A PLAN WITH A CHOICE
This plan is a plan with a choice. One big choice. This plan will be presented with an ideal centerpiece: sign Lorenzo Cain to play a leadership role in the A’s franchise (not just team), taking the next step into high level competition, relevancy and a “new era”. Not many players can handle this leadership weight. But I believe Lorenzo Cain is the type of player, character and leader who CAN be that catalyst to help a franchise like the Oakland Athletics change trajectory in a Bay Area marketplace that values boldness and splash investment from its business enterprises and its sports franchises.
However, I am also a realist and know that we have yet to see the A’s ownership and top, top level leadership make that game-changing, needle-moving personnel decision. So I left a single “out” in the plan. The “poor man’s version” if you will (and we usually will, but do we have to always?) And it only changes one move: subbing Austin Jackson in place for Cain. It is still viable with this substitution, but not the franchise game changer the Cain move would be.
In the GAME CHANGER version, the A’s ownership proves to the Bay Area marketplace that they are in it to win, and the payroll bumps up to $96 million. In the Poor Man’s version (remember, just one different move), the payroll stays at its median estimate of just under $85 million. ONE CHOICE. (yes, I know Lorenzo has a say in all this, but let’s have some fun, and, let me ask, do we have a closer in the organization?). A’s have money to spend and a strong young core that in many ways resembles the Royals of a few years back. Surely we have a salesman?
OK, let’s get to it...
First off, ARBY’S:
Khris Davis - $11.1 million TENDER
Marcus Semien - $3.2 million TENDER
Kendall Graveman - $2.6 million TENDER
Blake Treinen - $2.3 million TENDER
Chris Hatcher - $2.2 million, tender and trade
Liam Hendriks - $1.9 million, tender and trade
Josh Phegley - $1.1 million, it’s been fun
Jake Smolinski - $700k, it’s been fun
Just two moves on the free agent front, my friends:
GAME CHANGER EDITION (GCE): Sign OF Lorenzo Cain for 4 years $72 million. Plug him in at CF, atop the lineup, and in a captain’s chair in the clubhouse. I will pick him up at Oakland International to head to the press conference. Everyone will be REALLY shocked and intrigued at the A’s splash. And it COSTS NO PROSPECTS. Just the 3rd pick the A’s have (probably somewhere in the late-70s of the 2018 draft). Did I say I would pick him up at the air port? DO IT
(Poor Man’s Edition (PME): Sign OF Austin Jackson for 2 years $12 million. He can do his best Cain impersonation and play a little more of a platoon role. Yes, I have been an A’s fan a long time, I know my realistic expectations are probably closer here, but LET’S DREAM BIG, we have a stadium to build and a market to conquer - arrow pointing your eyes back up to the GCE).
Signing #2: LHRP Jake McGee, 3 years $18 million. Bay Area guy, late inning lefty, fills a big, big need, did I say he’s a lefty? Sign him up!
OK I am not going to go as wild as our good friends who ran the A’s live sim (check out the cool project here), but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help our GCE or PME plans put us in the cat bird seat to compete, without selling the farm and without throwing off the young percolating core.
My goal in trades is ALWAYS to find the path of least resistance. And find mutually beneficial fits. I tried to do this.
Trade 1: SHARKNADO
To the Oakland Athletics: RHSP Jeff Samardzija (yes I even have the spelling memorized), RHRP Hunter Strickland, $2 mil in 2019 and 2020.
To the San Franciso Giants: 1B/3B Ryon Healy, SP Prospect Logan Shore, OF Prospect Tyler Ramirez, RHRP Santiago Casilla.
Eno Sarris wrote an interesting piece on Ryon Healy’s trade value (here). It may be higher than you think. And this return is not really a bonanza when you factor in economics. Which is why it works.
The Giants have been burned by long term SP contracts (Cain, Zito, Lincecum, we’ll see what happens with Cueto, Melancon looks bad). They REALLY don’t want another one. This gets that fear factor off their books, his deal is risky folks and is part of why this deal happens. But if he’s right, he’s good. Strickland, meanwhile, is also pretty darn good. But he has caused waves in the Giants locker room and had the ugly Harper incident last year. He fits better in the A’s pen than the Giants.
The A’s move Healy, who has the upside to be very good, and helps fill the MASSIVE POWER DROUGHT the Giants have been facing. Braves part time catcher Kurt Suzuki had more HRs than any Giant last year. That’s... sad. Healy brings 25+ HR ability on a minimum contract. He can play 1B and bump Belt out to left, or slot in at 3B and bring more bat with less D. But he can help the Giants and their ungodly power drought.
Shore and Ramirez are good solid prospects and the Giants REALLY need good solid prospects. They need those almost as badly as they need power.
Casilla was a stud for years for the Giants and can bring back some WS memories to their fans and play a 6th or 7th inning role where he fits. For the A’s, it is moving Casilla and it balances some of the money in 2018.
This all makes sense. Beane and Sabean (and/or Forst and Evans) should hug it out one time and do this deal.
A’s get Shark back, and we’re on his “Yes you can trade me there!” list. How often does that happen? You know fans would love having him back. Slot him back in with Manaea and Graveman and let him eat some innings. This would also be a plus as a follow on deal with the Cain move. Market would be buzzing. GCE would be lit, my friends.
Trade 2: MARLINADO
(No this is not the exciting OF trade you may have hoped for, WE ALREADY GOT CAIN PEOPLE!)
