Billy Beane has had another productive off-season, and the A’s are poised to contend again in the AL West

“One of the lessons I learned from Paul Owens is that it’s important to try and get better every single day. That can be anything from hiring an instructor to making a trade. It doesn’t even have to be something anyone will notice. But it’s how I see the job of general manager.”—former Phillies and Astros general manager Ed Wade.

This philosophy seems to be a large part of the genius of A’s GM Billy Beane. No general manager in the history of the game has run a more efficient operation. That is, doing more with less. He’s relentless, too. Lost amid all the big splashy moves—Yoenis Cespedes, Tommy Milone, Josh Reddick, etc.—he made last off-season were a bunch of smaller acquisitions that paid dividends: Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, Bartolo Colon, Brandon Moss. He added Stephen Drew and Brandon Inge during the season.

This has been a quieter off-season for the A’s, who won 94 games and the American League West, then took the Tigers to a deciding Game 5 in a divisional series. Now, though, a week before Spring Training, with a series of smart moves, the A’s look significantly different than they did at the end of 2012.

Beane has added a starting catcher (John Jaso), a probable starting shortstop (Hiroyuki Nakajima), a solid outfielder (Chris Young) and a gifted young infielder who can play third, short or second (Jed Lowrie). Lowrie was acquired from the Astros on Monday for three players—first baseman Chris Caster, right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi.

In making the deals, Beane was dealing from an organizational position of strength. He had depth at all those spots, and in return, gets a guy capable of making a significant impact. Lowrie is a gamble. At 28, he’s coming off a season when he played a career-high 97 games despite two stints on the disabled list. Regardless, he had a productive .796 OPS.

So with Spring Training a week away, the A’s again appear good enough to compete with the Angels and Rangers in the American League West. As usual, much depends on their starting pitching, and it’s both deep and talented. No manager in baseball did a better job than Bob Melvin did with the A’s in 2012.

It’s a competitive division with the Angels seemingly the consensus favorite. The Rangers have a ton of question marks, but probably have enough pitching to stay in the rest. The Mariners got better this winter, but they, too, are counting on their young guys to improve. A new generation of A’s learned how to win last season, and it was great fun watching it happen. Here’s to another nice ride.


So, Richard, did the Lowrie trade make the Astros better or worse?

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