Over the last couple of weeks, folks in the Athletics Nation community have been sharing their visions for the Oakland A’s offseason. Which free agents should they sign, what trades should they make, and how will the roster look in April? Click here to see all of the plans.
Overall, we have 30 different offseason plans so far. (That’s counting both of sc00by’s entries.) I put them all together in a spreadsheet, because it’s cold down here in my mom’s basement and all the other sheets were in the wash, so now we have a bunch of data and it isn’t just going to analyze itself. Let’s look for some trends! At the end, we’ll tie it all together into one larger AN offseason plan.
There are really only two players under consideration here. Nobody non-tendered Sonny or Vogt or Khrush or Hendriks, as well they shouldn’t have. That leaves Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso.
Of the 30 plans, only five of them tendered Alonso a contract. The community seems unified here — thanks for the glovework and the great attitude, but we can do better. I already noted that sc00by presented two different offseason plans — one was for competing in 2017, the other for extending the rebuild, and he cut Alonso in both of them. If a player doesn’t improve your present or your future, then it might be time to move on.
Valencia got more love ... kinda. He was tendered in 24-of-30 plans! Buuut he was then subsequently traded away in 16 of them, often not for anything in particular but rather the old “tender him so we can get something via trade rather than losing his bat for nothing.” Very few of the plans actually retained him for the purpose of having him on the 2017 team. (And then on Saturday, Valencia was traded in real life.)
Community verdict: Tender and then trade Valencia, non-tender Alonso.
Most entries were busy on the free agent market, which makes sense since the A’s uncharacteristically have a lot of money to spend. At least 15 of the plans signed four or more guys, and the pair of plans that only picked up one free agent made up for it by taking on big salaries through trade. However, despite the consensus that the A’s should spend money this winter, there wasn’t a lot of agreement over whom to spend it on.
One player stood out above the rest, and that was outfielder Eric Thames. That’s no surprise, because he’s like an artist’s rendering of what an ideal A’s signing would look like. He has big upside, but his track record has question marks due to coming in a foreign league (like pre-2012 Cespedes) and that risk will make him cheap enough to have bargain potential. He flamed out of MLB but then went to Korea and hit 124 HR in three seasons, so to make a loose analogy he’s sort of like this winter’s Rich Hill. To top it all off, he’s a Bay Area native. All of that earned him a mention in 10 of our offseason plans.
Next up were a trio of former A’s, who each made their ways into five different plans: Kurt Suzuki, Jesse Chavez, and Josh Reddick. Unfortunately, Chavez is off the table already as he was signed by the Angels on Friday. Meanwhile, Suzuki offers veteran presence behind the plate to help a young pitching staff, as well as a right-handed bat to offset lefties Stephen Vogt and/or Bruce Maxwell. We’ve already discussed Reddick.
The best of the rest was led by infielder Luis Valbuena (5 mentions), who was a popular pick to add some power. Four more players got nods in four different plans. One was Bartolo Colon, who has since signed with the Braves. Another was platoon OF/DH Matt Joyce. And finally, relievers Greg Holland and Daniel Hudson both got some love as upside plays.
(If you drop down to players with three votes, you get pitcher Andrew Cashner, and, wait for it, Eric Sogard. Interestingly, not a single plan included Rich Hill.)
Community verdict: Spend some serious money on the open market, preferably on buy-low slugger Eric Thames and a pitcher.
Almost all of the plans were heavily active on the trade market, because this is an A’s offseason we’re talking about here. Every trade proposal is a bit different, so I’m more interested in the names that show up rather than the specific deals they were parts of. Let’s begin by looking at who was commonly dealt, and then at who was acquired.
The player most often traded away was Stephen Vogt, which feels crappy to say but makes an unfortunate amount of sense. He was sent packing in 23 of our 30 plans. Oakland has a promising new lefty-hitting catcher in Bruce Maxwell, and it would be preferable to pair him with a righty as we look toward the future. Meanwhile, Vogt’s value will probably never be higher, coming off two straight All-Star bids and entering his mid-30s with a lot of wear and tear on his body and a salary that is about to start increasing quickly. He might bring back a handsome enough return to be worth parting with yet another beloved fan favorite.
