Off-season plan: Compete Now, Win Later


A’s Current Situation

Off-season plans from fans are usually far from realistic and I am by no means an expert. Having said that I like to have fun and float around some trade ideas to help pass the off-season.

I think the A’s are in good shape heading into 2017, despite what many critics say including Connor Byrne in his A’s Offseason Outlook article ( The A’s have a high upside nucleus of young starting pitchers including Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Kendall Graveman who all took big steps forward last season. This is exactly the kind of pitching foundation that the A’s can build on in their attempt to return to playoff contention in 2017. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the A’s end up having one of the better rotations in baseball next year, especially if Sonny Gray can bounce back from his dreadful 2016 season.

Despite an up and down year from the bullpen, overall I think the A’s have a number of interesting arms that could factor into the mix, including Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, and Andrew Triggs. Daniel Coulombe and his .557 OPS vs. lefties (2016) would make for a nice lefty specialist; though I’d still like to see the A’s acquire one more lefty to compete for that spot. Triggs had a successful stint in the rotation last year before suffering a back injury. He could factor into the rotation or the bullpen depending on how things pan out with injuries and some of the other young starters.

In regards to position players, the A’s need a lot of help, particularly in the outfield where Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner failed to impress. The only penciled in starter in the outfield at this point is Kris Davis and even he would probably be a better fit at DH due to his lack of defensive ability in left field.

Having said all this, I do think the A’s are only a couple of position player acquisitions away from being competitive once again. The A’s need to focus on improving a league worst defense that led to a -53.4 UZR. Centerfield in particular needs to be addressed as A’s centerfielders combined for a paltry -1.3 WAR last year.

I put together the following offseason plan that will hopefully address some of the A’s weaknesses and help them compete for a playoff spot in 2017 without giving up too many of the team’s key prospects that are on the MLB doorstep.


Trade #1:

OF Lazarito, 1B/DH Danny Valencia, and SP Grant Holmes to the Tampa Bay Rays for SP Drew Smyly and RP Xavier Cedeno.

Again I am no GM and I have no idea if this package would be enough to acquire both Smyly and Cedeno. The A’s may have to add another B level prospect into the equation in order to entice Tampa Bay to pull the trigger. Either way, the A’s and Rays would both benefit from this trade.

The A’s get a solid starting pitcher in Drew Smyly who’s racked up 175 innings last year and doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm. Although his 4.51 xFIP was rather uninspiring, a closer look reveals he suffered from an inflated HR/9 rate of 1.64. A move to Oakland and the AL West could potentially help suppress some of these homeruns totals. Not having to play three of the best offenses in baseball within your division (Toronto, Baltimore, and Boston) would also help Smyly in this regard. Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smyly ends up being one of the 15-20 best starters in baseball next year when you factor in all these elements. Cedeno would provide the A’s with a dynamite lefty specialist (.197 BAA lefties) who would compete with Daniel Coulombe for the loogy spot in the bullpen.

The A’s give up two high upside prospects in Lazarito and Holmes who could end up being impact players. I like both players, and I think Holmes has a chance to be at least a mid-rotation starter if he can iron out his command issues. Having said that, both have questions abound and in all likelihood need many more years in the minors before they will be ready to contribute at the major league level (especially in Lazarito’s case). The A’s also give up Valencia, who would serve as the right-handed side of the DH/1B platoon with Brad Miller in Tampa Bay. I think Valencia would benefit greatly from playing the vast majority of his games in the hitter friendly AL East and Tamp Bay has a need for a right-handed power bat. Tampa Bay also has a lot of pitching depth to deal from and they’ve shown a willingness to take on high upside prospects in exchange for veteran arms in the past (see Giants and Rays trade at the 2016 deadline involving Matt Moore).

Trade #2:

C Stephen Vogt and 1B/3B Ryon Healy to the Indians for OF Greg Allen and C Francisco Mejia.

I know this trade is going to receive a lot of negative feedback, but hear me out. I like Ryon Healy and I think the kid is a gamer. He’s coming off a great rookie season where he was a rookie of the year candidate. The problem is that the A’s have a log jam of 1st base prospects and they are going to have to trade some of them in the near future. I think Matt Olson is just a minor adjustment or two from being a dynamic player, and Ryon Healy is the only player with any significant trade value at this point in time. I think the A’s would do well to sell high on Healy, who enjoyed a healthy .352 BABIP that in all likelihood is due for some regression in 2017. Healy is below average defensively at 3rd base, leaving his best position at 1st or DH which would place a lot more pressure on his bat. If he does regress with the bat next year, his overall value would really be limited considering he’s not a dynamic fielder or base runner (which is where the A’s need a lot of help anyways).

