Moreover, the A's are confident that Yoenis Cespedes is on the cusp of a more consistent season that is sure to bring about plenty of power. Brandon Moss has turned into an intimidating power threat behind him in the lineup.
Where will the Michael Taylor and Daric Barton sagas end up?
Taylor is out of options and Barton is hanging on to a non-guaranteed contract, so both have to break camp with the club out of Spring Training to remain on the active roster. This bodes well for both of them, since the A's would be at risk of losing either if it doesn't happen. But few roster spots are up for grabs this spring, so both will need to maximize this time and put together monster performances.
Barton did finish the 2013 season on the big league roster and flashed encouraging progress at the plate every so often while providing the stellar defense he's known for. However, if Alberto Callaspo can hold his own at first base, the A's would likely be inclined to use him as their backup to Moss rather than carry a second left-handed bat like Barton's.
As for Taylor, he'll face a good amount of competition in camp, with the experienced Sam Fuld now on board as of this week, and Billy Burns also in the mix. But will any of these players make the club? Not if the A's opt to go with only four outfielders -- Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Craig Gentry -- in order to keep six infielders, which is very possible.
Who do you think the Opening Day starter will be, and what will the five-man rotation look like?
Though Scott Kazmir has more Major League time -- and a whole lot more money -- in his pocket, I'm more inclined to think the A's would turn to Jarrod Parker or Sonny Gray for this job, with the former being the favorite. Both Parker and Gray have long been seen as aces in the making, and both proved on several occasions last year that they have what it takes to be one. But Parker's been doing it longer, and after making 32 starts for the A's last year, next to Gray's 10, he probably gets the nod.
What's Reddick's contract situation, and is he still on track for full participation in Spring Training?
Reddick remains the club's only arbitration-eligible player unsigned. The A's have offered him $2 million, but Reddick's camp is asking for $3.25 million. It's likely they settle somewhere in the middle, but if an agreement can't be reached in the coming days, they'll have to head to court for Reddick's salary to be decided by an arbitrator, who will rule he gets $2 million or $3.25 million -- one or the other, nothing in between.
A's position players don't report to camp until Feb. 19, so expect all of this to be hammered out by then and for Reddick to join his teammates that day as planned.
Are there any issues with options that would force the A's to break camp with certain players? More pitchers maybe?
Besides Barton and Taylor, the A's currently employ four other players who are out of options: catcher Chris Gimenez and relievers Fernando Abad, Jesse Chavez and Evan Scribner. Gimenez unfortunately enters camp without the experience and familiarity with the A's pitching staff that Derek Norris, John Jaso and Stephen Vogt do. However, he brings defensive versatility, being able to play the outfield and infield as well, and a good spring could force the A's hand to keep him on the roster with Norris and Jaso, while Vogt -- who still has options -- starts the year in Triple-A.
Abad has a good chance to make the club, since Sean Doolittle is currently the only lefty reliever essentially guaranteed of a roster spot, and so does Chavez, not only because of a fine 2013 performance but his ability to give them multiple innings. That would leave no room for Scribner, or any other pitcher in the mix, since the A's are already counting on Jim Johnson, Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero to fill out five spots. But a lot can happen in six weeks of Spring Training, so this definitely remains an area to watch.