(The real-life A’s have two other major trade chips besides Vogt, but AN’s plans mostly held on to Sonny Gray (5 mentions) and Sean Doolittle (3).)
Next on the list was Danny Valencia, who was traded away in 16 different plans. That turned out to be a good call, since it quickly happened in real life — the A’s got it done so soon that they didn’t even have to make a decision on tendering him a contract first. After him came some spare parts who folks either used as throw-ins on larger deals or outright dumped: expensive reliever John Axford (10), injury-plagued infielder Jed Lowrie (10), and enigmatic starter Jesse Hahn (9). Finally, starter Kendall Graveman (9) and closer Ryan Madson (7) were somewhat popular chips, usually to help shore up the outfield.
Many of the proposed trades also included some of Oakland’s prospects. The main one was RHP Grant Holmes, a recent deadline acquisition, who was flipped in nearly half (14-for-30) of our offseason plans. He was almost always dealt for a new star outfielder, most often Ender Inciarte. In other words, folks liked the Jacob Nottingham for Khris Davis trade last winter and want to do it again.
After Holmes, the following prospects stood out: RHP Raul Alcantara (11), IF Renato Nunez (7), LHP Dillon Overton (6), and IF Chad Pinder (5). Each of them has fallen out of favor with many on AN for various reasons, whether poor performance or simply a lack of fit with the rest of the roster, and frankly I’d be surprised if at least two of them weren’t dealt in real life. Two more pitchers, Dylan Covey and Dakota Chalmers, also found their ways into four of the entries. Only two plans parted with top prospect Franklin Barreto, with BWH and JosephTDeClercq giving him up in blockbusters for CF Kevin Kiermaier.
Community verdict: Sell high on Vogt, dump Valencia, and try to clear out some of the other veteran filler. Flip Holmes for serious outfield help, and don’t be afraid to sweeten any of these deals with some of the lesser MLB-ready prospects.
And who did we get in return for all that we gave up? There is less consensus here, as you would expect — the pool of theoretical trade targets is much bigger than those of available free agents or players in the A’s org.
The biggest trend among the acquisitions was outfielder Ender Inciarte, who showed up six times. At least 10 different outfielders received multiple mentions, including all the CF candidates we’ve been discussing here for months, but Inciarte got the most love. Jarrod Dyson was next (5), followed by former Athletic Carlos Gonzalez (4), who differs from the CF group as a one-year rental corner outfielder.
Actually, there was one other popular outfielder: Nationals prospect Andrew Stevenson, who reached Double-A last year at the age of 22, was acquired in six plans. It was usually the result of sending Vogt to Washington, who will probably be looking for a catcher with Wilson Ramos becoming a free agent.
Many of the plans acquired a starting pitcher, but everyone had their own ideas about which one. No starter showed up more than twice, and the only ones to get multiple mentions were Gio Gonzalez, who was part of two of the Vogt trades; Drew Smyly; and Rays prospect Brent Honeywell, a prospect who reached Double-A last year at the age of 21. There were many relievers mentioned, but none of them more than once.
Community verdict: Acquire Inciarte to improve the outfield defense, pick up an established starter for the middle/back of the rotation (if one wasn’t added via free agency), and always be on the lookout for bullpen depth (especially if any current relievers get traded).
The Athletics Nation offseason plan
Let’s round all of that up into one plan that most closely fits the will of the larger community. The A’s offseason would look something like this if the team was run by us.
Step 1: Arbitration. Tender contracts to all eligible players, except for Yonder Alonso.
Step 2: Free agency. Sign OF/1B Eric Thames, C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Daniel Hudson, and OF Matt Joyce. They probably each get two-year deals in the neighborhood of $5 million per season. Perhaps it only takes one year for Joyce.
