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Jeremy F. Koo's offseason plan for the Oakland A's

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With a few fixes, the Athletics will be ready to compete for the 2016 AL West.

My offseason plan adopts the assumption that the A's do intend to allow their position player prospects to graduate to the major leagues soon, though they may not be ready by Opening Day 2016. The prospects will be in open competition with their major league counterparts and could pass them before the trade deadline.

Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):

Write "tender" or "non-tender" after each of the following names (note: you can trade before or after tendering a contract):

  • Ike Davis, $3.8MM - non-tender
  • Sam Fuld, $2.0MM - non-tender
  • Jesse Chavez, $4.7MM - tender
  • Josh Reddick, $7.0MM - tender
  • Craig Gentry, $1.6MM - non-tender
  • Danny Valencia, $3.4MM - tender
  • Fernando Abad, $1.5MM - tender
  • Eric Sogard, $1.7MM - tender
  • Brett Lawrie, $3.9MM - tender
  • Felix Doubront, $2.5MM - non-tender
  • Fernando Rodriguez, $1.3MM - tender
  • Jarrod Parker, $850K - tender
  • A.J. Griffin, $508K (league minimum) - tender
  • Evan Scribner, $700K - tender

Explain the toughest calls if necessary:

Eric Sogard was a close call for a tender decision, but I'm sticking with him because Sogard has value as a backup left-handed batting utility infielder. Someone will inevitably get hurt, and I think finding a versatile infielder will probably cost more than holding on to him. It's entirely possible that events end up starting Eric Sogard in Triple-A, which is not the worst place to have a reliably just above replacement-level player hanging out.

I don't think Felix Doubront merits a spot on the Opening Day roster, and since he is out of options, that means I'm not tendering him a contract. If the A's really want to hold on to Felix Doubront, I think they can re-sign him for cheaper than $2.5 million on a minor league deal but be content to let him walk to another team.

I vacillate on Evan Scribner, but ultimately $700,000 isn't a big risk to take if he can re-spot his pitches once more and stop giving up all the dingers.

Impending free agents (re-sign, let go, or qualifying offer?):
  • Edward Mujica: Made $4.75MM in 2015 - Let go

Free agents

Peruse the list of potential free agents and name two (or more) you would pursue, the max offer you would extend to them, and a brief explainer.

No. 1: Scott Kazmir (3 years, $36 million). The A's get a familiar face back in Oakland and stability near the top of the rotation (at least until he goes through his annual August slump) while keeping costs under control.

No. 2: Colby Rasmus (3 years, $36 million). After non-tendering defensive specialists Fuld and Gentry who have seen their offensive production go in the tank, the A's need another outfielder for the next few years, especially a left-handed batting one. I would hope the third year could be a vesting option, but I'll go three years on Rasmus if needed to close the deal.

No. 3: Chris R. Young (1 year, $5 million + 2017 club option, $5 million). I don't have a good sense of what the market for Chris Young's services are going to look like, so he might cost quite a lot less than this. I think a lot of clubs are going to look agog at his fly ball numbers and figure that was Kansas City's spacious outfield and spectacular defense saving him. The A's have a park that plays pretty deep of their own, however.

No. 4: Matt Albers (2 years, $12 million + 2018 club option, $6 million). Matt Albers performed well in 2015 after missing almost all of 2014 with a torn shoulder muscle. The only time he missed this season was for breaking his pinky during the benches clearing brawl between the White Sox and Royals in April.

No. 5: Joe Blanton (1 year, $2 million). Hey, Joe Blanton was pretty great this year. After the Angels released him before 2014 spring training, the A's gave him a chance in Triple-A, but his heart wasn't in it after starting the season on the road. Now seemingly rejuvenated, he put up impressive numbers in Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

Trades (or player releases)

No. 1: Trade Jesse Chavez and Fernando Abad for prospects. Jesse Chavez is in that weird spot where he's too valuable to leave in the bullpen but you're not sure how far to trust his stamina in the starting rotation. I think it's the sort of value that is probably not good enough to get net major league ready pieces, but could net some good low minors prospects for Oakland. Shop Chavez around and take the best deal you can get. I'm not particularly picky.

I'm also not sure what to make of Fernando Abad and his decreased velocity, but I think I've seen enough of him that I'd rather just keep Sean Doolittle and Drew Pomeranz as the left-handers in the bullpen, especially if Sean Nolin has to go to the bullpen after falling short of the rotation. I throw Abad into a Jesse Chavez deal to sweeten the pot.

Otherwise, I'm looking at a roster that is holding its ground until a prospect below forces a major leaguer out of the way so that the prospect can play regularly at the major league level. If Renato Nunez is suddenly trying to make a big impact at third base, for example, I could see the A's trade away Danny Valencia to welcome Nunez to The Show, but that probably won't be until midseason.

It was a close call for me to decline to release Billy Butler. But really it comes down to a transformative performance. Will a crap season getting kicked around by major league pitching and this fanbase be motivation for Butler to kick himself back into gear? I hope so, and it only costs a roster spot to found out now. The prospects, lurk, however.

Summary

The A's will be sixth in waiver priority this offseason, so I also expect them to pick up a waiver wire reliever or two that will work out like gangbusters for them. My plan effectively is to believe that the 2015 team suffered from early bullpen meltdowns that led to a spiraling psychological effect that caused them to lose a preposterous number of one-run games. With upgrades in the outfield, bullpen, and a healthy starting rotation, along with competition from some of the prospects pounding on the ceiling in Triple-A, the A's compete again in the AL West.

vs. LHP vs. RHP Rotation Rest of 40-man Other AAA prospects
C Josh Phegley Stephen Vogt SP1 Sonny Gray SP6 Kendall Graveman 1B/LF Matt Olson
1B Mark Canha Mark Canha SP2 Scott Kazmir SP7 Jarrod Parker 2B/SS Chad Pinder
2B Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie SP3 Jesse Hahn SP8 A.J. Giffin OF Jaycob Brugman
3B Danny Valencia Danny Valencia SP4 Chris Bassitt SP9 Aaron Brooks 3B/1B Ryon Healy
SS Marcus Semien Marcus Semien SP5 Sean Nolin SP10 Raul Alcantara SP Sean Manaea
LF Jake Smolinski Colby Rasmus Bullpen RP8 Ryan Dull SP Dillon Overton
CF Billy Burns Billy Burns RP1 Sean Doolittle RP9 Daniel Coulombe
RF Josh Reddick Josh Reddick RP2 Drew Pomeranz RP10 Dan Otero
DH Billy Butler Billy Butler RP3 Matt Albers RP11 R.J. Alvarez
Bench RP4 Fernando Rodriguez Util Tyler Ladendorf
BN1 Stephen Vogt Josh Phegley RP5 Chris Young 2B Joey Wendle
BN2 Colby Rasmus Jake Smolinski RP6 Joe Blanton 3B/1B Renato Nunez
BN3 Coco Crisp Coco Crisp RP7 Evan Scribner 1B/3B Rangel Ravelo
BN4 Eric Sogard Eric Sogard C Carson Blair
INF Max Muncy

I ended up outrighting Arnold Leon off the 40-man roster to make this work. Existing guaranteed and arbitration contracts account for $43.7 million (Butler's $5MM bonus is prorated through the life of the contract to stay consistent with the Cot's Contracts spreadsheet). New free agent spending is $37 million more. Ten players on the 25-man means $5 million more, bringing total Opening Day spending to about $86 million, give or take.