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Hoarders Delight: Getting Good Without Losing Prospects

Wouldn’t it be peachy-keen if the A’s could have their cake and eat it too? If they could get competitive in 2017 with a chance to be really good in 2018-2020, and not have to part with the players A’s fans keep trading in their simulations — exciting young talent like Franklin Barreto, Grant Holmes, and others who have been "traded" time and time again in order to bring the A’s an outfield?

Fact is, Oakland’s payroll situation is such that the A’s could elect to use free agency to complete a team good enough to compete in 2017 with a real eye on the years to follow.

The key signing would be my personal "holy grail," Dexter Fowler, he of the career .366 OBP, probably seeking a 4-year deal for his age 31-34 seasons. A way to maximize Fowler’s utility to the team would be to let him anchor CF, where he currently rates as average, for two seasons and then shift him over to RF, where he could still be average-or-better defensively in his age 33-34 seasons. Fowler’s asking price is thought to be around $64M for 4 years.

Add current front page feature Brandon Moss, for around the 2 years and $14M projected as needed to land him, and you have a platoon with Jake Smolinski that should be well above average at the plate; Moss has a career 114 RC+ against RHPs, which exactly matches his 2016 numbers, while Smolinski brings a career .290/.361/.505 line vs. LHPs to the table. Both are average defensively and offer a two-year solution in RF until Fowler moves over. Rarely does a free agent publicly cite Oakland as a desired landing spot, yet apparently that’s exactly what Moss did in something these wacky young ‘uns are calling a "text" (I’ll have to look into it).

The A’s have been directly linked to Eric Thames, the LH power hitter currently starring in Korea. Thames might command a similar deal to that of Moss and comes with the good old "high risk, high upside" Oakland is drawn to. Thames needs to be issued a restraining order barring him from coming within 100 feet of the warning track, but could contribute at 1B and DH.

Now, the A’s don’t normally splurge on the free agent market, though it’s worth noting that Scott Kazmir (2/$22M), the ill-fated Billy Butler (3/$30M), and others (Chase Headley, Adrian Beltre), were offered "real money" on the open market. Oakland might need to allocate $30M in 2017-18 to bring these three in, but the A’s absolutely have the room in their payroll to do so.

No moving of Barreto, no loss on the depth chart of Holmes, no hit anywhere on the farm and no dealing of Sonny Gray, just a strategic use of payroll flexibility to build the following team for 2017 and for 2018 (assuming no trades at all, though of course there will be some):

2017

Maxwell/Phegley - C
Thames - 1B
Wendle - 2B
Semien - SS
Healy - 3B
Davis - LF
Fowler - CF
Moss/Smolinski - RF
Vogt - DH

Immediate depth: Pinder, Nuñez, Brugman
Up when ready: Canha, Chapman, Barreto

SP: Gray-Manaea-Cotton-Graveman-Triggs
Mendgen-Montas-Hahn-Gossett-Holmes

RP: Madson-Hendriks-Doolittle-Dull-Axford-Alcantara...

2018

Maxwell/Phegley - C
Healy - 1B
Barreto - 2B
Semien - SS
Chapman - 3B
Davis - LF
Fowler - CF
Moss/Smolinski - RF
Thames/Canha - DH

Immediate depth: Wendle, Pinder, Olson, Brugman, Nuñez, SCHROCK!!! (sorry, man-crush)

SP: Gray-Manaea-Montas-Cotton-Graveman
Bassitt-Mengden-Hahn-Gossett-Holmes

On the way: Shore-Puk-Jefferies

RP: Who knows by then? Should be perfectly solid, though.

The beauty? There’s enough legitimate depth here that if Montas thrives you can potentially trade Gray after the 2017 season and still have an excellent rotation, or you can trade Vogt now and still have an excellent lineup. So there is room to maneuver without losing the ability to field both a strong lineup and a rotation with enough legitimate FOTR, MOTR, and BOTR pitchers to compete.

Is that 2017 team not competitive enough to be highly interesting? It’s a bit shaky defensively at the outset, but you’re waiting for Chapman to immediately make both corner infield spots a lot better upon his arrival. Is that 2018 team not looking like a contender in the AL West? Especially given that the depth allows for a strategic trade or two to get only better?

Maybe best of all, that team is set through 2020 except for needing to add a CFer for 2019 when Fowler shifts over to RF. That’s few holes to address and a ton of talent available to bring in a CFer in two years — assuming a good one doesn’t fall into your lap over the next 700 days.

Seems awfully doable to me, given the A’s current payroll situation. I mean it’s fun to think of trades, but I kind of like the team Oakland can put together just for $30M that they have room to spend. Thoughts?