one of the top left-handed starting pitchers in the American League. Oakland signed Kazmir to a two-year contract last offseason and so far, the move has paid off. Kazmir went 15-9 with 3.55 ERA last season. He struck out 164 batters over 190 innings. Despite his success, there are always some red flags surrounding Kazmir and his health. Kazmir missed the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to arm injuries, so Oakland may need to monitor his workload.
Storyline #4: Power Outage?
As a team, Oakland hit 146 home runs during 2014, which ranked 13th. A majority of its power hitters are not on this season’s roster. Donaldson (29 home runs), Moss (25), Cespedes (17), and Norris (10) are all playing for different teams. Beane has replaced these players with players who are more prone to hitting line drives and stealing bases.
Storyline #5: Race for the AL West Crown
Expect a three-team race for the American League West title. Los Angeles is the reigning division champion, but has obvious question marks throughout its roster. Oakland needed all 162 games to hold off the Seattle Mariners, so Seattle may be Oakland’s biggest competition in the American League West. Seattle added outfielder, Nelson Cruz during the off-season, but no other major moves were made. Expect a fierce battle between three rivals.
Currently on the secondary market, spring training Athletics tickets have an average price of $60.57 over 16 games at Hohokam Park.