Taj's Initial Winter 2017-18 Rosterbation Plan

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day 2018 Roster: Historically, I’ve presented my off-season rosterbation plans with the explanation/rationale at the top, with the actual envisioned roster buried at the bottom. This was a clever way of forcing you to read through 1000+ words of mostly poorly-written drivel; I’ll try something new this off-season and just present the finished roster up-front with that way-too-long explanation below:

SP: Manaea - Graveman - Sabathia - Mengden - Blackburn

RP: Hand - Morrow - Treinen - Hendricks - Casilla - Coulombe - Alcantara

Vs. RHP: Powell (CF) - Joyce (RF) - Lowrie (2B) - Davis (DH) - Olson (1B) - Chapman (3B) - Maxwell (Catcher) - Semien (SS) - Fowler (LF)

Bench: Pinder - Healy - Wendle - Hundley

Vs. LHP: Powell (CF) - Semien (SS) - Lowrie (2B) - Davis (LF) - Healy (DH) - Chapman (3b) - Olson (1B) - Pinder (RF) - Hundley (Catcher)

Bench: Joyce, Wendle, Maxwell, Fowler

As for others you don’t see on this roster, most of them who are under 30 (Cotton, Gossett, Dull, Triggs, Canha, Brugman, Moll) and have options next season, will be sent to AAA for critical depth (with the exception of a few I mention below).


Explanation: Like it seems everyone else around here, the good tidings from the 2nd half youth movement have got me thinking Wild Card all the way in 2018 and perennial division dominance thereafter all the way to Peralta Park Opening Day in 2023...the A’s were a .500 club in the 2nd half, and even though I don’t fully expect Matt Olson to out-slug the planet again over a full season, Lowrie to hit another bajillion doubles or Boog Powell to find every possible hole in the defense consistently, I personally saw enough to state that the core defense and lineup that will take the field in 2018 are both leagues better than we’ve seen in awhile, and the pitching has nowhere to go but up, IMHO (which should offset some expected regression from some offensive performers). With ALL that said, my preliminary off-season plan revolves around roughly four key themes that take advantage of some roster redundancy and payroll flexibility to bring-in some short-term reinforcements where needed, while still hoarding key prospects and giving bulk playing time to the young core:

Add the most to the pitching staff. I really don’t care what MoononMarin or other detractors may say: CC Sabathia would be a perfect addition to the 2018 starting staff. Sifting through the tea leaves from the FO’s end of year press conference, you get the impression that Beane/Forst are looking for a very specific type of available, limited-commitment vet addition to the staff and aren’t looking for just any "token" greybeard. The guy has to be a leader and come without a $100 million price-tag. Well, CC is universally known as a great leader: he’s also a lefty who can still pitch (yes yes, not amazingly or consistently deep into games) but plenty well, would probably perform better than all but 2 or 3 of the A’s current starters who will be ready for the bigs in April 2018 and will likely only require a one or mayyyyybe 2 year deal. On the bullpen side, the team needs at least one, preferably two, late inning options, one of whom should throw from the southside...

Strategically enhance the defense. Basically, this boils down to "DH Khris Davis most days" and liberally substitute better defenders for Lowrie (Wendle) and Joyce (Pinder) late in games. The A’s will likely not have the personnel to resemble the 2016 Cubs on defense, but finding those opportunities to incrementally gain an edge with the leather - even for an inning or two - could provide a nice boost alongside full seasons from defensive upgrades Chapman, Olson, Boog, Fowler and Maxwell.

Avoid platoons if possible. As a fanbase, we’ve fallen in love with the platoon and it’s not hard to understand why. They were used to great, efficient effect at several positions during the 2012-2014 run and they give us all a chance to scour the splits pages at B-Ref/FG and find that random overlooked lefty-masher that "fits perfectly" alongside a counterpart already on the roster. But to me they also represent an overall organizational weakness in developing complete position players. At the very least, I think most of these up and coming position players deserve the opportunity to cut their teeth in full-time, non-platooneed roles, particularly the ones who bring value with their gloves or legs as well - in this bucket I’m putting Chapman, Olson and Boog in particular. Chapman for obvious reasons, but Olson - despite struggling against lefties in the minors - showed in the 2nd half he can put a charge into offerings from lefties on frequent occasion and Boog - as the A’s best defensive CF option - also showed throughout the minors that he could at least get on-base consistently against both RHP and LHP. I’d still employ a few modified platoons, but am not looking to deploy them as consistently or liberally as the A’s have in years past.

