After three long rebuild years, Oakland’s window is finally opening up. Let’s make that happen.
Arbitration Eligible players
• 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 (non-tender)
• Liam Hendriks - $1.9 million (tender)
• Josh Phegley - $1.1 million (non-tender)
• Jake Smolinski - $700k (non-tender)
Fairly standard here. Hatcher is a live arm, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for the A’s to pick up a younger, cheaper reliever with similar stuff either in a trade or off of waivers. Smolinski simply no longer has a place on the roster, and although I have been a fan of Phegley in the past, I prefer Garneau’s glove, relative durability, and his one minor league option remaining.
C Alex Avila: Two years, $14 million
With Bruce Maxwell’s 2018 status looking murky at best, the A’s need a new starting catcher. Luckily, there are plenty of veteran options available in free agency. My personal favorite is Avila. Not only is he a left-handed hitter, but he has always been an above average defensive catcher that takes plenty of walks. He is coming off a very solid 2017 season, in which he placed second in all of baseball in Hard Hit % behind only J.D. Martinez (min. 400 PAs). Avila will strike out a lot, but he has always been a reliable source of OBP, power, and defense.
RHP Chris Tillman: One year, $5 million
Chris Tillman would probably like a do-over on his 2017 season. A mainstay in the Orioles’ rotation since 2013, he began the season with shoulder soreness, and ended it with a 7.84 ERA. Yuck. I’m willing to bet on a bounceback. For me, at least, it is hard to believe the consistent, 30+ start, mid-rotation pitcher Tillman once was has suddenly dropped off the face of the Earth. I don’t expect the world from him, but 20+ league average starts would go a long way to help the A’s young rotation.
LHP Jake McGee: Three years, $21 million
I’m a huge McGee fan, and I have been since he was lights-out for Tampa Bay in 2012. The lefty throws gas, and would fill what I believe to be an overlooked hole on the current A’s roster: a reliable bullpen lefty. I don’t have a problem with Daniel Coulombe, but if Robinson Cano or Nomar Mazara is up to bat with the game on the line, I’d much rather go to McGee.
Alllllll of the minor league deals
I think the A’s could really benefit from the Minnesota Twins’ approach as of late. They have found success lately in minor league deals for veteran relievers. I won’t specify any names here, because it could be literally anyone, but taking fliers on a handful of arms to try and find the next Brandon Kintzler would be a wise move.
A’s send SS/2B Franklin Barreto, LHP Jesus Luzardo, RHP Oscar Tovar and INF/OF Yairo Munoz to the Miami Marlins for OF Christian Yelich and RHP Drew Steckenrider
I’m not playing around here. Words cannot begin to describe my love for Christian Yelich, but in a nutshell: the left-handed hitter is an all-around offensive presence with above average power, speed, contact, and discipline that plays an average center field and has been worth 9 fWAR over the past two seasons. Oh, yeah, and he’s not even 26 yet, and is locked up for the next 4-5 years on an incredibly team-friendly deal. This contract guarantees him only $44.5 million over the next four years, with a $15 million team option for the next year. Considering the A’s have exactly $0 in salary obligations beyond 2018 (not including free agents signed above), this amount keeps them financially sound for the future.
Yelich is also a prime candidate for a slight swing tweak, a la Yonder Alonso. If he could raise his launch angle and get just a bit more loft on the ball, he could become even more of a monster. But even as is, he is an incredibly talented player.
Steckenrider, 26, has a live arm out of the bullpen that allows him to miss a lot of bats. His control is still a work in progress, but he could be a gem as well. He effectively replaces Hatcher as one of the top righties out of the pen. I chose him over Kyle Barraclough based mainly on salary and team control, but I wouldn’t be opposed to including Barraclough instead.
As for the price…yes, it stings. It’s supposed to, if you’re trading for a bonafide superstar. Barreto and Luzardo could easily blossom into stars themselves down the road, and Tovar and Munoz could become Major League regulars themselves, but it’s the risk you have to take to acquire a talent like Yelich. Each prospect has their flaws – for Barreto and Munoz, plate discipline, and for Luzardo and Tovar, distance from the majors – that could easily be their downfalls and make this deal lopsided for Oakland. But this move would help restock a much depleted Miami farm while also removing a sizeable contract from their payroll.
A’s send 1B Ryon Healy and RHP Logan Shore to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF Stephen Piscotty
Piscotty is a popular target this offseason, and for good reason. The Pleasanton native has always had a nice swing and a line drive approach. However, he struggled in 2017 and appears to be the odd man out of a crowded St. Louis outfield. He is also signed to an incredibly team friendly deal, as he is owed only $29.4 million over the next five seasons, with a $15 million option for a sixth. He dealt with many off-the-field issues in 2017, including his mother’s ALS diagnosis, and a return home to the Bay Area could be beneficial to him both on and off the field.
The Cardinals could use some power, having placed 18th in baseball in home runs and ISO in 2017, and Healy gives the team some thump. He could start at first against lefties and be a solid bench option against righties, or could even be optioned. Shore provides them with another young arm that could rise quickly to add to an already deep farm system. All in all, a solid return for a risky player in Piscotty who comes with plenty of upside, but also almost $30 million of risk.
