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And Then There Were 5...

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
“Will I be here long enough to play with that guy named Howard Terminal?”
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not especially looking forward to the next couple days, as they are taking pictures of my colon on Tuesday. I offered to take selfies but they felt that a doctor really ought to be involved. I am hoping that all they find is a portly Dominican with pinpoint control.

I am also not especially looking forward to the inevitable trades, whenever the baseball gears that have ground to a halt are allowed to resume their grinding. 5 players are most likely to be dealt — the question is how many of them will actually be traded?

As you probably know those five are, in alphabetical order, Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, and Matt Olson. They share high trade value and contracts that assure them free agency not later than the end of the 2023 season. Ramon Laureano becomes less tradeable in light of his PED suspension that will cost him the first month of the season, and will also gain Oakland an extra year of control, and Sean Murphy is pre-arbitration, making him both cheap and likely part of the next competitive A’s team.

So what will, and what should, the front office do about these 5 potential trade chips...?

All 5

As disconcerting as it sounds, there is a reasonable case to be made for trading all 5. If the A’s accept not being competitive for the next 2 seasons then all 5 will be free agents before the team is ready to compete and the front office may as well go for the best young talent they can add to the organization. And the value Oakland can get for all 5 likely means significant “MLB ready” pieces who can contribute soon along with turning a very weak farm into a strong one.

That might sound more appealing than watching Matt Olson anchor a “representative product” and drawing 200 walks, or seeing Chris Bassitt pitch well to open a season in which Cole Irvin is the #2 SP. In either scenario the A’s are probably winning fewer than 70 games anyway.

Which 4?

What if the front office wants to move most of these guys, but feels one should stay as a clubhouse leader, recognizable face to fans and young players, and to help the team be competitive sooner rather than later, who stays?

A case could be made for Olson, as in contrast to Bassitt and Manaea he has 2 years left on his contract and the A’s don’t have to punt entirely on the 2023 season yet. Olson also makes sense if the front office has hopes that shovels will go into the ground — or at least the promise of shovels with an exact ground-breaking date — at Howard Terminal by the end of 2023, and the organization might entertain a contract extension with Olson. Olson has skills that age well and he has a strong health history. You could a lot worse for a choice to offer that rare, but not unprecedented, lucrative extension.

Another possibility, if Olson’s trade value is just too alluring to pass up, is to keep Bassitt as a leader of the soon-to-be-very-young rotation and an inspirational leader in the clubhouse overall. Bassitt’s trade value is limited (though still substantial) by having just one year left on his contract, and with the bounty Oakland could get from Olson-Chapman-Montas-Manaea, they might feel Bassitt is more valuable here with the new crew than gone for a couple more newbies. Bassitt could also be affordable on a 2-3 year contract extension if the front office wanted to pursue going that route.

Or you could keep Montas with the idea of dealing him later still for significant value, but with the option of hanging onto him if the team becomes competitive ahead of schedule. One problem with this approach is that Montas has proven to be inconsistent and a bit unpredictable, and his value is probably the highest it is ever going to be. Counting on him to continue to pitch like a ace may not be wise.

Pick 3?

I feel like keeping 4 is the least likely scenario because if you’re going to deal 4 of these 5 you may as well deal all 5. But the team could also quite reasonably decide they can restock the farm adequately by dealing 3 and keeping more talent in the fold moving forward.

For example, you could get a fair amount of talent back dealing Bassitt, Manaea, and one of the Matts, while the other Matt joined Montas, Laureano, and Murphy as a group aiming to compete as soon as 2023. That approach would necessitate bringing back more “MLB ready” talent than “high upside A-ball talent” and might lead to another “reload” soon. It would also require a higher 2022 payroll than if the team goes into “tear it down” mode.

I would keep going, but honestly I just can’t envision a scenario in which the front office trades fewer than 3 of these 5 players — which burns because this group includes some of my favorite A’s.

My questions to you are two-fold: Which direction do you think the A’s should go, and which direction do you think the A’s will go? (If you see them keeping 1 or 2 of these 5, make sure to name which and why.) And enjoy your Sunday, more than I figure to enjoy the beginning of the week.

Poll

From amongst Bassitt-Chapman-Manaea-Montas-Olson, how many do you see getting dealt this off-season?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    All 5 — we’re tearing it down!
    (324 votes)
  • 18%
    4 of the 5 — one leader and a 4-gone conclusion!
    (139 votes)
  • 27%
    3 of the 5 — we’re locking and reloading!
    (204 votes)
  • 10%
    Fewer than 3 of them — you picked the wrong guys! (Murphy? Kaprielian? Noodles?)
    (81 votes)
748 votes total Vote Now