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Grover’s Divergent Offseason Plan

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I knew I should have zagged at Albuquerque...

Last year my contribution to the Offseason Plan series was an alternative take on what we did during the 2017 SB Nation GM Simulation, and how things might have gone if we hadn’t made a specific trade. This year, while I plan on taking many of the ideas from the 2018 edition, I’m going to focus my plan on something that we couldn’t do within the SIM: sign Khris Davis to a long-term extension. My budget is $85 million and I’m referencing Fangraphs’ recent Free Agent article to come up with contract parameters for free agents that I want to see in Green and Gold.

Arbitration:

Khris Davis – $18.1MM (Extension)

Mike Fiers – $9.7MM (Non-tender)

Marcus Semien – $6.6MM (Tender)

Blake Treinen – $5.8MM (Tender)

Sean Manaea – $3.8MM (Tender)

Kendall Graveman – $2.5MM (Tender)

Cory Gearrin – $2.4MM (Non-tender)

Liam Hendriks – $2.1MM (Tender)

Mark Canha – $2.1MM (Tender)

Ryan Buchter – $1.3MM (Tender)

Josh Phegley – $1.2MM (Non-tender)

Ryan Dull – $900K (Tender)

Extension:

Khris Davis: 4 Years/$60 MM Guaranteed; $14.5 MM annual 2019-2022 with a 2023 Team Option at $14 MM/$2 MM buy-out.

Khris Davis is a nationally recognized name in the baseball world and he wants to stay in Oakland. He’s also a DH who turns 31 in December and will be looking at a market that has been increasingly stingy to one-dimensional sluggers. But what a dimension! The A’s have talked about Rooted In Oakland, what better way to further signal the commitment to building a long term home than by keeping a local star?

Free Agency:

Dallas Keuchel: 4 Years/$84 MM Guaranteed; $20.5 MM annual 2019-2022 with a 2023 Team Option at $18 MM/$2 MM buy-out.

This is an ambitious move. It would be the largest contract in Oakland Athletics history and it would cost them a 2019 draft pick. Keuchel dealt with shoulder inflammation that required a cortisone shot in 2016, a pinched nerve in his neck in 2017 and then made 34 regular season starts, good for 204.2 innings in 2018. Keuchel succeeds (a lot) by limiting walks and getting groundballs. We’ll be paying for his Age 31-34 seasons and the good news is, pitchers in this age range are far more likely to lose Plus stuff than they are Plus command. Keuchel has been worth an average of 2.87 fWAR/2.3bWAR over the last three seasons (I’m deliberately not including his Cy Young winning 2015) and I think he can maintain that level of production through the length of this contract. There is a burgeoning debate about the “true cost” of a Win which I’d rather avoid so I’m going to keep this simple: If Dallas Keuchel spends the next 4 years pitching like he has the last 3 years then he’ll earn every dollar the A’s pay him.

Martin Maldonado: 2 Years/$11 MM Guaranteed; $5.0 MM in 2019/$5.5 MM in 2020 with a 2021 Team Option at $5.5 MM/$0.5 MM buy-out.

In an alternative universe Mr. Maldonado’s agent did not sufficiently encourage his client to take Oakland’s money but here, in this reality, Martin Maldonado becomes Oakland’s new starting Catcher. There’s a touch of power in the bat but the real appeal comes from his work behind the plate. He does a good job controlling the run game (49% CS in 2018, 39% CS in 2017) and is generally solid at framing and blocking balls. Maldonado can combine with Beau Taylor (who remains on my 40 man roster) until Sean Murphy is ready mid-season. Maldonado grooms Murphy the rest of 2019 and then, ideally, serves as the back-up to Murphy in 2020.

Daniel Descalso: 1 Year/$1 MM Guaranteed.

I want a LH hitting bench bat that can play multiple positions… and is cheap. That describes Descalso, who produced a 1.6 fWAR/1.0 bWAR season while seeing time at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and P. Interesting note… Descalso has pitched in 4 games over the past 2 years.

I round out my journey through the Free Agent market with minor league contracts to LHSP Ryan Bollinger, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHRP Mike Morin, C Stephen Vogt, 2B/SS Dixon Machado and OF Rafael Ortega. Bollinger is a real interesting story and Oakland is a place with opportunity in the rotation. Lyles probably ends up in the bullpen as a multiple innings arm. Morin is a guy I’ve liked for a long time but he always seems to produce less then the sum of his parts. I’m not sure if Vogt can still play Catcher but we’re giving him a shot to prove he can in Las Vegas; meanwhile he can mentor Sean Murphy into becoming a big league Catcher. Losing Martin and Neuse hurts the AAA infield and Dixon Machado can cover multiple positions. Rafael Ortega could end up being a slightly younger, faster, better defensive version of Martini.

Trade Proposals:

My bread and butter. I tend to stick to the trades that happened during the SIM because getting that “other side” perspective is so valuable. I encourage people to open accounts at other SB Nation sites and engage in respectful dialogue about their ideas. OK, enough interwebs bonding mumbo-jumbo, on to the TRADEZ!!!

Trade #1: Frankie Montas to Minnesota for LHSP Lewis Thorpe

Thorpe passed the AA Acid Test thanks to good command of a low-90’s fastball and three potentially Average or better secondary pitches. He comes with a bit of injury history but a good ST could put him on Oakland’s Opening Day roster. This will be his first year on a 40 man roster so he has a full slate on minor league options.

