I know you answered a question similar to this one a while back, but now that we're at the end of the year, I want to throw it at you again? What do you think the starting rotation is going to look like next year? Is Brett Tomko a part of it?
-- Randy H., Walnut Creek, Calif.
I don't think Tomko will be around next year. He's a great guy, and he's been a great story while he's been here, but he's likely to draw some pretty decent free-agent offers over the winter, and the A's have more than enough starting pitching to be just fine without him.
As for the rotation, I think Dallas Braden has a pretty good shot at again being the Opening Day starter; he's the leader of the rotation and has had the best season of any starter who pitched for most of the year. If he's healthy, I'd make him the No. 1.
That doesn't mean I think he'll be the ace, though. I like him as the No. 1 because (a) he's good enough to beat other No. 1s when he's on, and (b) it will give Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson more favorable matchups in the Nos. 2 and 3 slots. So you open the rotation with left-right-left. Who's the ace? Flip a coin. Cahill or Anderson.
Josh Outman won't be back until well into the season, so you have two open jobs going into camp, and the top candidates are, in no particular order, Clayton Mortensen, Vin Mazzaro and Gio Gonzalez. Mazzaro will almost certainly win one of them, and to keep the left-right thing going, he's your No. 4. That leaves, ostensible, Gonzalez and Mortensen battling it out of the No. 5 spot, and while I think Gonzalez has better stuff, he probably has more to prove.
If he comes to camp in shape and throws strikes, the job will be his. But Mortensen is no slouch and has better command right now. There will surely be other candidates in the mix, too, so that figures to be one of the better battles of the spring.
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I watched Chris Carter play first base in the Triple-A playoffs and was not impressed, to say the least. He butchered at least two extremely routine plays. That said, what a hitter. He needs to be in Oakland next year. So the question is: at what position? Can he play left field at all?
-- Cory F., Davis, Calif.
Yes, he can play in the outfield. He hasn't done a ton of it, but Bob Geren is fond of telling reporters that he's heard scouts liken Carter to Jermaine Dye. That's quite a stretch given that Dye is one of the better technical defensive outfielders in the game, but I think the point is that Carter has similar athleticism.
As I've noted in my blog, the A's have trotted out some pretty miserable defensive left fielders in the not-too-distant past, including Jeremy Giambi and Emil Brown. With some quality coaching, you'd like to think that Carter could at least get to -- and past -- that level of acumen.
Until the team truly commits to playing him out there, we have no way of knowing if it's a viable option, but I haven't heard great things about the kid as a first baseman, and he struggled in limited playing time at third base in the low Minors. It's a shot worth taking, because there's no question his bat is awfully close to being ready for the next level.
What's the latest on Joey Devine's recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery?
-- Thomas K., Cupertino, Calif.
He's doing well. He started a throwing program a while back, and he's jazzed about being quite a bit ahead of schedule. The hope is that he'll be ready for the start of Spring Training, but the A's will bring him along slowly either way.
The goal is to have him ready for Opening Day, and barring a setback, that's realistic. And exciting for A's fans. A back end of the bullpen featuring Devine, Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz (arbitration-eligible) and Brad Ziegler would be awfully tough, and with a reliable lefty or two -- Craig Breslow has been solid, and he and Jerry Blevins are under club control next year -- in the mix, six quality innings is all the team would really need from the young starters.
Bailey: American League Rookie of the Year?
-- Martin R., San Diego
I'd be surprised. He has more saves than Huston Street had when he won it, but the A's were still a pretty high-profile team in 2005. Being on a West Coast team doesn't bode well for Bailey, either. Nor does being a pitcher. I have a feeling Elvis Andrus of the Rangers is going to get the nod because he plays on a team that's been in contention until very recently, and he's an everyday player at a premium position.
Would you trade Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith for Mortensen, Brett Wallace and Shane Peterson? I wouldn't.
-- Andy H., Larkspur, Calif.
I see where you're going with this, and I think it's a little unfair. You left out getting three months of an unproductive Matt Holliday and all the money his jersey sales generated.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.