The Oakland A's begin Cactus League play on Thursday, which is just three days away! It's time to get excited, Athletics Nation. Of course, the team had yet another busy offseason, so before the games start let's take a moment to look back on all that happened this winter. If you followed along on the edge of your seat throughout, then this will just be a refresher for you. If you're just tuning back in after hibernating for the offseason, then this will catch you up on what you missed. We took an initial look back on New Year's Day, so this post is an update from that premature edition.
First, an overview:
SP (L) Rich Hill (signed)
1B Yonder Alonso (acq from SD)
RP (R) J.B. Wendelken (acq from ChW)
SP (R) Jesse Chavez (traded to Tor)
1B Ike Davis (signed by Tex)
RP (R) Brendan McCurry (traded to Hou)
And here's a little more on each transaction. (Note: I'm using SP and RP for starters and relievers, not RHP and LHP for righties and lefties.)
A's acquire RP Liam Hendriks from Blue Jays for SP Jesse Chavez
In brief: Chavez is good, but he was in his last year of team control. Hendriks had a breakout year in relief and is under control for four seasons (from 2016 thru 2019). This trade cashed in on the value of Chavez's last season before free agency, addressed a need in the back of the bullpen by adding a rising star, and saved a bit of money. Right now it looks like a smart move.
A's acquire IF Jed Lowrie from Astros for minor league prospect (RP Brendan McCurry)
In brief: Lowrie is a solid veteran, good enough to start every day, but he was forced out of the Astros' lineup by Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa. He was expendable to Houston but can help the A's, so Oakland grabbed him for a bargain price at an opportune moment. McCurry was a popular prospect on AN, but getting a quality MLB position player for a minor league reliever is a move you make every time.
A's acquire 1B Yonder Alonso and RP Marc Rzepczynski from Padres for RP Drew Pomeranz and a prospect (RP Jose Torres)
In brief: Alonso gives Oakland a regular first baseman with a quality left-handed bat, which are both things they needed. He's not a slugger, but he brings OBP and defense. The price was Pomeranz, who has settled in as a solid lefty reliever, but at least fellow southpaw Rzepczynski came back to replace him for one year. Torres is a promising prospect, but he's already taking up a spot on the 40-man roster and burning an option year even though he's barely cracked High-A.
A's acquire two prospects (RP J.B. Wendelken and SP Zack Erwin) from White Sox for IF Brett Lawrie
In brief: This one's a bummer and there's no way around it. Lawrie didn't hit his huge upside in 2015, and he apparently wore out his welcome in Oakland because it sure feels like they hastily sold low on him. Just one year ago, Lawrie was a key piece in the Josh Donaldson trade, and now he's been ushered out in favor of Jed Lowrie at 2B and Danny Valencia at 3B. The return was a pair of pitchers who look useful but unexciting, which seems like pennies on the dollar.
A's acquire prospect (RP Trey Cochran-Gill) from Mariners for RP Evan Scribner
In brief: Scribner was out of options and there will be a lot of competition for the Opening Day bullpen. Rather than risk losing him in March, the A's hit the reset button by turning him into a near-ready relief prospect.
A's acquire OF Khris Davis from Brewers for two prospects (C Jacob Nottingham and RP Bubba Derby)
In brief: The A's wanted a more concrete option in left field and the lineup still lacked power. The rebuilding Brewers have a crowded outfield and chose to cash in on Davis. In Oakland, he will play in LF every day and has a shot to hit 30 homers. He has four years of team control remaining, so the price was relatively steep -- Nottingham is a highly regarded hitting prospect and Derby was popular here on AN. However, this was not a short-term move, as Davis could help the A's for years to come.
A's acquire OF/IF Chris Coghlan from Cubs for SP Aaron Brooks
In brief: Much like Lowrie in Houston, Coghlan was forced out of the picture in Chicago when the Cubs re-signed outfielder Dexter Fowler. The A's struck at the opportune moment, and that allowed them to pick up a quality hitter for a relatively bargain price. Brooks could yet be a regular MLB pitcher, whether as a starter or a reliever, but either way his ceiling is probably low. Coghlan is a one-year rental but is currently expected to be in the lineup most days at a variety of positions, at least against right-handed pitchers.
