Chapter 1 - Where do we go from here?
Over a month ago I published my first offseason plan. This will be my last (probably). Why? Because this is it. Everyone else can put down their pens. I've figured it out. Like Mr. Burns' team of monkey ghost writers, I've chained myself to my typewriter, working out the kinks from the first experiment. And like any monkey writer worth his salt, I've gone through many drafts in between to get to this point. It doesn't deviate too much from the last one, but as a wise man once said "It only ends once, anything that happens before that is just progress."
Chapter 2 - Free Agent Signings
Jake McGee (contract guess: 3 years, 22 million)
A lot to like here. He's a San Jose kid. He's lefty and our pen has been barren of quality lefties since we shipped Doolittle. And his average fastball velocity is back over 95mph.
I'm not gonna say I like the contract or the years (I'm giving him Ryan Madson numbers, which I didn't like then either). But that's the state of bullpen contracts these days and there doesn't seem much getting around it.
Jason Vargas (contract guess: 1 year, 11 million)
A lot like the last, not super happy about paying the contract, but it's one year, and we have a small surplus (think a more expensive Rajai deal). Also, how many more wins would we have over the years, if we didn't have to face JV?
As a veteran lefty who could probably teach AJ Puk a few things during spring training, I feel like we'd be paying him 8 million to pitch, 3 million to coach the younger guys. And like McGee, Vargas is a Cali native, and you might see a theme emerge as we keep going here. I'd much prefer CC in this spot, but I'm trying to stay as attached to reality as possible, and I'm worried he's staying with the Yanks no matter what.
Doug Fister (contract guess: 1 year, 7 million plus incentives)
Much like how the contract prediction for McGee harkens back to the Madson deal, I'm gonna revisit the Rich Hill deal for Fister. It was reported that the Hill deal came with a handshake on a "guaranteed rotation spot" and I'd do the same with Fister, and see if that saves us money.
And you guessed it, Fister is a Cali native who pitched for Fresno State. If we can't fill the Coliseum next year with enough fans, player families could easily fill the rest.
I'm intentionally trying to mimic last offseason for reality's sake. Last year we populated our offense with mid-range one year deals (Raj, Plouffe, Rosales), all of whom felt expendable when the time was right. I'm doing the same thing this year with our pitching staff. Puk and Holmes won't be quite ready to make major league contributors to begin the year, but it's very possible they'll show up at some point (like Stan Lee in a marvel movie). At which point we could try to move Vargas or Fister, or let father time sort it out with DL related issues. Either way, it worked for us last offseason, so I don't see why we wouldn't try to go 2 for 2.
Chapter 3 - Trades ("The Sacrifice")
Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will *always* love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.
I'm gonna do some pop culture leap frogging here, but do you remember in Little Big League how Billy's friend keeps telling him he should start Wedman and then in the deciding game he surprises him by finally doing it? Well, Wedman is Kevin Kiermaier and BWH is Billy's freckly faced friend. Because I'm talking Kiermaier (again, I'm retreading here a lot from the last post, but it's only because it's the right move).
Trade Sean Manaea, Ryon Healy, Franklin Barreto, Heath Fillmyer for Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Boxberger, Dan Jennings
The way I break down the feasibility of this deal is this. Manaea, Barreto, and Fillmyer should easily get you KK (who shouldn't be easily gotten). No matter how great he is, we're talking about our best young starting pitcher, fresh off a 2+ WAR season, and controllable for five years. We're also talking our number one prospect, who happens to play 2B - the Rays most glaring offensive hole and who could potentially make up an infield of Longoria, (Willy) Adames, himself, and Healy at 1st. That alone should be about enough in terms of surplus value, so Filllmyer, a midseason rotation candidate for a team who might be trading Odorizzi and Archer sometime soon, would just be icing on a very large cake. That leaves Ryon Healy for two aging bullpen assets (getting expensive in arbitration) as the other half and as equal a no-brainer.
It also saves the Rays nearly ten million dollars. Now, I've deliberately tried to sell this one backwards, so let me play a little defense on why it makes sense for us. Kiermaier is locked up til 2023, a date which should ring a bell with A's fans. But also had he been healthy all year, he might have been top three in MVP voting. It also takes a lot of pressure of a recent knee surgery victim from having to be the savior of our outfield. The biggest negative here is the Coliseum's propensity to bring the seagulls, and how scared of birds Kiermaier seems to be.
Boxberger had an insane end to his season and finished with a 12.27 K/9. I know he's gonna get hurt, he always does, but I'd put him in the closer role. If we're lucky, he stays healthy for four months and he brings us back a top 100 prospect or two back at the deadline. And guess what, yeah, he's a native Californian (Fullerton, but they can't all be perfect). Dan Jennings had the reverse end to his season, where the Rays traded for him and he very quickly became mediocre. I don't think that defines him though (he was exceptional in 2016), and he could be a very useful situational lefty to pair with McGee and Coloumbe. The fact that he was born in Berkeley can't possibly be a factor, could it?
Trade Kendall Graveman, Matt Joyce, Tyler Ramirez, Sheldon Neuse for Kevin Gausman and Austin Hays
Just like the last one, this trade was reverse engineered by looking at the Orioles' needs, which is unanimously, a powerful left-handed hitting outfielder (here's one link out of thousands for reference). That's where Matt Joyce and Tyler Ramirez fits.