Stephen Vogt is also a tough pill to swallow, but again I think the A’s should trade him now while he still has value. His defense has improved to the point that he’s actually an above average defender behind the dish. On the other hand, his bat slowed down significantly last year (.711 OPS) and he’s going into his age 32 season. With Bruce Maxwell in the fold as the left-handed side of the catching platoon, I think Stephen Vogt is expendable and the A’s could use him as a means to acquire much needed depth in the outfield.

Cleveland needs more offensive production at catcher as both Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes combined for an ugly .553 OPS. In all likelihood, Cleveland will not be able to afford to bring back Mike Napoli after he enjoyed one of his best offensive years of his career in 2016. A player like Healy would give them a young cost controlled asset capable of manning 1st base or DH for many years to come. This will be especially important for the Indians as other veteran players such as Carlos Santana inch closer to free agency.

Overall, this move only makes sense for Cleveland because they are in a unique window of opportunity to make a serious run at the World Series for the next couple years. Making these additions helps them inch a little closer to a championship without breaking the bank.

In exchange, Oakland gets a couple of exciting prospects that could make an impact in the next couple of years and maybe even sooner if everything goes right. Catcher Francisco Mejia has a dynamic bat, but probably needs a couple more years in the minors to polish up his game behind the dish. I think he will ultimately become an above average defensive catcher due to his plus arm strength and above average athleticism behind the plate.

Allen brings above average defensive ability in centerfield, where the A’s are desperate for a long-term answer. He also enjoyed an excellent offensive campaign in double-A where his 10.9% walk rate, 15.5% K rate, and .441 SLG% are all future indicators of success at the next level. Even if the bat doesn’t pan out, his speed and defensive ability give him a high floor.

Trade #3:

1B/DH Renato Nunez and SP Dillon Overton to the Royals for OF Jarrod Dyson.

Dyson is no spring chicken, but he’s still one of the fastest players in the game (30 steals in 2016). He would kill two birds with one stone by improving the A’s porous outfield defense with a rangy centerfielder while also providing them with a candidate for the leadoff spot. Dyson was actually a better hitter against lefties than righties last year (.989 vs .700 OPS) albeit in a small sample size. In addition, he put up a 3.1 WAR season in 2016 in only 337 plate appearances and could potentially be a 4+ WAR player given 500+ PA.

In exchange, the Royals get a young cost controlled 1B/DH in Renato Nunez with some offensive upside. Nunez is blocked by at least a few other 1B/DH candidates in front of him in Oakland and the Royals are in need of young controllable players, especially at 1B and DH. Kendys Morales’ costly $11 million option is also in question and Eric Hosmer just turned in a -0.2 WAR campaign (despite hitting 25 homeruns) due do his defensive and base-running deficiencies. Moving Hosmer to DH and allowing Nunez to play 1B would in all likelihood provide them with a defensive upgrade and save the small market team about $11 million next year. For a Royals team in need of pitching upgrades, the cost savings would also help them make an addition or two in the rotation either through trade or free agency. The point here is that the Royals would probably be open to such a trade proposal and it would help both teams address their individual needs.

Trade #4:

2B/SS/3B Yairo Munoz and RP John Axford to the Giants for 2B Kelby Tomlinson.

The A’s need some depth in the infield. I like Joey Wendle and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns in a decent first full season next year with the A’s. But last year’s slew of injuries showed the importance of having depth on the MLB roster. Adding Tomlinson isn’t a sexy move, but he should at least provide the A’s with a reliable option in the case Wendle struggles or injuries once again ravage the line-up. In addition, Tomlinson would act as the right-handed side of the platoon with Wendle and provide the A’s with another option at 3rd base.

Although Munoz has some interesting tools, I have to be honest in that I’ve never been a huge fan of his swing. From the little video I’ve seen, I just don’t see the toolsy player that Prospect page suggests he is. Having said that, you never really know what will happen with any prospect. The Giants have a number of 2B options on their roster and with Panic cemented in at that position; I think they’d be willing to part ways with a player like Tomlinson. Munoz would give the Giants a young player that scouts see a lot of upside in. And with Eduardo Nunez going into the last year of his contract, the Giants may want to add Munoz (who’s capable of playing 3B) into the fold in the case Nunez walks in free agency.

Trading John Axford is more just for salary relief and to open up a spot for other arms in the bullpen. The Giants bullpen really struggled last year, so they might be willing to give Axford a look in a middle relief role.

Free Agent Signings

Free Agent Signing #1:

Sign 1B/DH Steven Pearce to a 2 year/$18 million contract.

