Of course, the signing of Japanese superstar Hideki Matsui tops the headlines. In exchanging erstwhile DH Jack Cust for Matsui, the A's have probably added some zip to their offense--but certainly added some leadership and excitement to their clubhouse. Plus, while a few folks in New Jersey cared about Cust's exploits, a whole nation follows Godzilla.
But there have been several other moves, many of them in the "low-risk/high potential reward" category. The pitching-rich A's picked up solid lefthanded-hitting outfielder David DeJesus by trading pitcher Vin Mazzaro. DeJesus is a career .289 hitter who batted .318 for KC last year.
They welcomed Rich Harden back. Harden started his career with the A's and when he's been healthy, he's been effective. At $1.5 million for the single year deal, Harden will be a screaming bargain if he's effective. If not, the contract won't break the bank. Beane and Company are hoping Harden's nightmarish 2010 numbers with Texas are behind him.
Another low-risk signing (also of a former Texas pitcher): Brandon McCarthy. He's a 6'7" righthander who was effective before running into shoulder problems that kept him either on the DL and in the minors for the 2010 season.
These deals represent the way the low-budget A's have to operate: short-term contracts, scurrying for other teams' castoffs, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle from time to time. But with a nucleus of good young pitchers, the 2011 A's might be able to scrap their way into contention. Remember: 92 wins is almost a guarantee of a postseason berth. The A's won 81 last year, so they're within shouting distance of that "magic number".
And as that other team across the Bay proved in 2010, a team with good pitching that can fight its way into the postseason can really do some damage.