The 2018 Oakland A’s will be a unique team I believe. There really isn’t anywhere for them to go but up. Between the exciting young position players and the steadily improving rotati-- who am I kidding, the rotation is a disaster. The bullpen could use some work as well. In fact, the starting lineup is about the only area of strength the team has and the defense should be much better in 2018 than it has been in a long time.
Here is my plan for the 2018 oakland A’s roster, including steps to bring this team closer to contention without sacrificing much of the current crop of exciting young players.
First, the arbitration eligible players: Easy decisions.
- Khris Davis - $11.1 million - Tender.
- Marcus Semien - $3.2 million - Tender
- Kendall Graveman - $2.6 million - Tender
- Blake Treinen - $2.3 million - Tender
- Liam Hendriks - $1.9 million - Tender
- Chris Hatcher - $2.2 million - Non-tender
- Josh Phegley - $1.1 million - Non-tender
- Jake Smolinski - $700k - Non-tender
Second, the trades: Ryon Healy was traded as I was writing this, so actually there’s just one.
- Daniel Gossett, SP, Jorge Mateo, SS, Grant Holmes, RHP, and Alexander Campos, SS to Miami for Marcell Ozuna, OF
Strangely the A’s are chock-full of quality prospects, especially position players. Sending an MLB-ready pitcher and two organizational top-10 prospects might seem extreme, but Ozuna is a spectacular player on both sides of the baseball (also I have an irrational love for this guy).
Ozuna has hit pretty much everywhere he has played, and with the exception of 2014, has only gotten better as major leaguer. For being a power hitter Ozuna doesn’t strike out a ton either, and has drawn more and more walks as time has gone by. He hits the ball really hard with consistency and usually up the middle. There is a lot to like about his offensive profile.
Defensively he’s fresh off his first Gold Glove award, which typically doesn’t mean much. In Ozuna’s case, however it points out that he’s quietly been a very good defender. Among outfielders with at least 4500 innings since 2014, Ozuna’s 11 DRS and 1.3 UZR/150 rank 6th in baseball. As a centerfielder Ozuna is solid, if unspectacular, but he grades excellently as a corner outfielder.
In my opinion he is exactly what Oakland needs for the two years he remains under contract. Also he does this, a lot:
Third, free agent signings: Oakland has roughly $40mm of available funds - let’s spend it on pitching!
The A’s were in the bottom half of the league in innings pitched by starting pitchers and starters ERA. The Oakland bullpen was in the top half of the league in innings pitched, but also in the bottom half in ERA. Few good innings were thrown by A’s starters and a lot of bad innings were thrown by A’s relievers.
- Anibal Sanchez, SP - 1-year/$6mm + team option for 2019 (comparable to what RA Dickey, Tyson Ross, and Derek Holland received last offseason)
- Sanchez has turned in three-straight bad seasons.
- Sanchez is heading into his age-34 season.
- Sanchez’s velocity has dipped each year since 2013.
- As a result of being bad and old, Sanchez will likely be cheap.
- He has a history of being a mid-rotation starter, or better.
- As a starter last year his SIERA was 4.10, his xFIP was 4.18 and he struck out nearly a batter per inning.
2. CC Sabathia, SP - 2-years/$15mm (comparable to what Jason Hammel received last offseason)
Sabathia is no longer an ace, obviously. However, since he has turned his personal life around he’s had been quite good on the mound each of the past two years. Signing him means a strong veteran presence for a young staff, as well as a local draw due to Sabathia’s being a Vallejo native.
It is a strong bet that the A’s should net somewhere between 275-300 innings from Sanchez and Sabathia in the middle of their rotation.
3. Lance Lynn, SP - 5-years/$70mm (comparable to what Ian Kennedy received in 2015)
In a down year after returning from Tommy John surgery Lynn threw 186 innings with a 3.43 ERA. His peripherals were down compared to his 2012-2015 results, but that is to be expected after a major repair such as TJS.
When healthy Lynn has the talent to strike out nearly a batter per inning and limit home runs, as evidenced by his 22.6% K-rate and 0.67 HR/9 prior to 2016.
From ‘12-’15 Lynn never threw less than 175 innings or made less than 29 starts. He will and stability and quality to a rotation that severely needs to eat innings for this team to move forward.
4. Tommy Hunter, RP - 2-years/$11mm (Comparable to what Daniel Hudson received last offseason)
I’ve been a fan of Tommy Hunter for a few years now as he’s been consistently a solid middle relief arm. The best part is that he’s coming off a stellar 2017 campaign in which he posted career-highs in strikeout-rate and ERA, but he isn’t quite yet a name brand arm that would net a large commitment.
5. Jorge De La Rosa, RP - 1-year/$2mm (Comparable to what Brian Duensing and JP Howell received last offseason)
De La Rosa was signed to a minor league deal a year ago and proved he deserves a roster spot as a reliever. He was terrific versus lefties (20.3% K-BB, 0.90 WHIP, 2.71 FIP) and would fill in nicely for a lefty-specialist in 2018.
6. Alex Avila, C - 2-years/$12.5mm (comparable to what Wilson Ramos received last offseason)
There really aren’t very many suitable options at catcher that would be positive acquisitions for Oakland - Avila is the only one. He experienced a revival last season with Detroit and put together his second-best season yet. Amazingly Avila is still only entering his age-31 season, so there may be more left where 2017 came from.
The team continues to back Bruce Maxwell as their catcher for 2018. While I don’t totally buy that, there isn’t much information with which to argue otherwise. Maxwell’s decision to kneel for the Star Spangled banner took some amount of courage, and I think he handled that situation about as well as anyone could have. However, I wholeheartedly believe it is bad and wrong to point guns at point, let alone innocent people and for this exercise Maxwell is not my catcher.
Lastly, the roster breakdown: ~$100mm payroll.
These roster moves bring the A’s up to a little more than where they typically are financially, but provide several avenues for success. Either this team surprises and remains competitive all year long, or the veterans get shipped out for more prospects, or this team stands still and it didn’t cost much to give the whole winning thing a shot.
A rotation headlined by Lynn and Sean Manaea, followed by Kendall Graveman, Sabathia, and Sanchez, with Jharel Cotton and Daniel Mengden continuing to develop in triple-A isn’t going to break any records. What that staff will do, however, is keep Oakland in most games and give way to the improved bullpen.
Speaking of improved bullpen, Blake Treinen and Liam Hendriks have proven they can be solid mid-to-late inning arms. They are now joined by Emilio Pagan, Tommy Hunter, and Jorge De La Rosa to form a quality gap from the starters to the late innings.
Between Khris Davis, Marcus Semien, and the Matts Olson, Chapman, and Joyce this lineup has more than enough power. Ozuna only adds to the authority with which this team can hit the baseball, but he will help stabilize the outfield defense as well.
Joyce, Lowrie, Ozuna, Davis, Olson, Chapman, Avila, Fowler, Semien
Semien, Chapman, Ozuna, Davis, Olson, Lowrie, Pinder, Fowler, Garneau
Lynn, Manaea, Graveman, Sabathia, Sanchez
Treinen, Hendriks, Pagan, Hunter, Dull, Casilla, De la Rosa
Okay, let me have it.