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Oakland A’s roster update after flurry of January moves

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Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

For the first two months of the offseason, not much happened with the Oakland A’s. Then, as usual, a whole lot happened all at once. Now that the dust has settled on Oakland’s busy January, let’s take a look at the new state of the roster and depth chart.

40-man roster

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sonny Gray (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Jesse Hahn (R)
Dillon Overton (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)

Relievers

Ryan Madson (R)
Sean Doolittle (L)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
John Axford (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Bobby Wahl (R)
Catchers

Stephen Vogt (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Bruce Maxwell (L)

Infielders

Ryon Healy (R)
Trevor Plouffe (R)
Yonder Alonso (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Renato Nunez (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Joey Wendle (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Marcus Semien (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Yairo Munoz (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Rajai Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Jake Smolinski (R)
Jaycob Brugman (L)

A few thoughts:

  • That outfield section isn’t as shallow as it looks. Remember that two of the infielders (Olson, Canha) are just as likely to find time in the outfield corners as at 1B. Also, the DH spot figures to draw from that infield group, as things currently stand.
  • There are only 4 lefty pitchers and 8 lefty hitters (including switch) on the whole roster.
  • The bullpen is deeper than it looks there, but many options aren’t on the roster yet. That’s something that can be sorted out during the spring. The important thing is the front line is set and there are numerous backups.

Non-roster invites

This is a partial list (23 of 29) of the spring training invites. I’ve removed a bunch of sub-AAA prospects who will only be there to gain experience and not actually compete for an imminent job (Puk, Fillmyer, Cochran-Gill, Murphy, Schrock, and Martin).

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Ross Detwiler (L)
Felix Doubront (L)
Daniel Gossett (R)

Relievers

Michael Brady (R)
Simon Castro (R)
Tucker Healy (R)
Aaron Kurcz (R)
Chris Smith (R)
Josh Smith (R)
Tyler Sturdevant (R)
Cesar Valdez (R)
Catchers

Ryan Lavarnway (R)
Matt McBride (R)

Infielders

Matt Chapman (R)
Jermaine Curtis (R)
Max Muncy (L)
Chris Parmelee (L)
Rangel Ravelo (R)
Josh Rodriguez (R)

Outfielders

Alejandro De Aza (L)
Jaff Decker (L)
Andrew Lambo (L)
Kenny Wilson (R)

Most of those names won’t ever factor into the MLB squad, but a few will. The most likely bets are a couple relievers and an outfielder, plus maybe a catcher or eventually Chapman or Gossett.

Forming a 25-man roster

So how can we shave this group down to 25 in the dugout? There are enough veteran stopgaps present that there’s not too much room for creativity, so I won’t be including most of the prospects; this represents a safe guess, not an ambitious one.

Starters (5): Sonny, Manaea, Graveman, Triggs, Cotton

Relievers (7): Madson, Doolittle, Dull, Hendriks, Casilla, Axford, Alcantara

Catchers (3): Vogt, Phegley, Maxwell

Infielders (6): Healy, Alonso, Lowrie, Wendle, Semien, Plouffe

Outfielders (5): Khris, Rajai, Joyce, Smolinski, De Aza

There’s one obvious problem here: That’s 26 players, We need to make a cut.

You might quibble with Cotton, but there will be a fifth starter. You might disagree with Alcantara, but there will be a seventh reliever; a long man who’s out of options seems like the perfect guess. You can dump Lowrie, but you’ll need to replace him with another middle infielder (Pinder?). Wendle and Smolinski make the most sense as a starting 2B and Joyce’s platoon partner in RF, but again, they represent necessary roster spots even if they aren’t the ones who end up filling them.

That leaves two things. I included three catchers, which is far from a sure thing and is not the norm for most teams. However, the idea is reportedly on the table at least, so it’s not something I just made up. And I added De Aza, as a fifth outfielder, specifically a lefty who can play center (could also be Decker or Brugman).

I think the third catcher and the fifth outfielder make a lot of sense, but that means something’s gotta give. What other position player can the A’s live without? There is really only one answer: Yonder Alonso.

With Healy moved off 3B, preferably to 1B and not DH, there is no need to have a dedicated spare on hand, especially one who doesn’t hit. Keeping a backup for 1B means not having one for another more important position, like CF. And with the third catcher, perhaps Vogt could take some turns at first. Or, use Canha instead of Smolinski and he can back up 1B as well.

With Plouffe at 3B instead of Healy, the concern about young infield throwing arms is lessened, which had been one of the main arguments in favor of Alonso. He already didn’t make a whole lot of sense on the roster even before Plouffe came on board, and now he’s actively gumming up the gears.

Much of Athletics Nation was confused by the team’s choice to retain Alonso, so suggesting he should go isn’t a tough sell. But now it’s not just because he had an off-year in 2016; he’s also in the way of the best possible roster in 2017, even before any more top prospects start coming up looking for at-bats.

Depth Chart

Finally, here is the new depth chart. A reminder about how to read this chart:

  • The top section is supposed to be the 25-man roster, but I’ve only got 20 guys up there for now. Those are the established MLB guys. Directly below them, you’ll find everyone else who has at least debuted in MLB but is still fighting for a spot on the big club.
  • Players below the cutline who have an asterisk* are on the 40-man roster.
  • Players in bold are my personal Top 13 prospects (plus Mengden, who graduated).
  • Many of the minor leaguers got late-season promotions. For the most part, I listed them at the level they moved up to, especially if my impression is that they’ll stick there to begin 2017. There will be others who move up next spring, but these particular ones already did so.
  • Players in strikethrough have been DFA’d but not yet resolved. We don’t know if they’ll get claimed or stay here in Oakland (or Triple-A Nashville).