FanPost

HNRFT's (Pretty Typical) Offseason Plan

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
None of these were particularly difficult decisions. Hatcher posted a decent 3.52 ERA over 23 innings with Oakland, but Bob Melvin can allocate innings that would have been Hatcher's to younger players. Jake Smolinski is expendable with Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell primed to take over primary CF duties. Lastly, with the uncertainty surrounding Bruce Maxwell, I'd prefer to bring Josh Phegley back primarily to serve as a familiar face behind the plate for the pitching staff. Moreover, Phegley had a strong all-around 2015 season and I'm confident he can return to form if he can stay healthy.

Free Agency

  • 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).
Alex Avila is a left-handed catcher to complement right-handed Josh Phegley, and ultimately Sean Murphy. MLB Trade Rumors believes the Yankees will sign Avila for 2 years and $16 million (and they believe the A's will sign Welington Castillo). Avila had a strong offensive 2017 regular season and has been solid defensively throughout his career. His veteran presence behind the plate will benefit the pitching staff and serve as a bridge to the highly anticipated Sean Murphy era. Speaking of the Sean Murphy era, he's the reason I would give Avila a player option for the 2020 season. I'm confident Murphy will definitely be MLB-ready by that point, which means he would get the majority of playing time at catcher. Avila could choose to stay and play as Murphy's back-up or could enter the free agent market to find a new team. Alex Avila is entering his age-31 season so this contract would take him through his age-33 season.

  • 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).
Jason Vargas is a left-handed starting pitcher who, despite missing much of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, pitched 179.2 innings for the Kansas City Royals in 2017. He's put up 200+ innings in a single season multiple times in the past and is capable of being a lefty innings eater for the Athletics in 2018 as we await AJ Puk's call-up.

Trade Proposals

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.

In my opinion, Felipe Rivero is a beast. In 2017, he casually posted a 1.67 ERA/2.47 FIP over 75.1 innings. Rivero collected 21 saves and struck out 4.40 batters per walk allowed. He's a monster lefty out of the bullpen who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors projects he'll earn $3.1 million. Rivero is going to be in his age-26 season during the 2018 season so he's right around the same age as many of the young A's players being brought up to the big leagues. Rivero will be a free agent following the 2021 season.
The primary question mark surrounding this trade is, obviously, the pieces going to Pittsburgh. Here's how I look at it: Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage is very well-known for his ability to bring the best out of his pitchers. Jesse Hahn and Frankie Montas have shown glimpses of promise in the past, but ultimately have not been all too successful in the big leagues. Montas especially has the ability of becoming an elite reliever. The Pirates organization, I'm assuming, would be confident in Searage's ability to help these two pitchers reach their potential.
The key piece in the trade in Renato Nunez. According to Roster Resource, the Pirates are in need of a third baseman - which just so happens to be Nunez's primary position. Also, I'm confident that the Pirates will appreciate Nunez's versatility. The young righty is able to play the corner infield positions and left field. He could primarily play 3B while at times spelling Josh Bell at 1B and Starling Marte in LF. The A's would probably miss Nunez's power, but find solace in another 40 HR season from Khris Davis.
Lastly, all three of these players going from Oakland to Pittsburgh are not yet eligible for arbitration, which benefits the frugal Pirates organization. This trade would also solve the out-of-options issue the A's face with Hahn, Nunez, and Montas.

One of the hiccups I could forsee with this trade would be the lack of lower-level minor league talent going to Pittsburgh. All three of the players being sent to the Pirates would have to be on the big league roster (or otherwise flipped in a different trade). This might complicate things for the Pirates as they look to piece together a strong 25-man roster, and therefore the front office may not be so keen on this particular configuration of the trade.


Summary

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)

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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

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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.

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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!