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bernie_till_i_die’s 2018-19 Offseason Plan: When other teams zig, you zag

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A way for the A’s to fill their voids at second base and catcher while reshaping their rotation - and still staying under budget.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
A new face at second base?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This offseason has already been a bit different than usual for the A’s. The team, after announcing extensions for its main brain trust in Billy Beane, David Forst and Bob Melvin, was quite vocal about the possibility of an increase in payroll. And it seems like the team is trying to hold true to their promise between the exercising of Fernando Rodney’s option and rumors about attempts to re-sign free agents like Jed Lowrie, Edwin Jackson, and Jonathan Lucroy. However, even with added payroll I expect the A’s to continue doing what they do best - make smart, under-the-radar moves with the potential to pay off big time.

Arbitration

  • Khris Davis – $18.1MM (Extension)
  • Mike Fiers – $9.7MM (Extension)
  • Marcus Semien – $6.6MM (Tender)
  • Blake Treinen – $5.8MM (Tender)
  • Sean Manaea – $3.8MM (Extension)
  • Kendall Graveman – $2.5MM (Non-tender)
  • Cory Gearrin – $2.4MM (Tender and trade)
  • Liam Hendriks – $2.1MM (Tender)
  • Mark Canha – $2.1MM (Tender)
  • Ryan Buchter – $1.3MM (Tender)
  • Josh Phegley – $1.2MM (Tender)
  • Ryan Dull – $900K (Tender)

I’ll discuss the extensions more in a minute. Semien, Treinen, Canha, and Buchter are all locks to be tendered a contract. Hendriks was impressive enough as an opener late in 2018 that I think he’s earned another look, while Dull is a cheap, serviceable depth piece with two options remaining. Phegley is nothing special but is a fine back-up and already knows the staff.

Gearrin is a fine reliever, but I don’t see room for him in a very crowded bullpen. He probably has some level of trade value, especially at his low cost. Graveman will be missing all of 2019 as he rehabs from Tommy John Surgery, so I expect the A’s to non-tender him and try to bring him back either on a creative two year deal or a minor league contract.

Extensions

Khris Davis - four years, $60 million dollars (and not a penny more)

The Khris Davis contract situation is going to be a focal point of this offseason for the A’s, and many see this as the team’s best chance in a long time to gain back some of the trust of the fanbase. I would be happy to see Davis locked up for the next few years, but I wouldn’t budge past four years at $15 million per. Davis is an incredible hitter and a fixture in the A’s lineup, but he’s turning 31 and is a one-dimensional power hitter in an era when those are a dime a dozen. If Davis won’t bite at 4/$60MM, the A’s should just wait until next offseason and try again.

Mike Fiers - two years, $15 million dollars with a third year team option

I don’t see any scenario in which the A’s non-tender Fiers after giving up two legitimate prospects (second round pick Logan Shore and personal favorite reliever Nolan Blackwood) for him last summer. I do think the two sides could meet in the middle on a deal that pays him a bit less than his arbitration estimate and gives both him and the A’s an extra year of security. The 33-year-old has plus control and struck out almost a batter per inning over his 10 appearances with Oakland last season, and while home runs were an issue for him, his 20.7% HR/FB rate was likely a fluke and the Coliseum should help suppress the long ball for Fiers going forward.

Sean Manaea - two years, $9 millions dollars

I don’t know the exact dollar value here, but as many have suggested, the A’s could get creative with both Manaea and Graveman as the two rehab from lengthy injuries in 2019. Paying Manaea something like $2.5MM in 2019 and $6.5MM in 2020 helps the A’s payroll out a little bit this season and gives Manaea some added security for next year.

Free Agency

Brian Dozier, 2B - two years, $18 million

The second base market is crowded, with at least seven starting-caliber players available in free agency. My prediction is that the A’s will try to re-sign Lowrie, but ultimately a more desperate team like the Nationals or Yankees will make a push with an additional year and/or a higher AAV and the A’s just won’t be able to match it. They’ll spend the rest of their offseason poking around but claiming they’re comfortable giving the job to Franklin Barreto, and then late in the winter they’ll come to terms with Dozier on a below-market-rate deal.