A’s send somebody kind of mediocre to the Philadelphia Phillies for C Cameron Rupp
I’ve always liked Rupp, but his days in Philadelphia may be over. Young backstops Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp are the team’s future, and Rupp could even find himself being non-tendered. The 29 year-old is a consistently solid defender behind the plate with some pop. As a right-handed hitter, he makes a perfect complement to Avila, and I don’t see any reason for him to cost much to acquire. He will make approximately $2.1 million in his first year of arbitration (or could be had cheaper if he is non-tendered).
A’s send RHPs Ryan Dull, Frankie Montas and Brett Graves to the Houston Astros for RHP Collin McHugh
I’m honestly not sure if this is a fair trade because I have no idea how the Astros will value McHugh. He was the odd man out of their rotation in the postseason after being limited to 12 regular season starts due to an elbow injury. This might be prime time to buy low on McHugh, however, because he looked just like his former mid-rotation self during those 12 starts. He will be owed approximately $4.8 million in arbitration and would be under team control through 2019.
The Astros’ only notable weakness at this point is their bullpen, and this trade gives them two potential upgrades (as well as a prospect). Dull wasn’t himself in 2017, but if he can find his 2016 form again then he will be a perfect replacement for Luke Gregerson in Houston’s ‘pen. Montas, out of options, will always be enticing with his triple-digits fastball. For him, it’s just a matter of whether he can keep the ball in the zone and in the ballpark. Graves has stalled and become more of a lottery ticket than a top prospect, but if anyone can develop young talent, it’s Houston.
DFA RHP Santiago Casilla
|vs RHP||vs LHP|
|vs RHP||vs LHP|
|CF Christian Yelich||CF Christian Yelich|
|2B Jed Lowrie||2B Jed Lowrie|
|1B Matt Olson||DH Khris Davis|
|DH Khris Davis||1B Matt Olson|
|LF Matt Joyce||RF Stephen Piscotty|
|RF Stephen Piscotty||SS Marcus Semien|
|C Alex Avila||3B Matt Chapman|
|3B Matt Chapman||LF Chad Pinder|
|SS Marcus Semien||C Cameron Rupp|
|vs RHP||vs LHP|
|vs RHP||vs LHP|
|INF/OF Chad Pinder||OF Matt Joyce|
|OF Boog Powell||OF Boog Powell|
|C Cameron Rupp||C Alex Avila|
|1B/3B/LF Renato Nunez||1B/3B/LF Renato Nunez|
|RHP Collin McHugh||RHP Blake Treinen|
|LHP Sean Manaea||LHP Jake McGee|
|RHP Kendall Graveman||RHP Drew Steckenrider|
|RHP Chris Tillman||LHP Daniel Coulombe|
|RHP Daniel Mengden||RHP Liam Hendriks|
|RHP Paul Blackburn||RHP Jesse Hahn|
|RHP Jharel Cotton||RHP Raul Alcantrara|
|RHP Daniel Gossett||RHP Bobby Wahl|
|RHP Andrew Triggs||Other starters|
|Minor league signees||Minor league signees|
2018 payroll sits at just around $80 million. In 2019, salaries for players like Graveman, McHugh, Davis, Semien, and Treinen will likely see increases through arbitration, as will the contracts of Piscotty and Yelich. However, Casilla, Joyce, Lowrie, and Tillman will become free agents, removing about $23 million from the books. Rough seasons could make Hendriks and Rupp non-tender candidates as well, removing their salary obligations. Finally, as he becomes more expensive, a Khris Davis trade only becomes more likely.
Finally, to address the (non-Stomper) elephant in the room – Dustin Fowler. I believe, after such a significant injury, he could use some time playing in the minors every day to regain his footing. He’s still only 23, so there’s no rush to call him up immediately. If he does tear it up in Nashville and force the team’s hand, I see three options: either option Boog Powell, DFA Renato Nunez, or wait until close to the deadline and trade Joyce.
Looking at this team, I see a potent offense and a deep pitching staff. I do think both the rotation and bullpen could use improvement, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Hahn and Triggs be major factors out of the bullpen, or a bounceback season from Cotton. Reinforcements could come mid-season in the forms of A.J. Puk, Dustin Fowler, Max Schrock, Jorge Mateo, and Sheldon Neuse. Other Triple-A options include Jaycob Brugman, Dustin Garneau, Joey Wendle and any other players signed to minor league deals.
What do you think of my plan? Any deals seem unfair for either side? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments. Until next time – lean on, A’s fans!
Which of my major moves seems the most realistic for both sides?
This poll is closed
Christian Yelich/Drew Steckenrider trade (Barreto, Luzardo, Munoz, Tovar)
Stephen Piscotty trade (Healy, Shore)
Collin McHugh trade (Dull, Montas, Graves)
Alex Avila signing (2/$14MM)
Jake McGee signing (3/$21MM)