Three Day Guest Column Streak

Some general announcements from the desk of Evan Brunell: he is “wrapping up lose ends” and will be returning from Worcester tomorrow. For now, I am your guest host.
I’m David Isaacs. You may remember me from such Firebrand posts as Red Sox Roundtable: Part One (and two, but go find it yourself), Is Damian Miller A Fit?, Abe Alvarez Debuts, With great power comes great responsibility, and The West Coast Perspective of Keith Foulke. If not, good. Because most of the time I was still seething from the 2003 ALDS. Yes, I’m still an A’s fan, and I’m also aware the 2003 ALDS from a Boston fan’s perspective is like Tom Cruise’s feelings about Nicole Kidman. He accompllished a lot just by getting there, but after an abrupt ending, he eventually moved on to bigger and… hotter things. Of course, we (A’s fans) are like Nicole Kidman. We were good, but underrated by everyone this side of the universe. Eventually, we realized we couldn’t hold on to the bane of our existence, and had no choice but to trade an older Tom Cruise for a younger Russell Crowe. Now we’re rebuilding, but you can bet we’ll be back before you can winkle your nose.
Anyway, Evan asked me to write tonight, but I had a little trouble figuring out what topic I would cover. I write about the Golden State Warriors on MVN, but I’m thinking that the NBA draft is not as high a priority as Red Sox baseball for you guys. So let me start off by addressing a couple issues that will, in fact, affect the Red Sox in one way or another:
Mark Kotsay will NOT be a Yankee
At least not for Phillip Hughes and Eric Duncan. TSN’s Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s own Peter Gammons threw that one out there. That offer would be given more merit if at the end of their respective articles, either writer claimed that Gary Coleman dunked a basketball. Kotsay’s numbers in ’05 don’t blow you away at .279/.336/.398, but he is a model of consistency. “Prolonged slump” and “Kotsay” will never be in the same sentence, but if you’re expecting Rickey Henderson, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The one thing you can be guaranteed to get from Kotsay is A+ defense in center field. Since 1998, Kotsay has 51 assists in centerfield in 651 games there. Torii Hunter has 55 centerfield assists in 847 games. Kotsay gets perfect reads on fly balls, has an arm that baserunners dare not test, and has probably forced more batters to swear after being robbed of extra bases than anyone in the league. Kotsay is also a good clubhouse guy, a vocal leader, and is well worth the $6.5 million the A’s are paying him this year. Next year, however, Kotsay has the choice to exercise a player option paying him $6.5 million, or could become a free agent. The ex-Padre has expressed his desire to be on a winning team, but the A’s are coming out of an early season funk (like always), and are verging on .500 after winning 12 of their past 16. Regardless, Rosenthal and Gammons have mentioned the Cubs are also interested in Kotsay, and have better prospects to offer. This is true, but at a certain point, you have to think about it for both sides. Yes, the Yankees or Cubs would love nothing more than to clear extra roster space in the minor leagues for one of the best defensive center fielders in the league.
The A’s, however, aren’t necessarily down and out. Again, Oakland is only five games under .500, and this team is notorious in recent history for coming out after the all-star break on fire, despite pre-season doubts. In 2002, the A’s made the playoffs after serious doubts they wouldn’t be able to contend without Jason Giambi. In 2003, the A’s made the playoffs despite losing Mark Mulder to a hip injury and $11 million man Jermaine Dye — who was about as productive as Eeyore — miserably failed to completely come back from his leg injury. In 2004, the A’s still won 91 games despite an injury from Tim Hudson and a breakdown from Mark Mulder. Fine, the A’s are 35-40 right now, but there’s no reason you won’t see this team finish off 50-37. A’s pitchers have a 2.98 ERA this month, and the team is tied with the Red Sox (and Angels, go figure) for the second most wins June at 16. The A’s can afford to sit back, watch the Yankees struggle, and force Steinbrenner to bring in a third team to shell out the prospects — while racking up wins. This team is in good position to continue winning, while buliding for the future.
The A’s can retain Kotsay, and even afford to keep Zito if things go right. Zito’s 2006 option is at about $8.25 million, right on pace for above average major league starting pitching, and should be exercised. The A’s will have about $38 million wrapped up in Zito, Chavez, Kendall, Harden, and Crosby next year, but that’s about it. Otherwise, you’re looking at a bunch of 0-3 year players, and a couple arbitration eligible players who fill payroll out to around $45 million. Spending $7-8 million on Kotsay isn’t out of the question — but if he’s asking for $10 or $11 million, then the A’s need to get serious about possible trades. But Torii Hunter grabbed a $32 million, 4 year extension from the Twins in January ’03, so an asking price above that should be a reach. All in all, you Sox fans shouldn’t have to worry — the Yankees will probably pass up plans for Kotsay, and lust for Ken Griffey Jr., or Johnny Damon in the off-season.