Building up quality, flexible depth. The A’s 25-man roster in 2018, pound for pound, might not equal the other AL West teams on paper. But they can plan on having a difficult-to-quantify-but-significantly-important edge on overall 40-man roster depth over their rivals. Getting to that point will require creating some 40-man space by DFA’ing or trading quite a few current rosterees, optioning-down some players who have in the past performed for stretches at the MLB level, and adding a few limited-commitment role players at the MLB level.

So, that’s the strategy, but what are the specific moves that will get this team there, IMHO?

#Tradezzz - most fun up front!

I’d make one significant trade and one minor trade:

1. RHP Jesse Hahn & RHP Frankie Montas to San Diego Padres for LHP Brad Hand.

A’s Side: There’s no doubt that both Hahn and Montas have talent, and Hahn has even translated that talent into a modicum of success at the big league level. But he’s not particularly young, is injury prone, and is out of options next year. Montas - also out of options - is younger, but is also injury prone, is not a starter long-term and hasn’t had success as of yet at the highest level. There is a chance that this is an overpay for two years of a reliever, but to me Hand is a premium talent on his own and if he continues his dominance, could be flipped for a better piece or two down the line after he’s led the A’s bullpen into the 2018 post-season at the very least...

Padres Side: Preller "held his Hand" at the deadline this past season despite a ton of interest and is going to be looking for a quality package to part with him over the winter, even if he comes with less control at this point. The Pads need controllable starting pitching that can help now and Hahn provides that (controlled through 2021) - Hahn is also familiar to San Diego. Preller is also a sucker for big-armed talent and Montas is exactly that type of piece. I’d think that this package might be one of the better ones offered and nicely plugs some long-term holes for the Pads at a reasonable cost.

2. DH Renato Nunez for a low-level flyer

I’ve long been a Nunez skeptic; don’t get me wrong, I take no pleasure in seeing him hit a ton of dongers in a tough home park in AAA and then get virtually no consistent playing time the September before he’s OOO. But I just don’t see a fit for him on this roster that actually makes the team better in 2018 or even 2019. RHH guys who can’t play defense (even at the nominal level of a Davis or Healy), aren’t that great against RHP and really only bring power to the table are pretty limited-use assets: I think the A’s have 2 or 3 better options ahead of Nunez on the depth chart right now and I’d really just rather use his roster spot on someone more versatile...


1. LHP CC Sabathia to a 1-year, $13 million deal, with a mutual option for a second year at $12 million ($1 million buyout)

Yes, this will be an overpay. Yes, there are better options than CC out there. Yes, CC does not consistently go deep into games like he used to. I don’t really care about any of that. 2018 will be another transition year for this club, and the pitching staff (especially the starters) are really missing a visible leader to stabilize them on and off the field. All I’m expecting from CC is what he did in August and September in 2017: go 5-6 IP most of the time, walk very few batters, get some K’s and grounders, set a good example for the young starters, mentor Manaea/Puk and rep the Valley-HO. In terms of money, I think CC will get a slew of 1-year offers in the $10-15 million range. I don’t think the A’s should blow totally past that range to differentiate themselves or even offer a guaranteed 2nd year: rather, I’d structure a deal that provides fair value in 2018, and gives both him and the team some flexibility for 2019. If he performs and likes it back home, both parties can re-up for about the same amount in 2019. If he doesn’t like it for whatever reason or bombs, there’s little standing in the way of an amicable split.

2. RHP Brandon Morrow to a 2-year, $14 million deal

I’ve long believed in Morrow’s talent - plus, his first name is Brandon and that usually equates to a guaranteed two useful years in an A’s uniform. He’s also a Santa Rosa native, Cal alum and beyond all that, flat-out dominated in a bullpen role for the Doyers this past season after making the move to the ‘pen full-on. This is a relatively significant investment in a guy without an extensive track record, but I think he’s a really good fit for this particular team, has relatively minimal mileage on his arm and may come cheaper than more proven options like Addison Reed.

3. C Nick Hundley OR C Chris Ianetta to a 1-year, $2.5 - $5 million deal

I see Hundley and Ianetta as interchangeable here. Both have been plus defenders in the not-too-distant past, respected backstops who should command only a one or maybe two-year commitment and have a track record of hitting lefties well. Here, I’m just looking for a guy who offers a little more on both sides of the game than Phegley or Garneau can, and can mentor Maxwell and provide him a breather every once in awhile...


Total cost of roster is around $75 million - give or take a few million if my arby estimates for Graveman ($3.5 million), Semien ($3 million), Khrush ($10 million) and Hand ($6 million) are adjusted a bit up or down. This would be about $7 million less than the start of 2017 - important, because that’s within the range of the loss of revenue sharing the team will incur between last season and this one (about $8.75 million I believe).

That’s the basic plan, guys. Let me know what you think. In future posts, I intend to look into a few other roster/development considerations.