The Oakland A’s were the surprise team in baseball this year.
After finishing the 2011 season with a 74-88 record and trading away players like Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill, many league analysts and pundits had written the A’s off as a franchise in trouble — including me.
Boy, were we wrong.
The A’s shocked baseball by finishing first in the highly contested AL West, besting the mighty Texas Rangers and thrusting themselves into the newly expanded playoff race.
Well, the Mets finished their 2012 season with an identical record as the 2011 A’s — 74-88. Could a Cinderella story be in the cards in Queens come 2013?
There are some pretty strong similarities between the 2011 A’s and the 2012 Mets, so the idea is not as farfetched as you might think.
After the A’s 2011 season, General Manager Billy Beane — of “Moneyball” fame — shredded salary and made risky moves to trade the team’s high-profile talent for less flashy options that rounded out the rest of the team’s depleted roster.
The moves were criticized at the time, but the players that Beane acquired in his deals were key to the team’s success this season.
Could Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson follow a similar pattern?
As it stands now, the Mets have a solid core of young players including Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and others who offer the team a base to build around. Plus, the team has an impressive crop of young pitchers currently rising through the farm leagues.
However, it has been widely speculated that Alderson is looking to reshape the Mets through the trade market this year, leaving almost no “untouchable” players on their roster.
Perhaps the Mets might be able to dangle someone comparable to the A’s former closer Andrew Bailey — such as Jon Niese — to teams across the league with hopes of collecting a few players who could fill out other holes on the team — the most glaring being their dismal outfield.
Or maybe Alderson can find a taker for Frank Francisco — or maybe even R.A. Dickey — if the right deal arises.
Whatever combination of players the Mets do end up trading away this offseason, it is clear they should follow the same formula the A’s did and make bold, baseball-savvy, moves.
Beane examined the talent he had, made a calculated risk and traded players to receive other ones in return that offered talents his team desperately needed.
Maybe if Alderson does the same this offseason, we might be looking at the Mets in 2013 in a whole different light. Instead of a rebuilding franchise, the Mets could be the next surprise of the baseball world.