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The Oakland Athletics roster if Opening Day was today

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Things have quieted down since the end of the Winter Meetings, and so it's a good idea to step back and look at the broad overview of next year's roster. This will help us evaluate just who is facing the axe at the end of spring training, where there might be room to improve, and where there might be opportunities for trade.

Here is the 2015 option status for the present 40-man roster:

Oakland Athletics options status, Dec. 13, 2014
Position Players (21) Starting Pitchers (11) Relief Pitchers (8)
Out of options (8)
(4)
Nick Punto, Sam Fuld, Andy Parrino, Stephen Vogt
(1)
Jesse Chavez
(3)
Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, Evan Scribner
May refuse assignment (5)
(3)
Coco Crisp, Billy Butler, John Jaso
(1)
Scott Kazmir
(1)
Eric O'Flaherty
Rule 5 draftee (1)
(1)
Mark Canha
none none
Options remaining (26)
(13)
Craig Gentry, Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard, Ike Davis, Derek Norris, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Nate Freiman, Billy Burns, Tyler Ladendorf, Rangel Ravelo, Renato Nunez
(9)
Drew Pomeranz, Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker, Raul Alcantara, A.J. Griffin, Sean Nolin, Arnold Leon, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman
(4)
Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Taylor Thompson

Options and refusal rights explained

If a player's performance does not merit immediate addition to the active 25-man roster, a player will usually be added to the 40-man roster for one of two reasons. First, the club wants to protect a player from the Rule 5 draft, as the A's did with Renato Nunez. Second, the club wants to prevent a minor league player from electing free agency, which the player can do after seven seasons in a club's minor league system. This second reason is why Tyler Ladendorf was added to the 40-man roster.

Out of options

When a player is "out of options" the club cannot send the player to the minor leagues without first removing him from the 40-man roster and subjecting him to irrevocable outright waivers, where teams can claim the player's contract in reverse order of the league's standings. A player is usually out of options if they have been sent to the minor leagues while on the 40-man roster in three separate seasons.

An exception is that a player can be optioned for a fourth season if that player has no more than four seasons of professional baseball in non-short season leagues. This exception applies to starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz, who played his first season of full-season professional baseball in 2011, and so 2014 was his fourth full-season professional year.

May refuse minor league assignment

A player gains the right to refuse assignment to the minor leagues if they have reached at least five seasons of major league service time. This right can be obtained in the middle of the season. Of players with options remaining, Ike Davis will obtain this right after about three weeks on the MLB club, Sam Fuld should obtain this right in May, Craig Gentry in July, and Josh Reddick in September.

Rule 5 draftee

Players who were obtained in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft must remain on the active roster for the entire year, unless on the disabled list. If the team does not elect to hold onto the player, they must first be waived for another team to obtain the club's Rule 5 rights and if no one claims that player, offered back to the player's original club for $25,000.

Starting rotation

We can divide the rotation into five categories:

  • Definitely in: Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray
  • In absent extremely poor performance at spring training: Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz
  • Competing for the 5th spot: Sean Nolin, Arnold Leon, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman
  • Mid-year return from disabled list: A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker (may be reliever)
  • Disabled list return to minor leagues: Raul Alcantara

It would take a stunningly poor performance from Jesse Chavez to not make the active roster. If he does perform poorly, he would be more likely to be moved into a bullpen role rather than waived.

Drew Pomeranz has less of a margin for poor performance than Chavez because he can be optioned to the minor leagues. In fact, sitting on 2.013 (two years, 13 days) service time, a month-long trip to Triple-A Nashville would allow the A's to retain Pomeranz's rights for an additional season. If Pomeranz is better than the other choices, however, I doubt that will be an overriding consideration.

Bullpen

The A's have not deviated from the standard seven-man bullpen very much, outside of short-term circumstances:

  • Definitely in: Sean Doolittle (L), Fernando Abad (L), Eric O'Flaherty (L), Ryan Cook (R), Dan Otero (R)
  • 40-man players competing for the last two spots: Fernando Rodriguez (R), Evan Scribner (R), Taylor Thompson (R)
  • Non-roster invitees competing for the last two spots: Kevin Whelan (R), Pat Venditte (S), Ryan Doolittle (R), Seth Frankoff (R), Ryan Dull (R)

Fernando Rodriguez and Evan Scribner are at rather critical career junctures this spring, as both players are out of options and spent most of the last year in Triple-A. At least one of the two should make it, because both are capable of performing in a long relief role. They are the incumbents for the last two spots in the bullpen, but others are lurking.

Taylor Thompson, claimed off waivers on November 4 from the Chicago White Sox, has options remaining and has survived the last few rounds of roster cuts. Andrew Brown, Kyle Blanks, Josh Lindblom, Jorge De Leon, and Shane Peterson have all been cut from the roster in the light of trades ahead of Thompson. If the A's do make another move in the coming days, however, I can see Taylor Thompson as the next man designated for assignment, if that's necessary. Thompson had a 2.14 ERA in 59 innings for the White Sox's Triple-A team in 2014 with 10.4 K/9 ratio, though that also came with a 4.4 BB/9 ratio.

