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Oakland A’s updated 40-man roster entering offseason

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A snapshot of the landscape before the hot stove lights up.

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The 2018 season is over, and we’re in the brief calm before the offseason storm. Soon there will be rumors, and trades, and free agents, but for now we get a moment to breathe before the hot stove lights up.

Let’s take this chance to see what the Oakland A’s 40-man roster looks like entering the winter. On Thursday the team announced the activation of six pitchers from the 60-day disabled list, which goes away after the World Series. That puts the roster at 35 players. The ones with asterisks** are eligible for arbitration.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Mike Fiers (R)**
Daniel Mengden (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Sean Manaea (L)**
Paul Blackburn (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Kendall Graveman (R)**
Daniel Gossett (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)**
Fernando Rodney (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)**
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Cory Gearrin (R)**
Emilio Pagan (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)**
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Dull (R)**
Aaron Brooks (R)
Catchers

Josh Phegley (R)**
Beau Taylor (L)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)**
Matt Chapman (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)**
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Nick Martini (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
Dustin Fowler (L)

Note: RHP Chris Hatcher, LHP Dean Kiekhefer, and OF Jake Smolinski are no longer on the roster because they were all outrighted to Triple-A in mid-October. Presumably, some or all of them can/will elect free agency. (Update: Kiekhefer and Smolinski did in fact opt for free agency, per MLBTR, but Kiekhefer re-signed.)

Free agents:

  • LHP Brett Anderson
  • RHP Trevor Cahill
  • RHP Edwin Jackson
  • RHP Jeurys Familia
  • RHP Shawn Kelley
  • C Jonathan Lucroy
  • 2B Jed Lowrie
  • OF Matt Joyce
  • OF Jake Smolinski

The next important dates for roster purposes:

  • Nov. 20: Deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft
  • Nov. 30: Deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players

Here’s a quick rundown of each position group.

Starters

We need to split this into two groups: Those who are healthy and can be part of Opening Day roster plans, and those who are long-term injured and will go right back on the 60-day DL next March. First up is the healthy group.

  • Mike Fiers
  • Daniel Mengden
  • Chris Bassitt
  • Frankie Montas
  • Paul Blackburn

Those are literally five names, but the rotation is far from full. Fiers isn’t a lock to stick around, depending how expensive he is in arbitration. Mengden, Bassitt, and Montas are all out of minor league options, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them traded for the sake of roster flexibility. And Blackburn is only healthy in the sense that he’s not explicitly recovering from surgery, but he only made six MLB starts this year and finished the season on the shelf. There is significant work to be done in this department.

  • Jharel Cotton
  • Sean Manaea
  • Andrew Triggs
  • Kendall Graveman
  • Daniel Gossett

Oakland has an entire second rotation of viable starters who are already scheduled to miss some or all of 2019. Cotton could conceivably come back in the second half, and late returns by Manaea and Triggs haven’t been completely ruled out, but Graveman and Gossett are virtually guaranteed to skip the whole year.

Frankly, all of these dormant arms will gum up the roster a bit this winter, since they can’t be hidden away on the 60-day DL during the offseason. The A’s will just have to work around it, though. There might be an argument to be made for moving on from Graveman, but otherwise they definitely need to keep these guys.

Relievers

The A’s already exercised their option on Fernando Rodney, so he sticks around. There are 11 arms in the pen right now.

  • Blake Treinen
  • Lou Trivino
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Ryan Buchter (L)
  • Yusmeiro Petit
  • Liam Hendriks
  • Cory Gearrin
  • Emilio Pagan
  • J.B. Wendelken
  • Ryan Dull
  • Aaron Brooks

Of those names, Treinen, Buchter, Hendriks, Gearrin, and Dull are eligible for arbitration. Hendriks and Brooks are out of options, and only Pagan, Dull, and Wendelken can realistically be sent down.

Oakland could really use another lefty in addition to Buchter. They could also use a late-inning arm to replace the outgoing Familia, but there may end up being more pressing needs on which to focus resources.

Catchers

One of those pressing needs is behind the plate.

  • Josh Phegley
  • Beau Taylor

With Lucroy becoming a free agent, the A’s need to find a new starter. Phegley and Taylor are decent backups, but neither can be the primary guy. Top prospect Sean Murphy isn’t quite ready yet, so another one-year deal for Lucroy or a comparable veteran seems like the way to go.

Infielders

This was easily the strongest area of the team in 2018, but it loses one big piece to free agency.

  • Matt Olson (1B)
  • Marcus Semien (SS)
  • Matt Chapman (3B)
  • Franklin Barreto
  • Jorge Mateo

The unit is still anchored on the corners by Olson and Chapman, who are both star hitters and both won Fielding Bible awards for elite defense. Semien was himself nominated for a Gold Glove and truly earned that nod, en route to a quiet 4 WAR season. Three positions are fully taken care of with plus performers, and there’s no real need for a utility man on the bench thanks to super-sub Chad Pinder (listed in the outfield).

However, the A’s will need to make a decision at second base. Can they afford to bring back Lowrie, or is it time to roll with top youngster Barreto? On top of that, is there room in the future picture for Mateo, or should he be trade bait now before he runs out of options in 2020?

Outfielders

Remember when this was a thin area of the roster? It’s come a long way.

  • Khris Davis (DH)
  • Stephen Piscotty (RF)
  • Ramon Laureano (CF)
  • Nick Martini
  • Mark Canha
  • Chad Pinder
  • Dustin Fowler

On the way out is Joyce from left field, but they may have already replaced him on the cheap with the breakout of Martini. Or, if he doesn’t turn out to be the answer, then youngster Fowler will need somewhere to play now that Laureano appears to have seized center from him. Whichever lefty ends up with that LF job can platoon with righties Canha or Pinder.

Between all of those LF options, plus Laureano in CF, and Piscotty locked into RF, and even some interesting prospects brewing in the upper minors, there’s no real reason to do anything in this area of the roster — again, there are much more critical needs to address and resources are limited. If anything, they might even be able to afford to trade away somebody to clear a logjam.

Next up: Rule 5

We’ll get deeper into this in the coming weeks, but here are the prospects worth talking about for Rule 5:

  • RHP Grant Holmes
  • RHP James Kaprielian
  • RHP James Naile
  • SS Richie Martin
  • OF Luis Barrera
  • OF Skye Bolt

The tough thing about this list is that the top two names are also injured starting pitchers, of which there are already too many on the 40-man. Do you hope that Holmes and Kap scare teams off with their medical uncertainty, or do you protect their talent at all costs?

The other are more fringe cases. I’ve followed Naile as a sleeper, but roster space is especially tight right now and I don’t think he’s justified a spot. Martin might be a different story due to a speed-and-defense profile that could be stashed on an MLB bench, and the two outfielders are currently attempting to prove themselves in the Arizona Fall League.