What struck me most about the A’s at this deadline was not that the club sold their obvious trade targets, Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Rather, the A’s declined, at least at this point, to move players with some minimum value that were hogging salary and space on the active roster.
Here’s a look at how I see the roster next year for the folks I’m fairly certain will be on the active roster until they reach free agency. It's just a guess, and probably on the high side for arbitration raises:
|Oakland A's 25-man and contracted players payroll projection|
|Position Players||Coco Crisp||Buyout||Contract|
|Jed Lowrie||$6,500,000||Buyout ($6M team)||Contract|
|Pre-arb Position players||$2,575,000||$4,702,500||$4,770,000|
|Sean Doolittle||$2,630,000||$4,350,000||Buyout ($6M team)||Contract|
|Coco Crisp (Buyout)||$750,000|
|Jed Lowrie (Buyout)||$1,000,000|
|Sean Doolittle (Buyout)||$500,000|
A’s general manager David Forst said today that shrinking payroll wasn’t really a mandate at the deadline this year, an intriguing feat for a club on their way to drawing under 20,000 per home game in a season for the first time since 2011. They might want some more room to maneuver in the 2016 offseason, but there are going to be quite a few strategic decisions to be made after the World Series if the A's are going to end up around the $80-90 million mark typical of the last few opening days.
Out with the old, in with the new?
There are a number of flaws with the veteran players on this club, and I’ve noted my feelings on the players with the A’s now who I think won’t be on the A’s next postseason roster.
With a full 40-man roster, including nine players on the 60-day disabled list, there will be quite a bit of roster turnover by the end of the season. On top of that, there’s now a large crop of players that need protection from the 2016 Rule 5 draft, including Chad Pinder, Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman, Franklin Barreto, and Yairo Munoz. Fourteen players on the current 40-man roster and 60-day disabled list will have to come off to accommodate all five prospects.
The A’s probably won’t find savings from trading Billy Butler; the effort to move his contract has long been a lost cause and protecting him as a right-handed platoon hitter is the best the A’s can do for now. Jed Lowrie will earn $6.5 million next year and a $1 million buyout after that, but Lowrie’s hitting these days is closer to what Eric Sogard has done the last couple of years and without the pretty good glove.
The A’s might be inclined to move Yonder Alonso in the offseason, though he’s set for an arbitration raise on his $2.6 million deal for 2016. Defensive metrics might be underrating what he’s able to accomplish as a first baseman, but it’s hard to see any team retain a .346 slugging first baseman for seven figures next year. Heck, if his bat gets any worse he could be a non-tender candidate after 2016.
Reduced playing time for Danny Valencia after a terrible defensive showing at third base could also make the A’s inclined to move him for whatever the A’s can get after no team made an interesting offer for him at this year’s trade deadline.
So Lowrie, Alonso, and Valencia will account for around $16.5 million, give or take for arbitration, and open the door for $35 million in new spending to settle in at another year of around $85 million. You might have to spend some of that money getting rid of Lowrie and Valencia, though the A's could just non-tender Valencia if it comes to that.
A smorgasbord of pitchers to paper over weakness
While youthful, the A’s now have a lot of starting pitching talent. This sets them up well to avoid the expense of a free agent market devoid of reliably good starting pitching and could make for some interesting moves at the Winter Meetings to shore up weak points.
And there are certainly weak points. The A’s must find an everyday center fielder and a left-handed batting right fielder who can platoon with Jake Smolinski. Brett Eibner certainly has experience in center field, but whether he’ll be good is an entirely different story. The switch-hitting Colin Walsh is getting time in left field after returning from Milwaukee, as well.
At second base, the A’s have a number of minor league options to choose from, including Walsh, though the preseason top prospects in Nashville have faltered at the plate, too. In Midland, Franklin Barreto has recovered from an awful April and May to hit .333/.402/.541 with five home runs in 180 plate appearances in June and July.
The A’s will try Ryon Healy at at least one of the corners for a while, but hopes for Matt Olson or Renato Nunez to join him in Oakland have been dashed by each of their hitting performances. Dreams of Matt Chapman continue to dance in my head, but — despite 24 Double-A home runs in 441 plate appearances — that 30 percent strikeout rate gives me pause about a quick promotion.
Pretty soon, with Coco Crisp’s imminent departure (really, they’re not going to let that option vest, come on) and Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard soon to be passed up by younger, more promising infielders, there won’t be anyone left from the 2012 club. So it’s time for the A’s to try to surprise once again. I haven’t a clue what the team will look like after the Winter Meetings, so I’m looking forward to meeting the next set of fan favorites.