The latest-starting game on baseball's official Opening Day on Monday is from Oakland as the new-look Athletics host a Texas team that's probably not going to be good again in 2015. The A's are -153 favorites on MLB odds with a total of seven runs.
A's Busy This Offseason, Rangers Not So Much
Few teams underwent more of a dramatic makeover this offseason than Oakland. General Manager Billy Beane went all-in last season to finally win a playoff series, trading for the likes of Boston's Jon Lester and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Alas, the A's were under .500 after the All-Star break after having the best record at the halfway point. They lost the wild-card game in Kansas City. Lester left as a free agent, which wasn't a surprise. What was: Beane traded Samardzija to the White Sox. And that was hardly his only move. All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson was traded to Toronto for young players as was All-Star catcher Derek Norris to San Diego. Catcher/DH John Jaso and first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss also were dealt.
So while it seemed like Beane perhaps was starting a rebuilding movement with prospects he also acquired highly coveted utility man Ben Zobrist from Tampa Bay, closer Tyler Clippard from Washington and signed free-agent designated hitter Billy Butler from Kansas City. Monday's lineup will be almost unrecognizable compared to the one that was last in the field in Kansas City. The A's begin the season without outfielder and projected leadoff hitter Coco Crisp. He just had elbow surgery and could miss up to eight weeks. Crisp hit .246 with nine homers, 47 RBIs and 19 steals last season. Fellow outfielder Josh Reddick also opens the season on the DL. He hit .264 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs in 2014.
Texas was one of the busiest teams in the 2014 offseason, trading for Detroit's Prince Fielder and signing free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Both were flops, with Fielder missing much of the season to injury and Choo also battling injuries and struggling when he did play. This offseason was much more quiet. The biggest move was the hiring of manager Jeff Banister to replace Ron Washington, who resigned late last season. Really, any chance Texas had of contention for a wild-card spot probably vanished with the news that ace pitcher Yu Darvish was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Plus the former No. 1 overall prospect in baseball, second baseman Jurickson Profar, will miss a second straight season because of shoulder surgery. You should keep this in mind when looking at the MLB odds.
With Lester and Samardzija gone, the clear ace of the A's is 25-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray. He was 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA last season and is one of the better young pitchers in the AL. It did seem like Gray perhaps tired down the stretch as he was 4-7 with a 3.47 ERA after the All-Star break but 10-3 with a 2.79 ERA before it. Gray faced Texas more than any other team in 2014, going 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA in six starts. He struck out 35 in 43.2 innings and Rangers batters hit just .217 off him. Fielder is 0-for-6 career off Gray. Adrian Beltre is 2-for-15 with four strikeouts. Leonys Martin is 2-for-17 with six strikeouts. No current Ranger has homered off him. Gray is the first A's starter to make back-to-back Opening Day outings since Barry Zito (2005-06). Gray threw a six-hit shutout against Texas in the regular-season finale last season to clinch the wild-card spot.
Instead of Darvish, Yovani Gallardo will take the mound for Texas. He was the team's biggest offseason addition, acquired via trade from Milwaukee. The 29-year-old right-hander had spent his entire career with the Brewers and was 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA last season. He didn't face the A's in 2014 and only a few Oakland players have ever faced him in a regular-season game. This will be his second career start against the A's. He lost to them, 6-1, on June 5, 2013. The Rangers haven't won on Opening Day since 2003.
MLB Free Picks: For your MLB picks, take Oakland and the 'under' runs as pitchers usually are ahead of hitters this early in the season. The 'under' is 5-1 in Gray's past six starts against Texas.