As for why Neuse would be appealing: Ryan Mountcastle is currently the O's Machado backup plan at third. But the early reports about his defense are poor ("square peg, round hole"). He doesn't have the arm, and he makes much more sense at 2b (where Schoop is closing in on FA himself). And look, who has more helium at this very second then Neuse? Cash in on that hyrdogen bomb now and grab yourself a gold glove right fielder in Austin Hays to pair with Kiermaier in an outfield that would quickly become best in the league.
(Caption: This announcer's voice makes me want to set myself on fire.)
But Matt Joyce, Tyler Ramirez, and Sheldon Neuse straight up for Austin Hays is a little rich on our end, so let's upgrade our K-man . As I mentioned in The Blueprint, Kendall had his very best start this past year against the Orioles, and hopefully that's still very fresh in their minds. As would hopefully Gausman's very meh year. I'm banking on the 2016 version of Gausman returning by getting him out of the AL East. And like Boxberger, if he puts up four months of quality starting pitching, he could probably net us a couple of top prospects - and hopefully be the last meaningful major league player we trade as the rebuild officially ends and the resurrection begins.
I wouldn't rule getting another minor leaguer back because we're clearly overpaying here. Or maybe just maybe: Hahn, Joyce, Neuse, and Ramirez would be enough. Hahn played at Virigina Tech so there's a small amount of homerism in play there. But for the time being, I'm gonna stick with the deal I know would get it done.
Trade Liam Hendriks, Yerdel Vargas for Yasmani Grandal and Cash
This is very simple. I have no idea what the fuck is gonna happen to Maxwell. But if he stays or goes, this is still a good deal. Yasmani is second to confirmed wizard Tyler Flowers as the best pitch framer in the universe. He's getting increasingly expensive for the Dodgers (7.7 million is his projected arb number). And it seems very likely the Dodgers will move him considering how well Austin Barnes has done at impersonating Grandal as a younger cheaper version.
As for Hendriks, he was legit fantastic the last half of the season and the Dodgers are always looking for bullpen options, so Hendriks seems a great fit. He's not a sexy name, but for a catcher worth 7.7 million and only controlled though 2018, they can expect to be lowballed by other teams, and I think Hendriks (and his near 11 K/9 last year) is a good get. Vargas is a lottery ticket that wouldn't affect the Dodger's 40-man. It's tough to know who they'd want, but I'd happily sub Tovar, Chalmers, Naile, etc for Vargas.
I also really like the idea of guys like Puk and Holmes working with Grandal in spring training, and getting a few more strikes called along the way to build confidence.
Chapter 4 - Loose Ends
Non tender Chris Hatcher and Josh Phegley. Tender everyone else.
I'd happily try to renegotiate a minor league deal with Phegley. And Hatcher, I'd even be fine with a major league deal, but 2.2 million (his projected arb number) seems a little rich when we have guys like Alcantara and Montas who needs bullpen spots or we risk losing them.
Hire Tarrik Brock as first base coach
This was also in the last offseason plan, so I'm not gonna spend too much time on it. But considering how much speed plays a part in our top prospect's games, getting one of the best baserunning coaches in the game seems all too likely.
Also, and I'm reluctant to write this, but after we lost Garvin Alston, our coaching staff is looking a lot, how do I put this, like their DVRs are filled with old episodes of Bones.
Chapter 5 - Something to Sing About
2018 Major League - 25 Man Roster
- Semien - SS (R)
- Kiermaier - CF (L)
- Lowrie - 2B (S)
- Khrush - DH (R)
- Olson - 1B (L)
- Chapman - 3B (R)
- Grandal - C (S)
- Pinder - RF (R)
- Powell - LF (L)
Bench : Nunez, Garneau, Wendle
Bullpen: Boxberger (closer), Treinen, Casilla, Alcantara, Montas, McGee, Jennings, Coulombe
25 Man Payroll ≈ 85 Million (not including whatever cash we could get from Dodgers in Grandal deal)
2018 AAA Lineup
- Mateo - SS (R)
- Fowler - CF (L)
- Hays - RF (R)
- Rosa - DH (L)
- Canha - 1B (R)
- Schrock - 2B (L)
- Munoz - 3B (R)
- Brugman/Smolinski - LF (L/R)
- Taylor - C (L)
Chapter 6 - Conclusions
Well there it is, the final result of a borderline obsession with roster construction for the last 5 months. But I'm ready to cc: Beane and Forst on this. We don't mortgage the future or the present (though, I'll admit the starting pitching is pretty brutal but so was the offense last year to start) in this plan. We pick up another player in Kiermaier to add with Chapman and Olson as cornerstone long-term pieces (3rd base, 1st base, and center field - creating a veritable triangle of greatness - a triforce if you will). Yeah, losing Manaea and Graveman sucks, but if we're being honest neither are probably on the A's come the next decade. And we should be trading Sean Manaea right now while pre-arb young starting pitching is on par with heroin.
I touched on it before, but by trotting out my projected starting rotation I'm not trying to sabotage the team as much as I'm trying to create opportunities for Puk and Holmes to seize.
Not to mention by having Grandal there to guide them along and a potential outfield in the second half of Fowler - Kiermaier- Hays to catch literally any ball hit in the outfield, it's an increased opportunity to succeed.
That, in my opinion, has been the ingredient missing in our pitcher development the last five years. Or it could be bunnies.