Before we get started...
I wanted to give a little bit of context to this plan - which includes giving y'all my perspective on where the Athletics organization is currently and where the organization is heading.
The Post-All-Star-Break Oakland Athletics were, in my opinion, really fun to watch. It's no secret that the more youthful members of the A's were the driving force behind this (Matt Chapman and Matt Olson immediately come to mind). Moreover, some of the more seasoned veterans on the team had strong second halves. Blake Treinen posted a 2.13 ERA with the A's while Matt Joyce slashed .270/.340/.549 in 62 second half games. This run of successful games had me yelling about a 2018 Wild Card push. However, if we take a step back to focus on the big picture and look at the current composition of this club, the A's are more than a couple pieces away from contention. I think the A's will certainly have an interesting 2018 regular season, but will ultimately fall short of true playoff contention.
Therefore, I posit that the Oakland Athletics should focus on staying the course in the 2017-2018 offseason. What does this mean? It means the front office should focus *most* of their attention on filling out the roster in a way that continues to provide young A's consistent playing time, rather than moving pieces (from the major league roster or from the farm system) in order to make a truly competitive roster. Billy Beane and David Forst can sign free agents to shorter deals in order to avoid long term monetary (and playing time) commitments. The 2018 regular season will serve as a bridge between the young, relatively inexperienced group we saw at the end of the 2017 season and the more polished and confident group we hope to see in 2019.
Arbitration Eligible players
- Khris Davis - $11.1 million projection - TENDER
- Marcus Semien - $3.2 million projection - TENDER
- Kendall Graveman - $2.6 million projection - TENDER
- Blake Treinen - $2.3 million projection - TENDER
- Chris Hatcher - $2.2 million projection - NON TENDER
- Liam Hendriks -$1.9 million projection - TENDER
- Josh Phegley - $1.1 million projection - TENDER
- Jake Smolinski - $700 thousand projection - NON TENDER
- Sign Relief Pitcher Jake McGee - 3 years, $23 million ($7.67 million per year; Free Agent following 2020 season).
Jake McGee had a successful season with the Colorado Rockies in 2017 but has been known as a strong left-handed reliever for much of his career. In 2014, he pitched to the tune of a 1.89 ERA, collecting 19 saves in 71.1 innings. MLB Trade Rumors has the lefty McGee accepting a 3 year, $18 million deal to play for the Chicago Cubs. In order to entice Jake to play for the Athletics for the next 3 years, I bumped his pay up to $23 million. Ryan Madson's deal with the A's was 3 years, $22 million so I think this projection is pretty solid - maybe give or take a couple million. McGee is entering his age-31 season so this contract would take him through his age-33 season.
- Sign Catcher Alex Avila - 2 years, $18 million + a player option for 2020 season worth $6 million ($9 million per year; Free Agent following 2019 season, if player option is exercised).
- Sign Starting Pitcher Jason Vargas - 1 year, $11 million + a team option for 2019 season worth $8 million. ($11 million per year; Free Agent following 2018 season, unless team option is exercised).
This is where things get kind of interesting. I stated above that the A's should absolutely avoid trading their young players. This singular trade is the exception, and for good reason.
- Trade SP Jesse Hahn, 3B/LF Renato Nunez, and RP Frankie Montas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RP Felipe Rivero.
After everything is said and done, much of the Second-Half-of-2017 A's remains intact. We've added some veteran pieces to solidify the roster and bring years of experience to a relatively inexperienced team. We've also added a young, promising reliever whose presence, along with another strong lefty's, stabilizes an otherwise shaky bullpen. More likely than not, the A's will be able to add some depth (depth that was lost in the Felipe Rivero trade) to their farm system thanks to probable midseason trades of Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce. Vargas could also likely become a trade chip for the Athletics come the July Trade Deadline. Those trades will open up playing time for more promising A's prospects including Franklin Barreto, Yairo Munoz, AJ Puk, and perhaps more.
The key to this offseason plan is to Stay The Course. Avoid trading young, controllable talent. Maintain consistent playing time not only for the promising players on the big league roster but also in the minors. Stick with 2-3 year free agent deals to avoid long-term commitments to aging players. Maintain a healthy farm system and look to open up playing time for top prospects when they become ready.
Here's a look at the 2018 Opening Day 25-man roster:
1B: Matt Olson (L)
2B: Jed Lowrie (S)
3B: Matt Chapman
SS: Marcus Semien
LF: Khris Davis
CF: Dustin Fowler (L)
RF: Matt Joyce (L)
C: Alex Avila (L)
1B/DH: Ryon Healy
UTILITY: Chad Pinder
C: Josh Phegley
OF: Boog Powell (L)
2B: Joey Wendle (L)
SP: Sean Manaea (L)
SP: Kendall Graveman
SP: Daniel Mengden
SP: Jason Vargas (L)
SP: Paul Blackburn
SU/CL: Blake Treinen
SU/CL: Felipe Rivero (L)
SU/MRP: Jake McGee (L)
MRP: Ryan Dull
MRP: Liam Hendriks
MRP: Santiago Casilla
LRP: Raul Alcantara
The Opening Day payroll would clock in at approximately $80 million. Roster Resource projects the A's payroll to be around $52 million, given every arbitration-eligible player is tendered a contract consistent with their projected amount. After removing Chris Hatcher and Jake Smolinski from the equation, the estimated payroll would be approximately $49 million. With the additions of Jason Vargas, Jake McGee, Alex Avila, and Felipe Rivero, the payroll would sit at approximately $77 million. I round up to $80 million for the sake of an even number.
Ultimately, there are a lot of moves the A's can make during the 2017-2018 offseason. The A's have a relatively large amount of position players who are already playing on the big league roster, or are nearly there. In late September, Melissa Lockard of The Athletic wrote a brilliant article detailing the decision to retain Jed Lowrie and the subsequent effects of that decision on the A's depth chart. The front office, I've no doubt, is taking those ramifications into account as they continue building a solid 25-man and 40-man roster. If, for example, the A's choose not to trade Jesse Hahn and Frankie Montas and Renato Nunez, then they must find a place for them specifically on the 25-man roster - potentially at the expense of other players. I'm confident in the Athletics front office to handle that issue, but it is certainly something to think about as we continue watching how the offseason unfolds for Oakland.
Thank you so much for reading a relatively lengthy Offseason Plan. Let me know what you think in the comments section!