The A’s need to improve both offensively and defensively at 1st base. Pearce is a proven veteran option that kills left-handed pitching ( 1.028 OPS last year). He also isn’t bad against righties (.795 OPS last year) and he’s an above average defender at the position. Although there will be some competition for his services, off-season arm surgery to fix a flexor mass tendon may scare a few teams off while also making him a bit more affordable. I don’t deny that there would be plenty of risk in signing an aging player like Pearce who’s coming off an injury. But a two-year contract would allow the A’s to bridge the gap to some of their 1st base prospects (such as Matt Olson) without breaking the bank on other high-priced free agents.

Free Agent Signing #2:

Sign OF Jon Jay to a 2 year/$16 million deal.

Again, another short term signing that can help bridge the gap to future prospects. Jay is not a sexy signing by any means, but I’ve always been a fan of his. Jay is an above average defender in right field, though he’s seen a defensive decline in recent years. He’s also capable of playing all three outfield positions, and the A’s value that kind of versatility. Even if he continues to decline defensively over the life of this contract, he still shouldn’t be a huge liability. In addition, he’s been close to a league average or better hitter for the majority of his career (except the 2015 season) and he should still provide at least average value on the bases. Overall, I think Jay can provide the A’s with a quality veteran capable of putting up 2+ WAR if everything goes right.

These moves would leave the A’s with the following depth chart:


Kris Davis

Mark Canha

Jake Smolinski


Jarrod Dyson

Jon Jay

Jake Smolinski


Jon Jay

Mark Canha

Jake Smolinski


Jed Lowrie

Kelby Tomlinson

Chad Pinder


Marcus Semien

Jed Lowrie

Kelby Tomlinson

Chad Pinder


Joey Wendle

Kelby Tomlinson

Jed Lowrie


Steven Pearce

Mark Canha

Matt Olson

Rangel Ravelo


Bruce Maxwell

Josh Phegley


Kris Davis

Mark Canha

Matt Olson

Line-up against lefties:










Line-up against righties:










Sonny Gray

Drew Smyly

Sean Manaea

Jharel Cotton

Kendall Graveman


Ryan Dull

Sean Doolittle

Ryan Madson

Liam Hendricks

Xavier Cedeno/Daniel Coulombe

Daniel Mengden

Frankie Montas

Andrew Triggs

Non-tender candidates:

Yonder Alonso


I think moving Daniel Mengden and Frankie Montas into the bullpen would not only allow their stuff to play up, but also allow the A’s to limit their innings. This is especially important given Montas’ injury history and Mengden wearing down after a heavy workload last season.

As mentioned before, the combination of Triggs, Montas and Mengden would provide the A’s with three arms capable of pitching out of the rotation. Not to mention other candidates such as Jesse Hahn or even Daniel Gossett who enjoyed a nice season at double-A in 2016. He could make a jump to the big league roster depending on his performance in spring training and Nashville next year.

The line-up is admittedly not that sexy on paper, but the team should benefit greatly from an improved defense and some speed on the base paths. The A’s should be able to play in some close games next year if the rotation comes together and all they need to do in order to be competitive is to manufacture a handful of runs each game. Plus, these moves are simply designed to bridge the gap to some of the impact prospects developing throughout the A’s minor league pipeline. The above listed trades would allowed the A’s to hold onto most of these prospects (such as Matt Chapman, Max Shrock, Matt Olson, Richie Martin, Franklin Barreto, and AJ Puk) while also adding additional prospects into the fold (Greg Allen and Francisco Mejia).

Playing Jed Lowrie at 3B is also less than ideal. He’s coming off an uninspiring offensive 2016 offensive campaign in which he totaled a meager .322 SLG% and 79 OPS+. Although I don’t expect him to be a dynamic player at this point in his career, I do think there’s some bounce back potential. The switch-hitting Lowrie has shown decent power in the past and a return to health combined with a move to a less demanding position at 3B (at least range wise) may be all he needs to take a step forward offensively. At the very least, he’ll be a decent stop gap until Matt Chapman is ready to make his major league debut.

Speaking of Chapman, he had a rough debut in AAA which saw him hit a minuscule .197 AVG, but also display massive power (.513 SLG%). He’ll probably need a full season at AAA to polish up his game and make some necessary adjustments. Of course prospects are always unpredictable, and if he starts the year on fire down in AAA then a promotion could be in order as soon as early 2017. Barreto is in a similar boat and could be ready to contribute as soon as next year. Their additions to the major league roster would help the A’s address some of the position player woes they’ve suffered from over the last couple seasons.

Other moves the A’s might consider include signing Carlos Gomez to man center, Brandon Moss for LF/RF or Luis Valbuena at 3B. I don’t love any of these moves, but they are logic options that the A’s may have to consider while they bridge the gap to younger players.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I do like some of the other ideas I’ve seen in other posts recently, including signing OF Eric Thames or trading for 1B/DH John Jaso. I’ll definitely think about including those moves into future posts. For now, I want to hear some feedback so feel free to discuss the moves below.