It was the worst of times. Every A's fan on the internet is unhappy. I'm not here to criticize you, personally, dear reader. But I am here to criticize you all, as a population. You need to cheer up! What we're about to do is the same thing the Cubs, who have far more resources than the A's do, should have done two years ago! Every team goes through this at some point. Most of them don't have over $200M in surplus value attached to a handful of players when they do it. So I'm gonna try to be your happy park ranger as we enter the cold wilderness of the Collective Bargaining Agreement Offseason.
Following a flaccid, Semien-less ending to the 2021 season, it seems as if we're headed for another post-2011, post-2014 re-alignment of the roster. Melvin is gone and, as Beane always says, he shops for the ingredients, and the manager is simply the chef. Even the best chefs can't make a good dish with day-old bread, spoiled cream, and beets. With a new chef on the way, it's time to buy him some fresh groceries. Something better than beets.
Bob Nightengale recently reported that the A's are expected to reduce payroll down to $50M in 2022. But Bob Nightengale is an idiot, and laughter is medicine, so I'm just gonna call it $69M.
Who do we have to trade? We have five major arbitration-eligible players (years of team control in parentheses):
- Matt Olson (2)
- Matt Chapman (2)
- Frankie Montas (2)
- Chris Bassitt (1)
- Sean Manaea (1)
Additionally, we have a budding star at catcher who just won a Gold Glove in Sean Murphy, plus a closer entering arbitration in Lou Trivino.
That's the inventory, so now we can go to work.
Free agent targets:
- Mark Melancon, 2-years, $14M - a Proven Closer to replace the many relievers we're losing.
- Andrew Chafin, 2-years, $13M
- Rich Hill, 1-year, $5M - a veteran arm who can start or relieve and serve as deadline trade bait. He's had success here before.
- Jed Lowrie, 1-year, $1.5M - Forever Athletic
That pretty much wraps up free agency! Maybe another reliever or something, but now isn't the time for free agents.
- Trade 1: Matt Chapman and Lou Trivino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bobby Miller, Landon Knack, Miguel Vargas, and Andre Jackson
- Trade 2: Chris Bassitt and Sean Murphy to the San Diego Padres for Luis Campusano, Robert Hassell, Ryan Weathers, Adrian Morejon, and Reiss Knehr
- Trade 3: Sean Manaea to the St. Louis Cardinals for Matthew Liberatore
- Trade 4: Frankie Montas and Stephen Piscotty to the Tampa Bay Rays for Taylor Walls, Greg Jones, and Kevin Kiermaier
With the likely inception of the DH in the National League, the Dodgers can move Justin Turner to that spot and hand third base to Chapman. Bobby Miller and Landon Knack are the first two picks the Dodgers made in the truncated 2020 draft. Both of them were drafted out of college and put together healthy numbers between high-A and AA this year. Both are candidates for a Major League job around midseason, and could be firmly in the rotation by Opening Day 2023 if everything goes right. Andre Jackson spent most of the year at AA, performed well enough to earn a big league audition, appearing in three games for the Dodgers, despite a rough 19 homers allowed in 95 minor league innings. Vargas is the son of an international baseball legend out of Cuba who can flat-out hit, hitting .319/.380/.526 between A+ and AA in 2021 as a 21 year-old with 89 strikeouts and 45 walks in 542 plate appearances. His defense is questionable and he may end up a 1B/DH, but the bat profiles well anywhere. 1B/DH with a great bat and a legendary father, could be a poor man's Vlad Jr.
The Padres took our manager and now we can send him some familiar pieces. Bassitt and Murphy immediately give them two All Star caliber pieces. Murphy has immense value as a controllable Gold Glove catcher with power. The Padres have a very deep farm system, and that's where we can really extract some value. Campusano is a Major League-ready catcher who was taken in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft. We'll buy an extra couple of years of control by moving from Murphy to Campusano, and we'll also be getting Robert Hassell, the 8th pick in the 2020 draft. He hit .302/.393/.470 at low-A and A+ with 34 stolen bases and 11 home runs to go with a 99/66 K/BB ratio in 516 plate appearances. He and Tyler Soderstrom may be the two best high school bats taken in 2020, and they can both develop on the same schedule and be ready to make an impact by 2024. Weathers had an up-and-down year in the majors and is a change-of-scenery candidate who would plug into our 2022 rotation immediately. Adrian Morejon is recovering from TJS and won't be ready until midseason at the earliest, but the upside is tempting. Reiss Knehr is an MLB arm with a full slate of control who can start or relieve, and would plug in nicely anywhere on the staff next season.
Matthew Liberatore, originally a Ray who was traded for Randy Arozarena, is a big lefty with an okay fastball who logged 125 innings at AAA last season and is ready to pitch in the big leagues next year. He won't be an ace with his fastball. He actually kinda profiles as a Sean Manaea type. Nobody has ever been as likely to be traded as Sean Manaea is. Thanks for everything, big guy. We'll send you to the midwest, where you'll be closer to home. The Cardinals could use his certainty to try to win the division next year, while the A's will be able to give Liberatore space to develop.
Frankie Montas is sneakily perhaps the most valuable pitcher on the trade market, after his fantastic September to end the season. His 2019 PED suspension and shaky 2020 suppress his 2022 arbitration estimate, which MLBTR.com has at less than $5M. The Rays were the best team in the American League last year, but winning the World Series without a legit starting pitcher proved too tall a task after Tyler Glasnow went down with an injury. Montas is the perfect mix of affordability and effectiveness that fits the Rays needs and budget. Additionally, they have a deep farm system filled with infielders who are crowded out at the MLB level by superstar Wander Franco and All Star Brandon Lowe. Walls is an excellent defender who made it to the Major Leagues last season and put up 1.5 WAR in 54 games despite a weak .211/.314/.296 line, thanks to his stellar defense. He's a switch hitter who has shown more offense in the minors, and can hold short stop until Nick Allen potentially moves him to 2B. Greg Jones is a first round pick who was linked to the A's, and his raw tools are tantalizing although he's unproven at the upper levels and will be ticketed for AA as a 24 year-old in 2022. Kiermaier is a mild troll for longtime ANers by me, but I can make sense of it! Montas + Piscotty make the same amount of money as Kiermaier does next year, and the Rays have centerfielders who can take over, and Piscotty is off the books after 2022 while Kiermaier has a buyout. It's finally time!
You'll notice that Matt Olson is still here. We always keep a guy. Eric Chavez, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Mark Ellis... Matt Olson should be the next Oakland Athletic to stick around.
BN Austin Allen
Prospects at A+: Soderstrom
Prospects at AA: Hassell
Prospects at AAA: Vargas, Allen
Players not making the minimum, either guaranteed numbers or with arbitration estimates from MLBTR:
That's ten players totaling $58M. That totals like $69M after a bunch of other guys making the league minimum are accounted for.
Some time in 2023:
C Tyler Soderstrom
1B Matt Olson
2B Taylor Walls
SS Nick Allen
3B Miguel Vargas
LF Robert Hassell
CF Ramon Laureano
RF Seth Brown
DH Luis Campusano
SP Bobby Miller
SP Matthew Liberatore
SP James Kaprielian
SP Ryan Weathers
SP Adrian Morejon
P Daulton Jefferies
P AJ Puk
P Andre Jackson
P Reiss Knehr
P Cole Irvin
P Landon Knack
Also hire Ryan Christenson to manage the team. He's paid his dues in the minors and learned from Melvin at the MLB level.