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Oakland A's pitcher option years: 2015-16 offseason

The starting point for the Athletics offseason is figuring who even has a chance to make the team in the first place.

Ryan Dull pitches for the A's on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Ryan Dull pitches for the A's on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the calculus that will go into planning next season's starting rotation and bullpen is recognizing the players that are out of options. As a quick refresher, a player generally has three option years in which he may be demoted and promoted between the minor and major leagues as often as the team likes in those years. A fourth option is occasionally available to players who reached the major leagues very quickly or who spent one or two seasons on the disabled list.

This is just an exercise in looking at the incumbents, and doesn't consider free agents or trades that could shake things up.

The rotation incumbents

Three A's starters on the 40-man roster will be out of options next year: Jesse Chavez, Felix Doubront, and Sean Nolin. Nolin was just healthy enough that he spent a little too much time on Nashville's active roster to gain eligibility for a fourth option. Excluding Jarrod Parker from starting consideration, here are the 11 starting pitchers on Oakland's 40-man roster, ordered based on my estimate of their likelihood of making the rotation:

2015 MLB
Bullpen chance
if not rotation
Sonny Gray 2 2.36 Lock N/A
Jesse Hahn 2 3.35 Probable Unlikely
Chris Bassitt 2 2.82 Probable Unlikely
Kendall Graveman 2 4.05 Probable Unlikely
Sean Nolin Out --- Chance Lock
Jesse Chavez Out 3.93 Chance Lock
Felix Doubront Out 3.99 Chance Chance
A.J. Griffin 3 --- Chance Unlikely
Aaron Brooks 1 5.32 Chance Unlikely
Cody Martin 2 15.00 Chance Unlikely
Raul Alcantara 1 yes (2017) --- Unlikely Unlikely

It appears that at the moment only one rotation spot out of the five is available, barring a poor spring training performance from the three incumbents I estimate will probably be in the rotation next year. Of course, starters get hurt. Eleven different players have started on the mound for the A's this year (12 if Sean Nolin joins the rotation this week).

There's also the possibility that the A's will obtain a more established high-end starting pitcher in the mold of Scott Kazmir, which could jumble things up a bit. And of course, the A's could trade away a pitcher or two.

But if everyone in the top tier of Oakland pitching stayed healthy with no roster moves, my best guess would be that Sean Nolin would be the fifth starter, Jesse Chavez is moved to the bullpen, and Felix Doubront is waived or traded.

The bullpen incumbents

Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, and Evan Scribner were already out of options before this year. Joining them next year are Drew Pomeranz, whose fourth option eligibility expires, and Arnold Leon.

2015 MLB
Sean Doolittle 1 7.36 Lock
Drew Pomeranz Out 3.58 Lock
Fernando Abad Out 3.76 Probable
Fernando Rodriguez Out 3.80 Probable
Jarrod Parker 2 --- Chance
Ryan Dull 3 0.00 Chance
Pat Venditte 3 3.78 Chance
Arnold Leon Out 4.91 Chance
Evan Scribner Out 4.35 Chance
Dan Otero 1 7.68 Chance
R.J. Alvarez 2 11.45 Chance

If Jesse Chavez returns to the bullpen, six of the players here will make up the regular seven-man staff. Oakland's bullpen woes are well documented, and the worst offenders are near the bottom here.

Fernando Abad has recovered well after peaking at a 7.36 ERA through May 19. Since then, Abad owns a 2.30 ERA in 27⅓ innings. Fernando Rodriguez has a 3.00 ERA between May 27 and his most recent appearance on August 30, and he has allowed just 2 of 22 inherited runners to score in that span.

So it's likely that leaves two bullpen spots for players in the "Chance" category to compete for. Arnold Leon is in a make-or-break September that will loom large as the A's make roster decisions in the offseason.

Evan Scribner will reach Super-2 arbitration, though leading MLB relievers in home runs allowed should limit his raise. He nonetheless remains a candidate to be dropped from the roster at the deadline to tender contracts to players under team control or later when an acquisition requires space on the 40-man.

I believe that the two months Dan Otero spent on optional assignments this year means that Otero will fall shy of hitting the Super-2 arbitration cutoff. He should have a chance to redeem his poor performance at the MLB level this year.

My best guess? Doolittle, Pomeranz, Abad, Rodriguez, Parker, Dull, and Chavez make the opening day bullpen. Arnold Leon successfully clears outright waivers and remains in Triple-A. Evan Scribner is non-tendered. Dan Otero and R.J. Alvarez are optioned to Triple-A.