Total: Around $8 million added to the 2016 payroll between these seven trades. That's a lot of moving parts. The A's acquired nearly half their new lineup in these deals (Alonso, Lowrie, Davis, Coghlan). They also picked up some strong relievers to help their bullpen revamp (Hendriks, Rzepczynski), and some minor league pitching depth. In exchange, they gave up one year of Chavez, who was going to be tough to fit on the roster anyway; Lawrie, whom they replaced with Lowrie; a couple bad memories from last year's pen (Pom and Scribbles, replaced by Scrabble and Hendriks); one top prospect (Nottingham); and some minor league pitching depth.
A's sign free agent SPs Rich Hill and Henderson Alvarez
In brief: With the insane price of starting pitching on the open market, Oakland bought low on a couple of injury bounce-backs. The lefty Hill flashed enough promise for Boston at the end of last season to get a guaranteed rotation spot from the A's. The righty Alvarez is a gamble and probably won't be ready for the start of the season, but he's loaded with talent and could turn into a major bargain. Oakland also pursued a reunion with Scott Kazmir, but the lefty ultimately signed with the Dodgers.
A's sign free agent RPs Ryan Madson and John Axford
In brief: Oakland's bullpen was a disaster in 2015, and a major overhaul was necessary. Both of these signings are risky -- Madson is 35 and has a significant injury history, while Axford has been inconsistent throughout his career. Both right-handers required multi-year deals, and neither came cheap. But they both have closing experience, strikeout ability, and plenty of velocity, and they could end up being well worth their premium salaries. The A's needed to add talent to their pen, and they definitely did that.
Total: $21.42 million spent in 2016 on four players, with $4.1 million in possible performance incentives.
Out: Fernando Abad, Dan Otero, Pat Venditte, Ike Davis, Craig Gentry, Arnold Leon, Sean Nolin
In brief: Abad and Otero flopped hard in 2015 after past success in Oakland, while Venditte and Leon didn't do enough to stick around. All were necessary sacrifices to the bullpen revamp. Ike and Gentry both got hurt and lost their spots to younger, cheaper (and better) replacements. Nolin simply lost the numbers game when the A's acquired Davis.
In: Andrew Lambo, Matt McBride
In brief: The A's take a flyer on a couple guys with some power potential. They're worth a look in the spring.
Front office and coaching staff
Billy Beane promoted to Executive VP, David Forst promoted to General Manager
In brief: This is mostly symbolic, and Beane says it reflects the way things were working anyway. The change keeps Forst in the organization rather than losing him to another team's GM job. Billy Owens (Director of Player Personnel) and Dan Feinstein (Pro Scouting and Player Personnel) were also promoted to the role of assistant GM, joining Dan Kantrovitz.
Mark Kotsay added as bench coach, Mike Aldrete moved to first base coach, Tye Waller released
In brief: Shaking things up slightly. I'm not aware of anything negative about Waller, but Kotsay seems like he will make a great first mate for Bob Melvin and he's certainly familiar to (and beloved by) A's fans. Aldrete was the previous bench coach, but he slides over to take Waller's spot at first base. Ron Washington is sticking around as the third base coach, and so are Curt Young (pitching), Darren Bush (hitting), and Scott Emerson (bullpen) among others.
The Current Roster
Here is the 40-man roster and depth chart as things currently stand. The guys at the top of each section are the likeliest bets for the Opening Day roster as things currently stand (until someone gets hurt, etc.). Players in (parentheses) have not yet debuted in MLB. Position players listed as "depth options" will compete for spots this spring, but aren't currently the favorites to make the team. Payroll is around $85 million, give or take a couple million (with around $33 million committed for 2017, and $13 million committed for 2018).
R Sonny Gray
R Henderson Alvarez
(L Sean Manaea)*
L Sean Doolittle
R Ryan Dull
C Stephen Vogt
1B Yonder Alonso
1B/LF Mark Canha
DH Billy Butler
UT Eric Sogard
(1B Rangel Ravelo)
RF Josh Reddick
OF Coco Crisp
OF Sam Fuld
(OF/1B Matt Olson)*
* Not yet on 40-man roster, but could get the call.
^ Doubront is listed as a reliever here but can also start.
Note #1: Pitching prospect Raul Alcantara is also on the 40-man but is not listed here since he only pitched in High-A ball last season.
Note #2: Among on-the-bubble players, Rodriguez, Doubront, and Fuld are all out of minor league options. If they don't make the team Opening Day, they will have to pass through waivers.