This offseason is pretty unpredictable, and I'm not sure if there's an obvious direction to go. We know the A's are going to walk away with a legit center fielder, and they probably won't trade any of their premier prospects, but other than that I'm lost. I don't know how the front office views this team – as a version of ye olde Astros, a placeholder for a playoff team a few years down the road? A good team weighed down by a bunch of underperforming role players?
Depending on how you saw the 2016 A's, the offseason completely changes shape. I saw the A's as a legitimately bad team, so I'm staying conservative on this one. I'm continuing to get younger, using veterans to get quality pieces, and staying the course on the rebuild.
I'm going to focus on acquiring position players as well. The A's are extremely shallow in competent position players. They straight up had the worst position player WAR in baseball last year. Like, by far. You can blame it on negative performances from guys like Butler and Alonso and Coghlan, but we also didn't have a single player break 3 WAR. The A's need quality and quantity. And they should focus on players that will continue to be here a couple years down the road.
I also won't spring for rentals unless they're cheap, because I think the team in its current iteration simply isn't good enough to justify the expense.
Without further ado, here's the plan:
Yonder Alonso – non-tender
Danny Valencia – tender, trade
Someone ought to trade for Valencia, right? Right? It's mystifying to me that he's suddenly untradeable, but RH power isn't that common. Right? I don't know. If he's really untradeable, he should get non-tendered, I don't see a place for him on the team.
Impending Free Agents
Sam Fuld – let go
Ross Detwiler – let go
Fuld is nothing, and we've already got a younger Ross Detwiler in Zach Neal. Give him a minor league deal if he'll take it, though, he's alright depth.
C Chris Iannetta - 1 year, $6 million
There's no catcher depth on this team, and I don't trust Josh Phegley after he missed an entire season. Getting a plus defensive, veteran backup catcher could do wonders. I'm 100% alright with carrying three catchers if it comes to that.
OF/DH Matt Joyce - 1 year, $8 million with a team option.
I'm not entirely sure what Matt Joyce would command a year removed from getting a minor league deal, but he makes a ton of sense on this roster. Let's call 2/$14 the max I'm willing to offer. Joyce had a 141 wRC+ versus righties last year, and on a team with a complete lack of quality left-handed hitters, this makes a ton of sense. You're also buying Matt Olson an extra year of development, which seems like a good idea.
He should only DH. I would also be willing to give Brandon Moss a similar contract - he brings a bit more defensive versatility, but he's a worse hitter. Call it a wash.
SP/RP Travis Wood - 1 year, $6 million
Start him in the bullpen, and have him function as the #6 starting pitcher. I don't want to get in the middle of our pretty dang promising rotation, but the team could always use depth. Travis Wood has a history as a pretty solid back-of-the-rotation guy, and also an alright bullpen arm. He fits in pretty well.
If you wanted to, you could start him in the rotation and have Triggs as the #6 starter, but that would make me sad. I really, really like Triggs.
1. Liam Hendriks (plus?) to the Dodgers for Andrew Toles
Also known as, Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey part 2. Hendriks is pretty close to an elite reliever, and that's something the Dodgers desperately need, even if Kenley Jansen stays. Meanwhile, hanging onto an elite RP on a bad team is a poor use of resources. Turn him into Andrew Toles, an elite defensive RF who destroyed the minor leagues and hit .314/.365/.505.
He should be blocked out of the Dodgers OF, and with his short track record he shouldn't be too expensive. I'd be willing to give up further pieces to make this trade work – Grant Holmes could pull an A.J. Cole and go back to the Dodgers. I'd even give up Kendall Graveman for this kid. Just get it done.
2. Stephen Vogt to the Nationals for Andrew Stevenson and Wilmer Difo
Vogt to the Nationals makes a tremendous amount of sense – the Nats are trying to win now, and desperately need a catcher. Stevenson coming back makes a tremendous amount of sense as well, given the dearth of outfield prospects in the system. He should end up being a plus-plus defensive CF with (ideally) an average bat. In other words, the center fielder of the future.
Wilmer Difo isn't a target many people are talking about, and from a strict needs perspective he's unnecessary. But man, I just love the guy. He'll be a plus hitter, defender, and a plus-plus baserunner. In my opinion, he's an above-average MLB 2B for sure. As for where he fits in when Barreto and Chapman come up – that's what you call one of them good problems. Trade someone to fill a need.
Vogt could also be used as a trade piece to the Braves for Ender Inciarte, but I just think Inciarte is too good and too expensive to be a realistic trade target for the A's.
3. (Low-level prospect, possibly Renato Nunez) to the Royals for Jarrod Dyson
Boom! CF hole filled with a plus-plus defender with a good LH bat. Extremely cheap, extremely good.
4. Jed Lowrie to the garbage for not having Jed Lowrie on this team anymore
Seems self-explanatory, imo.
5. The A's should look into trading Sonny Gray.
I know, I know, we shouldn't sell low. But if you get a reasonable offer, I would take it. There's no guarantee that Sonny ever gets back to where he was, and if some front office really believes in him, I'd love to raid their farm system. Something like Raimel Tapia from the Rockies, or Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, and Andrew Toles from the Dodgers, or a Rafael Devers-centered package from the Red Sox.
This is closer to a "remain open to the possibility" than a legitimate trade proposal, so I won't factor it into my final roster. If you trade Sonny Gray, add R.A. Dickey (or Bartolo Colon, or Jesse Chavez, or Andrew Cashner) to the free agent acquisitions, to replace his innings.
This is a pretty conservative plan. I don't think there's anything revolutionary here. But I also believe this is a wait-and-see year. All I can really justify doing to this roster is stockpiling young talent and waiting for Chapman and Barreto to come up. I do believe this team could surprise - Gray/Manaea/Graveman/Cotton/Triggs is awesome, and I've added a ton of potentially quality MLB talent to the roster.
Here's what the lineups would look like to start the year:
|Vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
|1. Andrew Toles, RF||1. Andrew Toles, RF|
|2. Jarrod Dyson, CF||2. Marcus Semien, SS|
|3. Ryon Healy, 1B||3. Ryon Healy, 1B|
|4. Khris Davis, LF||4. Khris Davis, DH|
|5. Matt Joyce, DH||5. Jake Smolinski, LF|
|6. Marcus Semien, SS||6. Chad Pinder, 3B|
|7. Bruce Maxwell, C||7. Chris Iannetta, C|
|8. Chad Pinder, 3B||8. Jarrod Dyson, CF|
|9. Wilmer Difo, 2B||9. Wilmer Difo, 2B|
Chapman and Barreto will fill in where needed. You've got a good enough team here to buy them as much time as they need to develop, and you've got some trade bait if they end up breaking through early.
I didn't want to do too much with this – honestly, at this point in the A's rebuilding cycle, pursuing a superstar or something would just be a waste of time and resources. Be patient, get younger, fill every position with a player that you actually want to see play. It's not time for a Matt Holliday trade yet. Let's save that for next year.