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Oakland A’s roster and payroll update as Winter Meetings approach

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Snapshot of the calm before the offseason storm.

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The MLB offseason is off to an absolutely perfect pace. Last year the market took forever to get going, but this winter has offered a few blockbuster moves around the league already with plenty of time to digest them and many more to look forward to. There should be another round of fireworks coming soon, as the Winter Meetings begin on Sunday.

The Oakland A’s have been particularly quiet so far, contrary to their recent history of striking early in the offseason. In 2014 they had traded Josh Donaldson, signed Billy Butler, and acquired Ike Davis by the day after Thanksgiving; in 2015 they had signed Rich Hill and re-acquired Jed Lowrie by the day before that same holiday; in 2016 they traded Danny Valencia and signed Matt Joyce in November; and in 2017 they dealt Ryon Healy just two weeks after the World Series and signed Yusmeiro Petit two weeks after that.

This time around, the A’s have been more patient. There have been moves, but mostly internally as various deadlines have forced them to make decisions on their own players. Between the Rule 5 cutoff and the arbitration tender ultimatum, a few prospects were added to the roster and a few veterans were let go. The only external transaction has been the acquisition of a reliever with just shy of a dozen innings in his MLB career, plus the normal wave of nondescript minor league free agent depth signings (via Athletics Farm).

This calm before the storm is the perfect time to take stock of the team’s situation before the offseason really gets going. The in-housekeeping is done and some initial questions have been answered, giving us a better idea of exactly what the club needs to do and how many resources they have with which to do it.

First off, here’s the 40-man roster, which currently features 36 players. The ones in italics have not yet debuted in MLB.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Daniel Mengden (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Grant Holmes (R)
James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

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

Josh Phegley (R)

Infielders

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

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
Nick Martini (L)
Dustin Fowler (L)
Luis Barrera (L)
Skye Bolt (S)

Next up is an alternate way of looking at the roster, in more of a depth chart form. This is meant to be as objective as possible, without making any predictions or assumptions. For example, I’ve left second base open for now because we don’t know whether it will be handed to the top prospect or filled with a veteran acquisition. On the other hand, players who are out of options are included in the active roster, because that’s the only possible outcome as long as they remain here — there is no situation where they can be on the 40-man but stashed in the minors.

Note: AAA is just short-hand for minors, even if it’s a prospect who will actually be lower than Triple-A. Likewise, DL simply denotes that the player is injured and shouldn’t be counted on as part of the Opening Day plan; there isn’t literally a disabled list during the offseason. TAX is for the taxi relievers, the optionable arms who will spend time in the minors but are really more a loophole extension of the 25-man unit.

Oakland A's 40-man depth
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

1:
2:
3: Daniel Mengden (R)
4: Chris Bassitt (R)
5: Frankie Montas (R)
DL: Paul Blackburn (R)
DL: Jharel Cotton (R)
DL: Daniel Gossett (R)
DL: Sean Manaea (L)
DL: Andrew Triggs (R)
AAA: Grant Holmes (R)
AAA: James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

CL: Blake Treinen (R)
SU: Lou Trivino (R)
SU: Fernando Rodney (R)
SU: Ryan Buchter (L)
MI: Yusmeiro Petit (R)
MI: Liam Hendriks (R)
MI:
LNG: Aaron Brooks (R)
TAX: Emilio Pagan (R)
TAX: Ryan Dull (R)
TAX: J.B. Wendelken (R)
TAX: Tanner Anderson (R)
Catchers

1:
2: Josh Phegley (R)
AAA:

Infielders

1B: Matt Olson (L)
2B:
SS: Marcus Semien (R)
3B: Matt Chapman (R)
AAA: Franklin Barreto (R)
AAA: Jorge Mateo (R)


Outfielders

DH: Khris Davis (R)
RF: Stephen Piscotty (R)
CF: Ramon Laureano (R)
LF1: Nick Martini (L)
LF2: Mark Canha (R)
UT: Chad Pinder (R)
AAA: Dustin Fowler (L)
AAA: Luis Barrera (L)
AAA: Skye Bolt (S)

The key holes are left blank, from the top of the rotation to catcher to second base. Again, a couple of those spots could be filled internally, but the point is to visualize what decisions are still left to be made. Furthermore, not listed are a couple of top on-the-cusp prospects like Jesus Luzardo and Sean Murphy, who could play roles in 2019 but aren’t yet on the actual roster. Blackburn is listed as injured until he throws a pitch in a spring game, because two 60-day DL stints in one season loses you benefit of the doubt on health.

The math of the whole thing doesn’t fully add up in various ways, but that’s normal for the early offseason. Future moves will balance that stuff out. A few factors:

  • Some of it has to do with how I laid it all out. For example, there are six open positions and only four open roster spots, but you could fix that if needed by promoting Barreto and one of the taxi relievers. On the other hand, in reality there are surely more than two rotation spots open, even though three of them have names filled in for now.
  • Other stuff is temporary, like the injured starters. Because of them I’ve got 24 spots dedicated to the pitching staff, which is way too many, but in March the 60-day DL will return and they can stash a few there. Among other things, that will open up space to add the depth third catcher, presumably Beau Taylor. Those dormant pitchers will still hamper the offseason flexibility in the meantime, but at least the problem won’t extend into the season.
  • There will also be subtractions. It’s hard to see Brooks making it to spring training, and there might not be room for all three out-of-options SPs to stick around. And of course, there will be trades, with the only question being whether they will draw from the 40-man or not.

And what resources do the A’s have to work with? We don’t know exactly what the payroll will be, but we know it will go up some amount from last year’s $70 million. That’s good news, since it stands at around that figure already before making any additions (using arbitration estimates from MLBTR for the remaining unresolved cases).

Oakland A's 2019 payroll
Name Pos $M
Stephen Piscotty OF 7.3
Yusmeiro Petit RHP 5.5
Fernando Rodney RHP 5.3
Liam Hendriks RHP 2.2
Josh Phegley C 1.1
Ryan Dull RHP 0.9
Arbitration estimates
Khris Davis DH 18.1
Marcus Semien SS 6.6
Blake Treinen RHP 5.8
Sean Manaea LHP 3.8
Mark Canha OF 2.1
Ryan Buchter LHP 1.3
Other stuff
13 more players -- 9.7
Moss buyout -- 1.0
TOTAL -- 70.7

Of course, there is more than just money to spend. Oakland could also use prospect capital to trade for what they need. Therefore, let’s wrap this up with an updated look at the full org depth chart.

Players are generally listed at the level where they meaningfully finished the season (with the main exception being some September call-ups sent back down to Triple-A), so you can expect a lot of the minor leaguers to move up a level next spring. I’ve done my best to clean out all the free agents, but it’s possible there are still a couple stray details in the lower minors, so feel free to point any out if you see them. As usual, Triple-A is split between those who have and have not debuted in the bigs.