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Know Your Enemy: Oakland Athletics

The A's were bad last year. Billy Beane always seems to have some tricks up his sleeve, though.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletics inhabit the Cubs' old spring-training facilities at HoHoKam Park and Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona.

And this year, there are tons of former Cubs around A's camp, beginning with the just-traded Chris Coghlan. He seems like a guy who'll fit right in over there. You'll also find ex-Cubs Sam Fuld, Felix Doubront and Rich Hill trying to win jobs in Oakland.

Hill's an interesting story. In and out of baseball since the Cubs let him go after he stopped throwing strikes, he made four starts last September for the Red Sox and posted a 1.55 ERA and 0.655 WHIP and threw a complete-game shutout, his first since he threw one for the Cubs in 2006 (and that one had an asterisk, as he got credit for a CG for throwing all five innings of this rain-shortened game against the Reds).

In his first three starts, he threw at least seven innings and struck out at least 10. In doing so he became the first A.L. pitcher to do that in his first three starts with a team -- ever. This for a guy who pitched a game in 2015 with the Long Island Ducks.

It got him a one-year, $6 million deal. He just turned 36. We'll see how it works out.

Otherwise the major changes for the A's are Coghlan, who'll start in left field (at least on a platoon basis with Khris Davis), and Yonder Alonso, acquired in a trade with the Padres. Remember, Alonso's the guy the Padres kept instead of Anthony Rizzo. Alonso never hit for the power the Padres hoped -- Rizzo hit only one fewer homer last year than Alonso has in his career. That power's not likely to get helped in Oakland.

Jed Lowrie returns for his second stint in Oakland after his second stint in Houston. Hope he's enjoying the frequent-flyer miles. The A's did pick up some power for the outfield by getting Khris Davis from the Brewers. Josh Reddick seems like a guy who could be traded at the deadline.

Beyond Hill, the A's have Sonny Gray and a bunch of question marks (sounds like a 60s rock band!) in their rotation. Sean Doolittle, who missed much of 2015 with injuries, is healthy now and could be a key to the A's coming back from their 94-loss disaster of a season in 2015.

Billy Beane always seems to turn bad into good, and maybe the A's will surprise us in 2016.

The Cubs will face the A's in Oakland August 5-6-7, a weird little one-series road trip bookended by off days for travel on each end.

This concludes the "Know Your Enemy" series for 2016.