Inbox: Do the A's need more power arms?
Beat reporter Mychael Urban answers fans' questions
Do you think the A's need more power arms in their rotation and the bullpen? Many teams have three pitchers, if not more, that consistently throw at least 95 mph. Do the A's have some pitchers in the Minors who throw hard? What are your thoughts on the subject?
-- Wylie G., Union, N.J.
First of all, let's get past that magic number of 95 and focus on the power-arm angle. I'm not sure any of us will every really know how hard a particular pitcher throws unless we take our own Highway Patrol-calibrated radar gun out to the yard and find an open seat close enough to do our own readings. In-stadium radar readings and those you see on TV are not always reliable or accurate.
Thus endeth thy rant. On to power arms. My opinion is that every team needs a couple of them in the rotation and at least two at the back of the bullpen.
Next year the A's figure to have Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine at the back of the bullpen; both throw hard and have what scouts call a "heavy ball," which means the ball seems to pick up speed on the way to the plate. Never mind that that is physically impossible. Bailey and Devine have power arms, Jeff Gray also has a very good fastball, and there are a few relievers in the A's system -- led by Henry Rodriguez -- who fit the mold as well.
I like the idea of a couple of power arms in the rotation because I like the idea of mixing up looks and styles from day to day, and while the A's don't really have any classic power pitchers, man cannot live by fastball alone. Guys we've been conditioned to think of as power pitchers -- Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, etc. -- all had at least one nasty secondary pitch that got them as many strikeouts as did their heaters.
In short, velocity is somewhat overrated. Give me a guy who can command the ball any day. It's not like Brett Anderson and Josh Outman are finesse guys, and Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro can run it up there pretty good, too. If the latter trio learns to locate better, the A's rotation -- don't forget about Dallas Braden, either -- will be just fine without a true flame-thrower.
I read an article that listed the A's as one of clubs that would go after Aroldis Chapman. The same article said he would likely get $40-60 million. If the A's are showing interest, are they just kicking the tires?
-- Rich A., Fulton, NY.
For those of you who don't follow such things, a primer: Chapman is a 21-year-old lefty who is said to throw in the upper 90s and recently defected from the Cuban national team. He's considered by some in the industry to be the best Latin prospect in history to hit the free-agent market, and he's established residency in Andorra.
Does that sound like someone the A's will be a able to land? Not from my angle. Are they interested? Sure. Every team in the game would love to have the kid, and among the teams already mentioned to be hot on his trail are the deep-pocket Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Angels.
But if the first numbers we're hearing are in the $40-$60 million range and there's any sort of bidding war, the A's can't possibly hang with the big boys on this one.
I still applaud Billy Beane's decision to bring in the veteran Big 4 -- Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra -- last year. And good for Beane for unloading three of them when it was obvious the plan wasn't working, which leads me to my question. Why the heck did he stick with Garciaparra for so long? I think he had only one clutch hit all year, and that was in April. He consistently let us down in key at-bats all summer. Beane showed Giambi, an Oakland icon, the door. Why not Garciaparra?
-- John C., Fresno, Calif.
Holliday and Cabrera had trade value. Garciaparra didn't. Giambi wasn't a huge fan of A's manager Bob Geren and was a major influence in a clubhouse full of young players. Garciaparra generally kept his opinions to himself. Do the math.
I'm not saying Giambi was a disruptive force on the A's. But the potential for disruption, from a management perspective, was definitely there more so with Jason than with Garciaparra. And that's all I have to say about that.
Have a question about the A's?
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Can Grant Desme crack the A's lineup out of Spring Training? He's currently leading the Arizona Fall League in home runs and looks like a dominant five-tool player. I know the jump from Class A ball to MLB is a big one, but he is 23 years old.
-- Matt A., Chico, Calif.
Sorry to be a tease, but Desme will be the headliner on Wednesday when I bust out the weekly offseason feature on A's prospects, so you'll have to wait a couple of day to get an answer on this one.
Thanks, by the way, for all of the suggestions for the name of the feature. There were a lot of great ideas, and some pretty bad ones, too. I'll be contacting the winner of the contest later this week and give him or her a few options on the prize.
In the meantime, check back here on oaklandathletics.com on Wednesday for director of player development Keith Lippmann's thoughts on Desme and a handful of other farmhands.
So Mychael, what do you do during the offseason?
-- Gary H., White Lake, Mich.
Well, MLB.com's team sites feature a fresh piece of original content -- Inboxes, features, analysis, winter/fall ball updates, etc. -- three times a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday), and our beat writers are on-call to handle and report breaking news every day of the week, weekends included. We're the only media outlet that covers every club full-time, year-round, and between reporting and creating content that you won't find anywhere else, our writers are kept pretty busy.
That said, I focus on my family as much as possible during the months between games. I have a ridiculously cool and understanding wife and two young daughters, and after 33 weeks or so of being on and off the road, it's time to re-connect with what's truly important.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.