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Just One More Win?

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox
Are the Oakland A’s just one or two moves away from contention?
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday Eno Sarris wrote an encouraging piece over at Fangraphs suggesting that the Oakland A’s are one of a few teams that could benefit the most from “that next win.”

I hope you read the article because it isn’t long and I don’t want to steal attention from the author. Basically the A’s are approaching the win threshold in which their playoff chances jump significantly — 85 wins might be what it takes to see October baseball in Oakland. Steamer and Depth Charts project the A’s for just about 80 wins. Sarris recaps recent A’s signings that presented as much risk as they did reward and how that kind of thinking is what can set them apart again this year.

I’ve already submitted my 2018 offseason plan and there areas in which I’m right and ones in which I’m wrong. I wanted to tackle the question of imaginary roster moves from less of a “what would I do” angle and from more of the “what actually makes sense” angle.

Yearly Fangraphs puts together a fantastic Free Agent Tracker tool to which I turned for helping identify those players that might be the extra win (or five) the A’s need to return to prominence. In thinking that risk will play a key role once again in the A’s player acquisition strategy I looked at 5 free agents whose 2018 projections fall short of their 2017 production and therefore present the greatest risk/reward scenario.

What do the A’s need Most?

Athletics Nation seems mostly in agreement that the two biggest team needs are on the mound in the form of both starting and relief pitchers. And the team has suggested that a right-handed corner outfielder is on their shopping list. With that in mind here is my shopping list:

1 left-handed starter

1 right-handed starter

1 left-handed reliever

1 right-handed reliever

1 right-handed corner outfielder who can handle centerfield if needed.

The Results

These options arent suggestions as much as they are the result of systematically reviewing the options readily available.

Here they are:

Jhoulys Chacin

2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2.3 0 2.3

I’ve seen Jhoulys Chacin's name floated out a couple of times this fall and I haven’t once thought that signing him is a bad idea as much as it would be uninspiring. Chacin has been around for several years without ever really putting up stellar numbers. His time with the Rockies was well spent as he put up nearly 10 fWAR in nearly six-seasons worth of work, but since 2015 he’s bounced around 5 different organizations. He eats his fair share of innings but overall his numbers are pedestrian. In San Diego in 2017 he was worth just north of 2 wins thanks to a 3.89 ERA/4.26 FIP.

Chacin is a risk due to the fact that he hasn’t ever been a great starter and may be closer to the fringe major leaguer he was from 2014 to 2016 than a league-average arm.

2.

Mike Minor

2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2.5 0.1 1.4

Mike Minor is a name that Sarris referenced specifically in his article above, and for good reason. Minor, formerly a highly-regarded prospect, has a history of MLB success, but just doesn’t have “it“ anymore as a starter. In fact Minor hadn’t pitched in MLB since 2014. The transition to relieving treated Minor well, however. He posted career highs nearly across the board thanks to the uptick in velocity (4 MPH over previous career-high) due to throwing shorter stints.

Minor is risky simply because he only has one year of relief pitching on his resume. He has the potential to be a high-reward signing because that one year as a reliever yielded elite results.

3.

Pat Neshek

2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2.1 0.3 1.8

The A’s are familiar with Pat Neshek and he has built a decent 11-year career in MLB. 2017 was far and away his best MLB season, however. There is risk in his age and volatility. Neshek has surpassed 1 fWAR as many times as he’s posted negative fWAR marks, which is twice.

4.

Carlos Gomez

2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2.3 1.1 1.2

I have lobbied for Gomez on Athletics Nation before and I still stand behind my initial position. Carlos Gomez, again, makes sense because he checks a couple boxes for the A’s shopping list: right-handed hitter and corner outfielder who can play center. Gomez was a really good, even borderline elite, player from 2011 through 2015 before injuries took over 2016. He bounced back nicely in 2017 with 2.3 fWAR in just 105 games. He approached career-highs in many areas, including ISO and wOBA all while keeping his BB/K numbers in line.

Gomez is risky because he also doesn’t have age on his side, but health has also become his enemy in recent seasons. But when healthy and on the field Gomez has a collection of skills that make him a plus all over the field.

5.

Jason Vargas

2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
2017 fWAR 2018 Proj. Differential
1.6 1.2 0.4

Like Chacin, Jason Vargas has sprinkled a handful of really good seasons throughout his career. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, nor does he limit baserunners enough to give confidence to any team fielding a bad defense. But the A’s have a much-improved infield defense and a home stadium that is friendly to fly balls - both good things for Vargas — as he has a career GB/FB rate of 0.89.

The risk in bringing Vargas aboard really only lies in health. If he is on the mound he’ll pitch 6 or 7 innings most nights.

Conclusion

I’m curious to see what else the Oakland front office has in store this winter. Will they acquire a big bat such as Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich? Or are tjey merely window shopping in an attempt to drive up the prices for other buyers.

Will they look to add a veteran arm or two, or will they gove the young arms they already have another chance?

Who are you risk/reward acquisitions that you’d like to see Oakland make this year?