The A's Big Three need to be retained at all cost: Tim Hudson will enter the final year of his contract next season, and fellow aces Mark Mulder and Barry Zito are up after 2006.
Basically, that means the A's will try to replace veteran roles with younger and cheaper versions.
Enter the Mets.
Veteran Jermaine Dye and the A's have a $14 million mutual option for next season, but so it's all but a formality that Dye will hit the free-agent market. He is a risk, both health-wise and at his age (32 on Opening Day 2005), but that also may significantly lower his cost on the open market. Dye _ who hit 23 home runs and 80 RBI this season _ struck out 128 times and hit just .231 in the second half. However, he might provide solid insurance at both corner spots and give Victor Diaz time to adjust in RF.
Free Agent catcher Damian Miller could be a solid addition if Jason Phillips and/or Wilson are dealt, and relievers (arbitration-eligible) Chad Bradford and Octavio Dotel are attractive players as well.
Dotel saved 22 games after being acquired from the Houston Astros on June 24, but he also blew six saves. He struck out 72 in 50ª innings, but he also allowed nine homers. A return to the setup role in which he dominated for Houston would be attractive to many teams, who might be willing to pay him close to closer money (which the A's cannot and may not wish to afford). The Mets should be one of those.
Bradford, the sidearming right-hander, had a disappointing season (5-7, 4.42 ERA) but blossomed under former mentor and current Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson. Given that Bradford provides a radically different look from the current core of those vying for the right-handed roles in the '05 bullpen, he should get consideration as well.
According to Baseball America's John Manuel, plans are already in place to allow Dotel and/or Bradford to leave.
The A's pushed RHP Huston Street all the way to Triple-A in his first pro season after drafting him 40th overall in June. While Dotel ameliorated many of their bullpen problems late in the 2004 season, Street and fellow farmhand Jairo Garcia should be expected to provide low-cost reinforcements next season...Street will be ready to handle the pressure of closing, and whatever other pressure he might face. It's what he has done his whole life.
Peterson's familiarity with the A's organization should also help in any and all dealing s with Oakland, which would (hopefully) avoid a repeat of the dismal Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor deadline debacle in 1999.
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