Position players

Assuming there are 13 places remaining, let me present you with this conundrum. If you keep the eight players that cannot be removed from the active roster without risking losing the player, how do you pick five players from Craig Gentry, Josh Reddick, Ike Davis, Derek Norris, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Eric Sogard, Josh Phegley, Nate Freiman, Billy Burns, and Tyler Ladendorf?

You don't, because the first six names on that list are pretty much a lock to make the opening day roster, and Eric Sogard is probably going to be the seventh unless the A's try Mark Canha at third base with Brett Lawrie at second base.

I'm going to operate on the assumption that John Jaso is intent on returning as a catcher and will play no other position. I also will assume the A's will have Coco Crisp play left field when possible, though you can just swap out left and center if you do not agree. There are a few scenarios I could see:

Option 1: A's bend over backwards to keep Mark Canha

There are signs that the A's really want to hold onto Mark Canha. First, they gave up valuable consideration in Austin House just to obtain Canha's Rule 5 rights. House was projected to be the team's Double-A closer in 2015, and he would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft himself in 2015. Second, there was this from Fangraphs' Eno Sarris just before the Rule 5 draft got underway:

If the A's don't work out something with the Miami Marlins, Canha's original team, one way to keep Canha would be to option Eric Sogard and designate Andy Parrino for assignment, so that the second, short, and third options are Marcus Semien, Brett Lawrie, Mark Canha, and Nick Punto, with Semien and Lawrie playing every day, and Canha and Punto platooning while Lawrie goes between second and third base:

vs. LHP vs. RHP
C Derek Norris [R] John Jaso [L]
1B Billy Butler [R] Ike Davis [L]
2B Brett Lawrie [R] Nick Punto [S]
SS Marcus Semien [R] Marcus Semien [R]
3B Mark Canha [R] Brett Lawrie [R]
LF Sam Fuld [L] Coco Crisp [S]
CF Craig Gentry [R] Sam Fuld [L]
RF Josh Reddick [L] Josh Reddick [L]
DH Coco Crisp [S] Billy Butler [R]
BN John Jaso [L] Derek Norris [R]
BN Ike Davis [L] Stephen Vogt [L]
BN Nick Punto [S] Mark Canha [R]
BN Stephen Vogt [L] Craig Gentry [R]

Another way would be to keep Sogard, and instead designate both Parrino and outfielder Sam Fuld for assignment, playing Canha in left field and keeping Lawrie at third base every day:

vs. LHP vs. RHP
C Derek Norris [R] John Jaso [L]
1B Billy Butler [R] Ike Davis [L]
2B Nick Punto [S] Eric Sogard [L]
SS Marcus Semien [R] Marcus Semien [R]
3B Brett Lawrie [R] Brett Lawrie [R]
LF Mark Canha [R] Stephen Vogt [L]
CF Craig Gentry [R] Coco Crisp [S]
RF Josh Reddick [L] Josh Reddick [L]
DH Coco Crisp [S] Billy Butler [R]
BN John Jaso [L] Derek Norris [R]
BN Ike Davis [L] Nick Punto [S]
BN Nick Punto [S] Mark Canha [R]
BN Stephen Vogt [L] Craig Gentry [R]

In this scenario, if the A's are really high on Canha, they might have him play every day in left field, allowing Stephen Vogt to be an effective utility bench bat for better late-inning options.

Option 2: Mark Canha does not impress, or a deal is worked out with Miami

If the A's want to send Mark Canha to Triple-A and can work out a deal with Miami that lets them do so, or if Canha fails to impress at spring training and is sent back to Miami, then Eric Sogard likely makes the 25-man roster at this point and Andy Parrino is cut:

vs. LHP vs. RHP
C Derek Norris [R] John Jaso [L]
1B Billy Butler [R] Ike Davis [L]
2B Nick Punto [S] Eric Sogard [L]
SS Marcus Semien [R] Marcus Semien [R]
3B Brett Lawrie [R] Brett Lawrie [R]
LF Sam Fuld [L] Coco Crisp [S]
CF Craig Gentry [R] Sam Fuld [L]
RF Josh Reddick [L] Josh Reddick [L]
DH Coco Crisp [S] Billy Butler [R]
BN John Jaso [L] Derek Norris [R]
BN Ike Davis [L] Nick Punto [S]
BN Nick Punto [S] Stephen Vogt [L]
BN Stephen Vogt [L] Craig Gentry [R]

The unknown

There are plenty of other hypotheticals that will play out over the next few months and as spring training continues. Someone will get hurt, clearing a space for someone else. Someone may get traded, opening opportunity where doors had been closed previously. A free agent could even be signed, further complicating the roster scenario. Heck, Andy Parrino could end up with a spring like Eric Sogard had in 2013, and survive just on that alone.