To the Oakland Athletics: RHRP Kyle Barraclough (no, I don’t have the spelling memorized), RHRP Brad Ziegler, $4 mil of Ziegler’s $9 mil 2017 salary.
To the Florida Marlins: RHSP Jesse Hahn, RHRP Chris Hatcher, RHP Frankie Montas.
The Marlins need to do two things this offseason: shed money and get pitching help. Those are two hard things to do at once without destroying your actual team, and the Marlins appear to want to compete even while shedding money. And, frankly, I think they still can.
This deal gets them two high upside young arms and actually sheds several million in payroll. This may be an overpay on the A’s side actually, but I think the A’s have to sell a bit low (unfortunately) on both Hahn and Montas. Hatcher replaces some of what the Marlins lose in their pen and the savings from Ziegler easily covers his $2 mil and change arb figure.
The A’s get a couple nice bullpen pieces. Ziegler is way overpaid, but he is a guy who has had some nice success at times, he’s a former A, and he should be a nice mentor in the bullpen and clubhouse. Barraclough is the real get as a potential late inning guy with 4 years of control. This is why the A’s take on the money and move the high upside young pitchers. I think this deal is a serious win for the Marlins and a “slight win that you have to take” for the A’s. So, DO IT.
Trade 3: ARENADO
Trade 3: Really This Time
To the Oakland Athletics: C Yasmani Grandal.
To the Los Angeles Dodgers: RHRP Liam Hendriks, $1 million in international bonus pool money.
This may be light, but hear me out. The Dodgers have a MASSIVE PAYROLL and their luxury tax is only going up. They also have some big FAs in the bullpen this offseason who are going to get paid. I am sure they love to spend money (no they don’t but they sure seem to not care much), but they don’t want to burn money on luxury tax bills if they don’t have to. There is a limited market for catcher buyers this offseason, the Dodgers already passed the torch to Austin Barnes, and Grandal is not a guy who is going to accept a backup role in a contract year. He wants to play every day, which I love in a catcher. He helps our pitchers. He pushes out this odd catcher situation one year (yeah just one year, but we can’t solve all of the world’s long term problems in one offseason folks).
Dodgers save Grandal’s estimated $7.7 mil in his final arb year, plus all the multipliers on that with luxury tax. And Hendriks provides them a guy who, really, I think they would end up turning into their 8th inning guy. And he is cheap ($1.9 mil arb projection) and has another year of control. I believe Hendriks would benefit a HUGE amount from pitching with Kenley Jansen. Like, Jansen is who he should try to be the least poor, poor man’s version possible. It would actually scare me a little to see Hendriks over there, as I think the Dodgers would turn him into an elite guy. It would not surprise me in the least.
So while this trade may look a little disorienting, I think it makes a massive amount of sense. And Beane/Forst and Farhan can all have a group hug. If the Dodgers want Phegley as a cheap backup, good clubhouse guy with options left, toss him in. That actually might make a ton of sense.
WE HAVE ARRIVED
Guys, this team is really good. Maybe (maybe) light on starting pitching, but deep in starting pitching. And Puk (potential ace) and Holmes (potential good #3) are JUUUUST around the corner to bring TOR type reinforcement. This team competes now, opens eyeballs throughout the Bay Area and beyond, and does not blow any holes in our farm system.
Fowler LF (or Powell if Fowler needs more rehab time)
Bench: Garneau, Pinder, Nuñez
Grandal C (mix in Garneau some days vs LHP to give Grandal a rest)
Bench: Garneau, Fowler, Joyce
Best two in ST of Mengden, Cotton, Blackburn (competition is good)
(maybe bring in another vet on a cheap deal to compete)
RP (I love this pen and yes it is 8 men, get used to it)
I love this pen, it is a weaponized pen. Maybe the closer role is a little weak, but I liked what I saw from Treinen and every other spot is good and lots of team control.
WHAT WE DIDN’T DO
We didn’t trade from our top flight of prospects. Our future remains brighter.
WHAT WE DID DO
In the GCE, we changed the game. Took a little risk on the money side, but that is what billion dollar playthings are for. Friends, we’re a toy of a multi-billionaire. And the A’s have been profitable for years (dividend checks...) and have only surged in total asset value. I get it, these guys don’t need to operate in the red, and I wouldn’t ask that. But going to a $95 mil payroll is not going to wipe out John Fisher.
The enthusiasm in the market and fanbase over Cain, Shark and the other additions combined with our young core, would probably spill into the Coliseum and cover a lot of the delta via increased eyeballs on the product. And, frankly, $95 mil is still on the shallow end of the MLB. Let’s roll a game changer edition out. Look at how much brighter a $10 mil difference in payroll makes the organization shine.
And, putting my “Realistic Long Term A’s Fan” hat on, if we do go with the Poor Man’s Edition, and you plug Jackson in for Cain, it all still looks pretty good. I’d still be totally on board with it. But it wouldn’t be quite the game changer.
So with that I hope you got some enjoyment out of my plan with a choice. This is always a fun fantasy exercise folks, I appreciate everyone who writes their plan and I read every one. I hope we can look at what the A’s decision makers actually do and have a party about it. And HOPEFULLY A PARADE IN OAKLAND SOMEDAY SOON. Think about the A’s being the toast of The Town. It would be a beautiful thing. It is coming, let’s get it done!