Dozier struggled in 2018 but at his best is an impact player on both sides of the ball. He battled a knee injury for most of the season, and perhaps health is all he needs to get back to normal. He also saw his BABIP drop 60 points while the rest of his batted ball data remained mostly the same. FanGraphs’ crowdsourcing pegged Dozier for a contract closer to three years and $36 million, but I think he’ll end up the odd man out in the second base market and have to settle for less. Dozier is 31 (compared to Lowrie at 34) and I think his combination of power, speed, discipline and defense would make him a solid fit on the A’s infield, especially if he comes at this much of a discount.

Daniel Descalso, UTIL - one year, $3 million

Descalso was very good in a super-utility role for the Diamondbacks in 2018, posting a 111 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR. The 32-year-old can play anywhere on the diamond, though is best suited for the infield. He has decent pop and his left-handed bat will help balance out the A’s lineup a bit.

Rene Rivera, C - MiLB deal

The A’s are sorely lacking catching depth beyond Beau Taylor and top prospect Sean Murphy. Rivera has always had a good glove and could help mentor Murphy (as well as some of the A’s young pitchers) in Triple-A.

Trades

Chad Pinder, Frankie Montas, Nick Allen and Skye Bolt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for SP Zack Godley and C Alex Avila

The Diamondbacks are in a tough spot, coming off a disappointing season with obvious holes and little payroll space to work with. Most of their youth is at least another season away, but this is the last year they will have star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt under contract. They will need to get creative this offseason, and this trade would help both sides in both the short and long term.

Godley, 28, was impressive in 2017, posting a 3.35 ERA (3.41 FIP) over 25 starts. He took a step back in 2018, posting a 4.74 ERA (but with a respectable 3.82 FIP). Control was Godley’s biggest issue in 2018, but he remained a heavy ground ball pitcher and still struck out more than a batter per inning. He comes with four years of team control and could become Oakland’s best starter, especially pitching in the Coliseum in front of the A’s strong infield defense.

Avila, to me, has always been destined to play for the A’s. He had a miserable 2018 but is still a plus defensive catcher and walks a ton. He is a left-handed hitter and despite his struggles in 2018, still posted the highest hard hit rate in baseball (min. 200 PAs). I think Avila is due for a bounce-back campaign in 2019, and the Diamondbacks will be happy to shed the $4.1MM he is owed. He will be 32 years old in 2019.

The pair won’t come cheap, and parting with Chad Pinder is certainly difficult. His versatility is very valuable and he’s a part of the Chapman-Olson core that has come up through the minors together. However, it is hard to fit both Pinder and Canha onto the roster for 2019, and Canha’s value both on and off the field is impossible to ignore. Pinder is replaced in the short term by the Descalso signing and in the long term by utility prospect Eli White. He would be incredibly valuable to the D-Backs as a cheap, versatile player with big upside.

Montas also has tantalizing upside, sitting 97 MPH with his easy fastball. His 2018 was the best he’s pitched for Oakland but he didn’t miss bats nearly as much as you would expect for a pitcher with his stuff. The 25-year-old is out of options but has yet to reach arbitration, and he makes sense for a club like the Diamondbacks looking for upside. They could try to develop him either in the rotation or as a late-inning relief arm.

Allen, 20, is far from the big leagues but is very talented. The former third round pick is an undeniably amazing defender and has plus speed, with some potential for a decent batting average. The middle infield is crowded in Oakland long term and his presence could make the Diamondbacks more comfortable trading shortstop Nick Ahmed at some point in the coming years. Bolt is a bit of a tweener and needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason, but he’s always had plus tools and makes sense as a fourth piece in the deal.

It isn’t cheap, but this trade helps shore up the rotation long-term with an arm with big upside while also filling the short-term catching hole. I could see the Diamondbacks balking at moving a controllable arm like Godley, though, and the A’s probably aren’t too keen on losing Pinder.

Dustin Fowler, Parker Dunshee, Daulton Jefferies and Cory Gearrin to the Colorado Rockies for SP Jon Gray

The Rockies are in a similar spot to the Diamondbacks, with obvious holes around the diamond as they try to catch the Dodgers in the division. They could also be losing their best player after 2019, as Nolan Arenado will be eligible for free agency.

