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Jonah Heim and the Oakland A’s 40-man roster

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State of the roster entering the offseason, including the first prospect addition.

You could flip this image and it would still be accurate.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The MLB offseason is officially nearly two weeks old, but nothing much has happened yet. That’s normal for baseball, whose offseason tends to get off to a slow start, in exactly the opposite fashion as the NBA and its all-in-one-day free agent spree.

However, the A’s have made some minor roster moves already. We already covered one of them, when the team claimed reliever T.J. McFarland off waivers from Arizona. But even before that, back on November 1, they made a few other in-house moves that are worth taking a moment to look back at.

On that day, the A’s added catching prospect Jonah Heim to the 40-man roster, and they reinstated pitcher Daniel Gossett and outfield prospect Luis Barrera from the 60-day injured list.

The most familiar name of the trio is Gossett, who started 23 games for the A’s between 2017-18 before going down with Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2019. His results in the majors have been lacking so far (5.91 ERA, 5.67 FIP), but he was a 2nd-round draft pick and a promising upper-minors prospect so the book isn’t closed on him yet. He took part in the Arizona Fall League last month and tossed 14 innings, striking out 12 and allowing four runs, three walks, and 10 hits against an assortment of high-profile minor leaguers. This roster news represents routine progress for a TJS recovery, and we’ll learn more about what the 27-year-old’s future might hold when spring rolls around.

The more interesting story here is Heim. First, let’s be clear on why he was added to the roster: It wasn’t for Rule 5 purposes, it was because he’s been in the pros long enough to become eligible for straight-up minor league free agency, having been drafted out of high school in 2013. The deadline to protect prospects from Rule 5 isn’t until Nov. 20, so we can still potentially expect to see more youngsters added to the roster later this month.

As for who Heim is, he’s the A’s second-best catching prospect after Sean Murphy. He ranked 25th on our preseason Community Prospect List, and then followed up that sleeper status with a breakout year at the plate in 2019. The switch-hitter is still only age 24, and he found success this past summer in both Double-A (208 plate appearances) and Triple-A (119 PAs).

Heim, AA: .282/.370/.431, 125 wRC+, 5 HR, 11.5% BB, 13.0% Ks
Heim, AAA: .358/.412/.557, 135 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.2% BB, 15.1% Ks

Read more about Heim from Melissa Lockard of The Athletic, who mentions praise for his defense, arm, pitch-calling, game-planning, and bat-to-ball skills (the latter of which you can begin to see from his high batting averages and low strikeout rates). She also notes (via new Director of Player Development Ed Sprague) that Heim’s time in big-league camp this spring was a factor in his summer breakout.

The bottom line is that Heim is looking like a legit prospect, and he’s nearly ready for the bigs. He’s only had 481 plate appearances in the upper-minors overall, mostly in Double-A, so he could still use some final tuning up in Las Vegas, but it’s easy to see how he could reach the majors in 2020. On top of that, as a switch-hitter he would make sense in a partnership with the righty Murphy. In other words, in addition to being a good prospect, Heim is also a perfect fit in Oakland.

The smart bet would be for the A’s to enter the season with a veteran stopgap next to Murphy, both to buy Heim some time and also because a bit of experience and mentorship are worthwhile things to have next to rookie catchers. That could come in the form of the incumbent Josh Phegley, or some other external addition. But by the end of 2020, we could possibly be watching a Murphy/Heim duo behind the plate, and his addition to the roster is the first step toward that future.

As for Barrera, he’s another strong prospect, and he ranked 13th on our preseason CPL. However, he missed most of 2019 to a shoulder injury, though when healthy he did play well for 54 games as a 23-year-old in Double-A (139 wRC+). Call it a mulligan for a mostly lost season, and let’s see what the speedster does next summer.

Here’s the 40-man roster, including Heim, Gossett, Barrera, and McFarland. Players in italics haven’t yet debuted in MLB. Players with asterisks** are eligible for salary arbitration. The roster is currently full with 40 names, but some of the arby players could still be non-tendered (deadline is Dec. 2), which would clear space for free agents, waiver claims, and Rule 5 prospects to be added.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)**
Sean Manaea (L)**
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
--Grant Holmes (R)
--James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)**
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Blake Treinen (R)**
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)**
T.J. McFarland (L)**
A.J. Puk (L)
Jharel Cotton (R)**
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Josh Phegley (R)**
Jonah Heim (S)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Jurickson Profar (S)**
Marcus Semien (R)**
Matt Chapman (R)
Sheldon Neuse (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
--Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)**
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)**
Chad Pinder (R)**
Seth Brown (L)
Skye Bolt (S)
Dustin Fowler (L)
--Luis Barrera (L)