The Oakland A’s will probably end up electing to punt on 2016, though they do have time to make a final decision. The actions (or lack thereof) they’ve taken so far indicate they’re not doing anything that will impact 2017 and beyond to try to buttress 2016, like make a trade to acquire a starting pitcher better than Eric Surkamp, but an actual decision to start trading away upcoming free agents is still at least a few weeks away.
After looking at Oakland’s free agents after this year — Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Marc Rzepczynski, and Coco Crisp — on Monday, let’s take a look at Oakland’s free agents after 2017.
Could be valuable
3B Danny Valencia is enjoying a career season, sustaining for a second straight year above-average production against right-handed pitching and advancing his lefty-hitting into the stratosphere. His arbitration platform is the $3.15 million he’s earning now, so he’ll be a bargain for anyone next year if he can come close to this year’s production.
The question with moving Valencia now is who would replace him in 2017 and beyond? Highly-rated prospect Matt Chapman is making a go of it in Double-A Midland, though he’s striking out around one in three times this season, and would probably benefit from going one level at a time. In Triple-A, Ryon Healy is continuing the torrid pace he enjoyed in Double-A, but Renato Nunez has cooled off at the plate lately. Max Muncy is already up at the major league level but has yet to be given a lot of playing time.
There’s a case to be made that RP Fernando Rodriguez should be a setup reliever. At $1,050,000 and without any pesky saves that will drum up his arbitration price, he’d be a valuable addition to any team looking for inexpensive bullpen help this year and next.
Getting RP John Axford out of Colorado was the best thing that could have happened to him, with him enjoying a second straight year of a sub-3.80 FIP but an ERA one-and-a-half runs better. With $5.5 million owed to him in 2017, however, he’s not exactly an inexpensive rental from the A's.
2B Jed Lowrie with at least $15 million left on his deal was worth a pretty good Double-A reliever in the offseason. He’s hitting .306/.355/.367 (102 wRC+), but I don’t think other front offices will see that .367 BABIP as sustainable. The key will be who the A’s think they can replace him with this year, and Arismendy Alcántara has started out in the A’s organization doing some pretty nice things: 3-11, 3B, HR, 3 BB, 5 SO. Chad Pinder, Colin Walsh, and Joey Wendle aren’t hitting well enough to justify a call up just yet.
Won’t get much
INF Eric Sogard is an interesting case. While he continues to rack up service time on the disabled list, and he obtains the right to refuse a minor league assignment on July 19 unless he is activated from the disabled list and optioned to the minor leagues on or before that date. If he stays in the minors, the A’s actually have control over him until 2018, but he’d be out of options after this year.
Sogard could end up getting moved for almost nothing when he comes off the disabled list just because there’s pretty much no place for Sogard to play right now in Triple-A. Nashville has Arismendy Alcántara, Joey Wendle, Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder, Colin Walsh, and Ryon Healy to fill second, third, and short already.
The A's would have to contribute money towards DH/1B Billy Butler’s salary if they can market him as a short-side platoon first baseman. He is good against lefties (.33/.349/.500 (139 wRC+)), but not great. The A’s might just have to be content with the role he does play, which is as one of the four or five best hitters against lefties the A’s have right now.
Since the start of May, 1B Yonder Alonso has hit .284/.354/.362 (101 wRC+), walking 13 times in 130 plate appearances. It’s nice to have a first baseman that can play great defense, but that just means he’s not quite good enough to play a harder position, cameos at third base notwithstanding. He was a borderline non-tender candidate last offseason, and I don’t see a strong trade market developing for him. He’s cheap enough to hang onto this year to make sure the A’s don’t have to call up prospects prematurely, but he’ll be out of here once the A’s make a major call up.
Won’t be traded at the deadline
The A’s will just be happy to have SP Henderson Alvarez back from his second attempt at rehab before the August 1 trade deadline. Until he can show he can continue pitching at the level he enjoyed before his shoulder injury in 2015, he won’t have any tradeable value.
SP Felix Doubront and SP Jarrod Parker are out for the year, and they’ll be facing offseason non-tender decisions as they recover from their respective surgeries.
To wrap up this “if they sell” preview, I’ll next take a look at some of the players who are under team control beyond 2017, such as Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt. But until then, what are the moves the A’s should make with the players headed for the door in the next two years?