First, I confess I am writing this post mostly to tease Jon for his wishy-washy-ness.
I suppose I need to say something about Rafael Furcal, then. He was obviously Billy Beane's Plan A for fixing the shortstop hole, but Plan A failed, even though Beane offered more money and years to Furcal than any other team. I suppose it's hard to sell a player on moving in to your city when you're working really hard to move out.
The question now is, is there a Plan B that would bring the A's back to competitiveness in 2009, or are we back to the old 2010-12 target date now? Orlando Cabrera is the only other significant free agent shortstop left, but he will cost a 2nd-round draft pick, and he's not nearly the upgrade over Crosby that Furcal would have been. The Braves could presumably make Yunel Escobar available in a trade since they now have two shortstops, so we'll look at him, and the perpetually trade-rumored Jack Wilson.
(I love that Fangraphs now has +/ numbers for offense and defense, so we can compare. I'll use the 2009 Marcels wRAA for offense and the career UZR/150 for defense.)
Marcel dings Furcal because he missed large chunks of 2008 and played hurt in 2007. If he's healthy, he probably performs more like a +10 to +15 player offensively. So I'd group the talents like this:
Furcal -- big gap--
Cabrera --small gap--
Wilson --big gap--
With Furcal or Escobar, you're looking about a three win improvement over Crosby. Cabrera gets you about half that. Does it take all three wins to improve the A's enough to compete in 2009? If so, should the A's give up good prospects for Escobar? If it only takes a win or two, should the A's go after Cabrera or Wilson? Sorry, I've got no answers. I don't have time to do that kind of math, that's what I pay Billy Beane for.