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Front Office Thinking: Fun With Inferences

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
“Am I going nowhere?”
Peter G. Aiken

Before diving into analysis, let us “oldies but goodies” acknowledge the passing of a true icon, Big Bird — known to few as Caroll Spinney, the man who adorned the 8’ 2” costume and provided the signature voice for 49 years. Upon hearing the news, Oscar The Grouch was so grief-stricken that he forgot to bang his garbage lid twice and as a result Cookie Monster looked foolish flailing at a slider. As for Snuffleupagus, he seems a bit depressed. Anyhoo...

Front offices don’t come out and tell fans what they are, and are not, planning to do. Discussing specific players prior to a transaction can be “tampering” and in any event, publicly foreshadowing strategy is another serious misstep known as “really dumb”.

So we are left to use inference to figure out what lies ahead for the “2019-about-to-be-2020” Oakland A’s.

Inference Number The First One: A.J. Puk and Chris Bassitt are going nowhere.

Many fans’ trade proposals and ideas have used Puk as a necessary trade chip to bring back a return sexier (baseball-wise, anyway) than the Adam Frazier-Jed Lowrie-Cesar Hernandez-Brock Holt-Eric Sogard names that have been floated. Out of options and with decent trade value, Bassitt is another name oft suggested.

However, the front office’s consistent disinterest in adding a starting pitcher this off-season, highlighted most recently by sitting on the sidelines as Brett Anderson signed a fairly modest 1 year, $5M deal (plus $2M in incentives) with Milwaukee, strongly suggests that Oakland will not consider moving any of its top 6 SPs on the current depth chart.

The sextet of Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Jesus Luzardo, Chris Bassitt, and A.J. Puk are an enviable group to bring to spring training, but they and their followers hardly represent an “embarrassment of riches” you could afford to weaken and still expect to contend.

Of those 6, 3 (Manaea, Luzardo, Puk) are coming back from serious injuries and only 3 (Manaea, Fiers, Bassitt) have ever thrown as many as 100 big league innings in a season. Behind them, currently, are pitchers whose big league success has been fleeting (Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn), who have battled multiple injuries and have not yet reached the big leagues (Grant Holmes, James Kaprielian, Dalton Jefferies), or whose ceiling is thought to be “back end depth” (Daniel Gossett, Parker Dunshee, Brian Howard).

Perhaps the A’s will pivot late in the off-season, taking a look at pitchers still available with falling price tags. But it appears the A’s feel they have enough — just enough — quality arms to focus on other needs. That means you can probably consider the “front 6” to be “untouchable” until further notice.

Inference The Second One: The A’s are being opportunistic around 2B, rather than targeting a certain guy

There are two basic approaches to trades and signings, and Oakland’s front office employs each at different times. One is to zero in on “the guy we want,” e.g., Ramon Laureano, and to wait for the stars to align to bring him to Oakland. Another is to identify a group of sufficiently desirable players and let the market, the game of musical chairs, and fate determine which player lands with you.

The A’s appear to taking the second road to filling 2B. They may (and probably do) internally have a “first choice,” a “second choice” and so on, but in all likelihood they feel their infield would be acceptably completed with any of the aforementioned candidates. Expect them to be more opportunistic around “one of these guys” than persistent about “this one”.

Inference The Third One: Behind the scenes, Oakland is shopping Barreto and possibly Mateo

The 26th roster spot makes it easier for teams like the A’s to carry an out of options player who hasn’t yet proven he can serve as more than a pinch runner. However, it’s still only one spot and while Oakland already had two of those guys they went ahead and added a third in Vimael Machin, a Rule 5 selection who must be returned if he does not stay on the big league roster all season.

Publicly, the A’s continue to insist that they believe in Barreto and think he could thrive with an every day opportunity. And as one of the few backup SS options behind Marcus Semien, Mateo and his “70+-grade speed” could certainly have a place in Oakland. But it seems unlikely that the A’s are “all in” on either should a deal come around that helps Oakland get better in 2020 if they are willing to part with (fill in the blank with your favorite “toolsy-but-enigmatic right-hand batting middle infielder who is out of options”). I expect the A’s are at least listening openly as each name comes up, something they claim not to be doing, in contrast, with Chad Pinder.

I’m selling these 3 inferences — are you buying? Or do you have more inferences to add, even though we have already qualified for free egg roll?

Poll

Which of these inferences are you buying?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    All 3
    (298 votes)
  • 11%
    Numbers 1 and 2
    (54 votes)
  • 5%
    Numbers 2 and 3
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    Numbers 1 and 3
    (30 votes)
  • 1%
    Just number 1
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Just number 2
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    Just number 3
    (17 votes)
  • 4%
    Epic fail: None of them!
    (21 votes)
462 votes total Vote Now