Oakland's hopes of winning a World Series title came to a halt Thursday
night as the A's lost Game 5 of their American League Division Series
to the Detroit Tigers after coming back
from a 2-0 series deficit. But the A's will be back.
Oakland shocked the Texas Rangers — and the baseball world — this season. At the beginning of July, the A's were still four games under .500 and 12 games back in the AL West. Then they caught fire and started to eat away at the Rangers' lead. By the time the final series of the regular season came — against the Rangers — Oakland was in striking distance, just two games behind.
The A's swept Texas, taking all three games to win the division for the first time since 2006. Yes, they were somewhat exposed in the playoffs against the Tigers, where they fell in five games, but this team showed heart like no other and always refused to go down without a fight.
Oakland may seem like the beneficiary of a lot of luck, a team that's primed to return to a statistical mean in the coming years, but that's a false statement. General manager Billy Beane traded away some of Oakland's top pieces at the end of last season but strengthened his franchise by doing so. He dealt Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey all away in return for what looked like nothing at the time. As it turns out, that nothing turned into something, and something special at that.
Beane is finally where he needs to be: in a position to make the postseason on a yearly basis.
Only a handful of A's from this year's team will enter free agency — unless Beane gets to them before they hit the market. Brandon McCarthy is one upcoming free agent whom Beane may look to keep in his starting rotation to compliment those who led the team down the stretch while McCarthy was on the disabled list. Other candidates for new contracts include Stephen Drew and Grant Balfour, both of whom made huge contributions during the year. Other than those three, most of the roster should be back in 2013 — as nearly all are eligible for arbitration.
Beane also has the ability to go into free agency as a buyer, especially since Oakland had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball this past season. Don't expect him to go after the likes of Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke — he'll want players like McCarthy instead. Beane hasn't spent a lot of money on free agents in the past — with the exception of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes — and it's not time to start.
Oakland's riches go beyond the big league roster. Some of the best prospects in the organization are about ready to make the jump to the majors. Minor leaguers such as Michael Choice, Dan Straily, Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray all could see time in Oakland next season.
While the A's continue to have questions about whether their stadium can support the team financially, Beane won't have to do many tricks to keep his team in good shape. He has a cost-efficient ballclub and young players who know what it's like to win.
The A's should have no trouble making more postseason appearances going forward.