The Oakland A’s are coming off a terrible season, finishing dead last in the AL West with a 69-93 record. They have missed the postseason for two straight years after making it the previous three. Oakland ended up the year 26 games behind the division-winning Texas Rangers. That is a huge gap they need to make up if they want to contend next year.
Fortunately, this is baseball, and teams leap from worst to first with regularity. The A’s have a good chance to rebuild with a strong season next year. A return to the postseason next year is certainly not out of the question. Here is a look at what needs to happen for Oakland to turn things around in 2017.
Sonny Gray Needs to Rebound
The most shocking thing about the 2016 season for the A’s was just how incredibly bad Sonny Gray was. Gray was a Cy Young candidate in 2015 with a 14-7 record and a 2.73 ERA. His freefall in 2016 was stunning. He ended up the year with a 5-11 record and a 5.69 ERA. The A’s starting rotation was terrible other than Kendall Graveman. Gray was the biggest disappointment, and the A’s need him to step it up next year if they want to contend.
Oakland also needs some other help in the pitching department. They finished 25th in MLB with a terrible 4.51 ERA as a team. The starters were even worse, finishing 27th in the league with a 4.84 ERA. It’s pretty hard to win when you can count on your starting pitchers to give up nearly 5 runs a game. Billy Beane needs to go out and acquire a high-quality veteran starting pitcher in free agency like Rich Hill or Gio Gonzalez.
Oakland Needs a New Leadoff Man
The leadoff hitter is such a crucial component for a successful baseball team. He sets the tone for the game and the team. A good leadoff man is worth his weight in gold. The A’s finished 29th in MLB for production from the leadoff spot. The only team that was worse was Kansas City, which helps to explain why the 2015 World Series winners missed out on the postseason this year. Oakland needs a major upgrade in the leadoff spot if they want to contend next season.
Need an Upgrade in Centerfield
As long as he is acquitting a better leadoff man, Billy Beane might as well make him a centerfielder. The centerfielder is supposed to be one of the strengths of a team, and the A’s got less than nothing out of the centerfield position in 2016. The A’s centerfielders had a batting average of .228, which was 29th in MLB. They were even worse on defense, making Oakland centerfielders the worst in baseball at a shocking -1.4 WAR.
Adding a leadoff man who can hit and play good defense in center should be the highest priority for the A’s in the offseason. If they can do that and get some better starting pitching, they have a decent chance of becoming relevant again next season. Oakland fans can only hope that the front office makes the necessary moves to get them contending for the postseason once again.