Step 3: Trade #1. C Stephen Vogt and RHP John Axford to Washington; LHP Gio Gonzalez and OF Andrew Stevenson to Oakland. (Add extra prospects to either side, and/or upgrade Axford to Ryan Madson or Liam Hendriks, as you see fit to balance the two sides.) I like this because re-acquiring Gio softens the blow of losing Vogt.
Step 4: Trade #2. Prospect package led by RHP Grant Holmes to Atlanta; OF Ender Inciarte to Oakland. I won’t pretend to know exactly which prospects it would take to make this happen, but Holmes would be the headliner. For the sake of the sample rosters below, I’m including RHP Raul Alcantara and IF Renato Nunez as well. Perhaps RHP Jesse Hahn could be part of this one. How close is that -- Holmes, Alcantara, Nunez, and Hahn? That’s more than the Braves got for Andrelton Simmons.
Step 5: Trade #3. 1B/RF Danny Valencia to anywhere, for anything. (In real life, “anything” turned out to be minor league pitcher Paul Blackburn, which sounds about right. MLB Pipeline slots him in as the No. 19 prospect in the system.) There are also calls to dump Jed Lowrie, but for now we’re keeping him for depth and then perhaps trading him midseason.
Payroll: Around $19 million went out, and around $35 million came in. Payroll goes up from about $64 million to $80 million, which means we could have spent more. In fact, we could have spent about what it might take to upgrade from Joyce to Reddick, but they got about the same amount of support in the community’s plans so I went with the conservative option (even though I’d personally prefer Reddick). I actually went out on a limb by adding a third MLB outfielder at all, which only three of the 30 plans did.
The new roster: Suzuki and Maxwell team up as the new catching duo — that might leave Phegley waiting in Triple-A, but this is a crucial area to have depth. The infield is largely untouched, other than Alonso’s departure, which is fine since there are eleventy good prospects to give those at-bats to. The starting outfield now includes three of Davis, Inciarte, Thames, and Joyce, with the remaining corner guy playing DH, or perhaps Thames getting some time at 1B (he played there in Korea). There is space for youngsters like Olson or Brugman, or role players like Canha or Smolinski, to fill in the remaining duties at 1B/RF/DH.
The rotation features, in no particular order, Sonny, Gio, Manaea, and Graveman, with Cotton, Triggs, Mengden, et al, fighting for the fifth spot. The bullpen is more or less the same, with Hudson stepping in for whichever reliever went to Washington.
Here are some sample lineups, which are meant more to display all 13 hitters on the roster rather than suggest a 100% realistic arrangement.
vs. RHP: C Maxwell, 1B Olson*, 2B Wendle, SS Semien, 3B Healy, LF Davis, CF Inciarte, RF Thames, DH Joyce
vs. LHP: C Suzuki, 1B Thames, 2B Pinder, SS Semien, 3B Healy, LF Davis, CF Inciarte, RF Smolinski**, DH Lowrie
* I arbitrarily picked Olson to make the team, but re-arrange as you see fit if you think someone like Brugman or even Chapman might take that spot instead, or if Pinder is traded instead of Nunez, or if Healy just moves to 1B outright, etc.
** Same thing, but with either Canha or Eibner serving as alternatives to Smolinski. Or even Phegley, as a platoon DH and emergency catcher (to go easy on his knees).
Here it is in a table, with some of the undecided in-house position battles summed up in a general role rather than a specific name (for guys like Cotton, Mengden, Triggs, Neal, Olson, Brugman, Smolinski, Canha, Phegley, and Eibner).
That team is still not guaranteed to compete. It’ll be up to things like the bounce-back of Sonny and the development of the rookies, and as always health. But the new additions mean that a framework and depth will be there if everything else comes together in a 2012 sort of way, and none of the moves are too costly in the present nor burdensome over the long-term. And if this is just a 1999-esque stepping stone toward a truly competitive 2018, then that’s okay too because the acquisitions in the two major trades are all under team control beyond next season.
And that’s a wrap! What do you think of the moves made by the community, and the new roster we’ve created? To the comments!