Oakland A's, Cliff Lee, and a Six-Man Rotation

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Cliff's Notes

As-is, the 2016 Oakland A's are a collection of average, with a floor of 'genuinely terrible' and a ceiling of 'maybe excellent.'

We don't stand out to the rest of the league. For a team that used to innovate, we're falling a bit behind. But this offseason isn't over yet. The A's interest in Kazmir shows that they would be willing to allocate probably up to $12MM a year on Kazmir, a veteran LHP with some injury risks associated. The signing of Rich Hill shows that the team already *did* spend $6MM on a veteran LHP with some injury risks associated. So it shouldn't be a shock that I'm proposing the A's use most of their remaining offseason money on a veteran LHP with injury risks associated.

Clifton "Cliff" Lee, now 37 years old, is coming off a 2015 season in which he threw 0 innings of 0.00 ERA ball, because he missed it due to a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow.

"Now wait kyrbyr, that doesn't sound good!" I can already hear you thinking to yourself.

Shut up, you wrongo. The A's also signed Henderson Alvarez, coming off shoulder and elbow surgery to a $4.25MM contract. Jarrod Parker is on his way back from his second TJS, and the FO keeps going out of their way to tell us he's still a starter. Jesse Hahn is a bundle of elbow-shaped question marks, and even both Bassitt and Graveman dealt with injury issues at some point. With pitching getting so expensive, collecting a handful of injured guys with high ceilings is a clever way of "throwing s**t at the wall and seeing what sticks" and keeping us in the hunt for the AL West.

Cliff Lee definitely has a high ceiling. For everyone getting riled up about Rich Hill's curveball being good in a couple of games, Lee has a track record as one of the more dominant pitchers of the last decade. His 2013 season, Lee was an All-Star with a 2.87 ERA for the season and a 2.82 FIP. His 2014 season, he had a 3.65 ERA with a 2.95 FIP. More than productive, Lee was legitimately good in his age 35 and 36 seasons. There's reason to believe that even with a potential dip in velocity post-injury, Lee will be an extremely effective pitcher, as he's done the rest of his career.

So here's the proposal. Cliff Lee to the Oakland Athletics. 1 year, $10MM, with a mutual option for 2017 at $10MM. Guarantee him no qualifying offer.

This plans out three different potential outcomes:

1) Lee pitches well and likes Oakland, and you get an elite pitcher for $2/20. That was Bartolo's deal with the Mets.

2) Lee pitches well and wants to leave Oakland: if he's doing well enough, his trade value increases without a QO tag if teams want to pick up the mutual option at the 2016 deadline. For Lee, he knows he might get to hit FA again without worrying about the QO bringing down his value no matter what, incentivizing him to sign in Oakland.

3) Lee pitches poorly: we're out 10MM, decline the mutual option, and weren't going to give him a QO anyway. It's a mistake, but when have the A's blown money recently? Think of Lee's failed 2016 season as a placeholder for Manaea, not rushing his development.

Six Shooting

Sound good? Okay, on to the fun part. With our Island of Injured Pitchers, how do you keep everyone nice and shiny and not splinters of broken wreckage?

Let's take a look at Japan. Japanese pitchers typically throw more pitches, but work in a 6-man rotation. Even the guys throwing many thousands of pitches in high school can stick around in the NPB without imploding, and often times even while imploding. Tanaka, Darvish, and Maeda all may have played with partial UCL tears and were still effective. Something is keeping them healthier. While training and conditioning are different, the 6-man rotation remains one of the larger differences between the leagues.

We currently have a bunch of starters in the same vein of 'kinda healthy.' Employing a 6-man rotation would allow additional rest for everyone. And it's actually a damn fine enough group of starters that the "missing starts" from our #1 starter (Gray) aren't quite as significant as if we're able to keep the whole group healthy.

Sonny Gray.

Cliff Lee.

Jesse Hahn.

Rich Hill.

Henderson Alvarez.

Jarrod Parker.

Waiting in the AAA rotation: Graveman. Bassitt. Manaea. Overton. Brooks.

That is SP depth that genuinely runs 11 deep and is pretty tasty in all aspects of the word.

So much depth in fact, that it'd allow us to trade a young SP for another area of need, the OF.


Marcell Ozuna is rumored to be on the trade block, and the only name associated him so far has been Rangers RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez. Now, some people think Chi Chi has #2 SP abilities. As someone who saw him pitch in 2015, "nah." Kendall Graveman, now slated to potentially start the year in AAA, could be used as the keystone piece of the package. If the Marlins need more, we have two young chips recently leapfrogged in the organization - Wendle and Dull (by Pinder and Wendelken, respectively).

Ozuna is a 25-year-old CF on the receiving end of whatever spiteful entity Jeffery Loria is who hit 23 HR in 2014. Having picked up one Marlin with 2014 excellence (Halvarez), why not make it two? Adding a CF lets us shift Burns over to LF, solving two birds with one stone but one is in the brush is worth two. (that's how it goes, right?)

Ozuna is being sold low at an affordable price and comes with 4 years of control. Adding him would also bring about Reddick trade opportunities, if he doesn't go for an extension. Many options available.