Jon Gray has massive upside. The former first round pick posted a 3.67 ERA in 2017 despite playing his home games in Colorado. His fastball sits in the mid-nineties and is complemented by a nasty slider. But his 2018 was forgettable, as he posted a 5.12 ERA and even found himself demoted to Triple-A at some point. He is a serious change-of-scenery candidate and the Rockies would still have a strong rotation without him. He is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is projected to earn $3.2MM.

Fowler doesn’t really seem to have a spot in the A’s plans. He was passed on the center field depth chart by rookie sensation Ramon Laureano and has talented outfield prospects Austin Beck, Lazaro Armenteros and Kyler Murray nipping at his heels. He is still a good player with a big league future ahead of him and could replace departing free agent Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado.

Dunshee was one of the organization’s top pitching breakouts in 2018. The right-hander posted a 2.33 ERA between High-A and Double-A and could be MLB-ready by late 2019. Jefferies has big upside, but underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2017 and only pitched two innings in 2018. If the righty gets himself back onto the field, he could be the hidden gem of this deal for Colorado. Gearrin is a throw-in that pitches well against righties and can help out a Rockies bullpen that struggled in 2018.

There’s a chance the Rockies aren’t ready to move on from Gray yet, and I wouldn’t blame them - he’s an elite talent. There’s also a chance the A’s see Fowler differently than I do, or that I’m overestimating Dunshee’s value. But I see a fit here somewhere between the two teams, and Gray would fortify the A’s rotation even further.

Summary

These moves reshape the A’s rotation and fill the holes left by Lowrie and Lucroy without costing too much in terms of money or prospects. The team’s three best starting pitchers - Fiers, Gray, and Godley - would all be under team control through 2021. The team costs roughly $89MM in 2019, right about where I believe the A’s budget will end up.

The biggest loss is Pinder, but I am confident that Descalso will pick up his slack in 2019. Franklin Barreto will be only 23 years old next season, and here he gets another season at Triple-A to work on his plate discipline. He would be the first man up in the event of an infield injury and would have a chance in 2020 to win a middle infield spot from Semien or Dozier, or he could be used as a trade chip.

To me, the biggest question here is if the A’s give up enough in the two trades. Some other names that I would be comfortable including are prospects Sheldon Neuse, Jorge Mateo, Grant Holmes, and one of Beck/Lazarito, among others. But this team looks strong enough to contend again in 2019 while keeping the core pieces of the farm system intact and having plenty of youth at the Major League level.

2018-19 Plan Lineups/Bench

vs RHP vs LHP
vs RHP vs LHP
LF Nick Martini CF Ramon Laureano
3B Matt Chapman 3B Matt Chapman
DH Khris Davis DH Khris Davis
1B Matt Olson RF Stephen Piscotty
RF Stephen Piscotty 1B Matt Olson
2B Brian Dozier LF Mark Canha
CF Ramon Laureano 2B Brian Dozier
C Alex Avila SS Marcus Semien
SS Marcus Semien C Josh Phegley
Bench Bench
UTIL Daniel Descalso UTIL Daniel Descalso
C Josh Phegley C Alex Avila
1B/OF Mark Canha OF Nick Martini
Lineups/Bench

2018-19 Plan Pitching

Rotation Bullpen
Rotation Bullpen
RHP Mike Fiers RHP Blake Treinen
RHP Jon Gray RHP Lou Trivino
RHP Zack Godley RHP Fernando Rodney
RHP Daniel Mengden RHP Yusmeiro Petit
RHP Chris Bassitt LHP Ryan Buchter
RHP Paul Blackburn RHP Liam Hendriks
RHP Andrew Triggs RHP J.B. Wendelken
LHP Jesus Luzardo RHP Emilio Pagan
RHP Brian Howard RHP Ryan Dull
LHP A.J. Puk Other starters
Rotation/Bullpen

Poll

Factoring in cost, which addition is your favorite?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Brian Dozier
    (80 votes)
  • 16%
    Zack Godley
    (66 votes)
  • 8%
    Alex Avila
    (34 votes)
  • 47%
    Jon Gray
    (187 votes)
  • 7%
    Daniel Descalso
    (30 votes)
397 votes total Vote Now