The theme of baseball's annual winter meetings was the lack of action from major free agents and big trades. All was quiet on the Oakland A's front.
But that doesn't mean the wheels aren't turning.
The A's did make some minor adjustments on the 40-man roster over the last 10 days, which could be leading up to a more significant move in the coming weeks. After all, Oakland traded Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey last December and head into 2013 with a glaring need at shortstop.
Free agent Stephen Drew remains available, but his asking price could be higher than the A's brass is willing to go given agent Scott Boras' expensive reputation. Jhonny Peralta could be a trade option if the Tigers elect to go another direction at the position (possibly Drew) and would be an acquisition akin to when the A's acquired Orlando Cabrera prior to 2009.
There are a few wild card scenarios, which could include Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who owns an 856 career OPS and 104 home runs in 11 seasons in the Japan Pacific League. Given the plethora of talented arms at the top of Oakland's system, the A's have the ammo to land a quality major league shortstop. However, the team's knack for hanging on to depth in starting pitching could limit that possibility.
As of now, the newly acquired Andy Parrino is at the top of the incomplete depth chart. Oakland traded Brandon Hicks to the Mets for cash considerations after Hicks spent the majority of the season playing shortstop for Triple-A Sacramento.
The A's also have some intriguing position player prospects that could entice other clubs. Grant Green's bat appears major league ready, but he might not be the best fit with the A's currently given his lack of a solidified position. Defensively, his best spot is likely in the outfield, where the club certainly is not lacking talent. Michael Taylor could be a candidate to flourish with a change of scenery, and may appeal to a team looking to add outfield depth.
Jermaine Mitchell - once an ascending name in the organization – was designated for assignment Nov. 28 and granted free agency days later. At 28, Mitchell doesn't have the value to the club he once did after lighting up the system in 2011 by posting a 960 OPS between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. He's on the wrong end of a micro-fracture surgery on his knee – which was apparent as he struggled in 2012 - and was taking a 40-man roster spot behind a strong group of major-league outfielders.
Oakland acquired right-handed reliever Chris Resop from the Pirates in exchange for relief prospect Zach Thornton, who spent the majority of last season with High-A Stockton. There, the Thornton had a 3.09 FIP despite a 4.53 ERA. His other numbers were solid as well. Thornton struck out 70 in 53.2 innings and had 16 saves for the Ports.
In Resop, the A's received a durable arm that appeared in 61 games last year and had a 3.91 ERA out of Pittsburgh's bullpen. He doesn't have quite the arm he did when he broke into the major leagues, but an added cutter helped him induce weaker contact. For now, it appears Resop will be a decent middle-relief upgrade over the departed Jim Miller, who was claimed off waivers by the Yankees.
In a curious series of events, the A's traded with the Red Sox for reliever Sandy Rosario in exchange for Graham Godfrey, only to designate Rosario days later. Rosario was then claimed off waivers by the Red Sox on Monday.
While Godfrey was once a prominent name at the top of the A's organization, he fell down the depth chart when youngsters A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily were promoted to the big leagues and Godfrey was back in Triple-A. Per usual, Godfrey was very good in his time in Sacramento, but he struggled late in the season with a knee injury and was dropped from the 40-man roster before the end of the year.
Given the development of Sonny Gray, Brad Peacock and others, it's likely the A's felt moving Godfrey was the right move in order clear room for incoming arms and to give him a better opportunity to reach the big leagues with another organization.
Veteran starter Brandon McCarthy will be leaving the A's after agreeing to a two-year, $15.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It appears as though there is an affinity for similar talent between the A's and D-Backs, as the teams have made a number of trades in recent years.
While the A's will have plenty of starting pitching options to take McCarthy's place, his clubhouse presence and veteran leadership will certainly be missed among one of baseball's youngest groups. McCarthy's influence on many of the A's least experienced pitchers was noted throughout his two-season tenure in Oakland, whether he was healthy or not. He went 17-15 with a 3.29 ERA and 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his time with the A's.
With McCarthy's departure, that likely means the starting rotation will be led by Brett Anderson, who returned quickly from Tommy John surgery late in the year to become very effective. Anderson head a rotation that will include only one other veteran, Bartolo Colon, who was brought back despite his suspension for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone mid-way through last season.
Barring any other free-agent signings or trades, the rest of the A's starting rotation will be filled out by Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone and A.J. Griffin, although there will likely be a significant competition for the fifth-starter spot in spring training. A great camp could catapult Peacock to the majors given his explosive stuff.
Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and newcomer Andrew Werner will also be in the mix, but it's more likely they will start the season with the River Cats. But as always, the situation remains fluid and injuries or acquisitions could shake things up.
The A's have also been active adding depth via the minor league free agency market. The team has signed eight minor league free agents to date: pitchers Mike Ekstrom, Kyler Newby, Garrett Olson and Justin Thomas; outfielder D'Arby Myers; catcher Luke Montz; and infielders Scott Moore and Darwin Perez. Ekstrom, Moore and Thomas have major league experience.