Trade #2: Nick Martini and P Jose Mora to Atlanta for LHRP Corbin Clouse and RHRP Jacob Webb

Atlanta expressed interest in Martini during the SIM, so I reached out to one of the members of their group and ran this idea by him. They like his bat control but aren’t sure if he’s anything more than a 4th outfielder. Mora is a lottery ticket because sometimes lottery tickets pay out. In return, Oakland receives two upper minors tested bullpen arms that should be ready to compete for a big league job this Spring. Webb needs to be added to the 40 man roster to protect against losing him in the Rule 5 draft, but that just means his mid-90’s gas comes with the full slate of minor league options. Clouse was drafted out of college in 2016 so he doesn’t need to be on the 40 man until the club is ready to bring him to Oakland.

Trade #3: Sheldon Neuse to Philadelphia for RHSP Zach Eflin

Sheldon Neuse is a good prospect who had a bad year in 2018. Eflin slots immediately into Oakland’s rotation and with 4 more years of team control (plus two minor league options) he can eat innings while providing roster flexibility.

Trade #4: Skye Bolt to Toronto for RHSP Sam Gaviglio

Gaviglio gets a lot of groundballs, which didn’t work so well for him on turf and with a bad infield defense behind him. Put him in Oakland with some lush grass and the Matts and he’ll eat innings for the league minimum. He has 5 years of team control and a minor league option remaining, keeping with the theme of roster flexibility. Bolt is a toolsy upside play, although he turns 25 next year and hasn’t played above AA.

Trade #5: Richie Martin to Miami for RHSP Jose Urena

A modified version of a SIM deal, Richie Martin was the prize for Miami. So they still get their primary target and Oakland lands a SP who has made 59 starts and averaged 170+ IP the last two years. Urena is arbitration eligible this year and will cost (an estimated) $3.6 MM. He’ll be under team control for the next 3 years and is the default #2 in Oakland’s rotation.

Trade #6: Ryan Dull and Carlos Ramirez to Cleveland for RHP Nick Sandlin

Sandlin is a 2018 2nd round pick who’s already made it to AA. He’s probably a bullpen arm, but he did transition to the rotation during his Junior (draft) year. Ryan Dull has struggled to recapture his rookie magic and is Super 2 eligible this year. He’s set to earn $900K in 2019 and his primary role with the A’s was as a depth piece that could be optioned back and forth between Oakland and Las Vegas.

Trade #7: Kevin Merrell to Washington for RHRP Koda Glover

Glover has Plus stuff but he can’t stay healthy and he struggles throwing quality strikes. If Oakland can get him figured out the bullpen could be dominant. Glover has two minor league options and 4 years of team control remaining.

The numbers in parentheses represent the number of minor league options the player has remaining. No number means A) The player is out of options. B) The player has not yet been added to the 40 man roster. The players in Blue print are Oakland prospects that I would add to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December. C) It’s Urena and Eflin and I forgot to add their option information before taking the screen shot.

Manaea, Graveman, Gossett, Cotton were in a separate column (that I cropped out because it made the image too small to easily read) as they will be on the 60-day disabled list come Opening Day but they were included as part of the 39 players currently on the 40 man roster. Their 2019 salaries are included in the $85,012,500 total above.

Summary:

My payroll ends up at $85,012,500 and I’ve got 39 players on the 40 man roster. I think a lot of people are going to question the sustainability of spending $35 MM annual on Keuchel and Davis but I’m really not worried about that. I saw the interview Beane gave when the FO extensions were announced and the talk about a 5 year pool of money to draw from; my plan stays on the shallow end of that pool for the next 3 years. Looking down the road the Matts are going to going to be cheap the next two seasons and when they hit Arbitration they’ll probably earn $16 MM between them. That’s a lot of money to fit into what is essentially a $50 MM budget (after Keuchel and Davis) but we’ve already set aside those dollars in 2019 and 2020 when tendering contracts to Semien and Treinen, both of whom are set to be Free Agents by the time we need to pay the Matts. I think with careful management Oakland can remain payroll neutral with this roster for the next 3 years.

The key to maintaining sustainability will be continuing to find pre-arbitration talent that can come in and play a prominent role. Guys like Barreto, Fowler, Murphy, Luzardo need to become who we think they can become. The young talent we traded for in the SIM (and in this offseason plan) need to be who we think they can be. If they don’t, the A’s are screwed. It doesn’t matter if Keuchel/Davis are on the books or not, Oakland won’t be able to buy its way out of so many misses.

Looking beyond the next 3 seasons, we would clearly need to increase the payroll over $85 MM. But even here, 2022 is the last season with Davis and Keuchel guaranteed on the books and any necessary increase would likely be a 1 year blip. I don’t think the talk about having more payroll, this pool of money to tap into, necessarily means seeing a substantial bump in spending this year. I think it means that the team will be better able to spend down the road as its core pieces get more expensive. Signing Dallas Keuchel means the A’s need to replace Lowrie’s production through internal sources, with Pinder and Barreto first in line for the at bats. But the roster is prepared to offset the loss of some offense thanks to (what will hopefully be) a greatly improved starting rotation. If the bullpen can give us even 90% of what it was in 2018 then I think this team can go head-to-head with the Astros for the AL West crown.

From there… who knows?

Go A’s.