In thinking about the turbulent offseason, some questions remain. During the transaction freeze, all we are left with is hypotheticals and speculation. Who will the A's trade? For what type of package? What will the 2022 team look like? The slegnA playoff desperation, Astros continued strength and a continued lockout may suggest a punt on next season. But I believe the A's are unlikely to give up so quickly after the only two "rebuilding" seasons in decades. When it comes to the expensive arbitration talent the A's have at the top of their payroll, the framing I've been using to consider who the A's could/should deal is: overlapping careers.
We know the A's have an ability to create talent out of nowhere, and build a contending team two years after trading major talent. Hill & Reddick were shipped off at the 2016 deadline, and two years later the A's won 97 games. That trade was obviously not the only reason. I cite it only to suggest that such a capitulation might not be as long tenured as some may think. I believe it is futile to try and guess who the A's will send out for what, but what is important to guess on is the ETA of that package.
Since 2018, the A's have had 16 players post 99 wRC+ (min. 70 PA's).
|Player Name||wRC+||fWAR||Current Team/Yrs of control|
|Tommy La Stella||124||0.6||SFG|
Since 2018, the A's have seen 6 pitchers thrown at least 190 IP:
|Player Name||SIERRA||xFIP||Current Team/Yrs of control|
My first question, is of course, HOW? The A's were one of baseball's best regular season teams for a four year period with the shakiest of starting rotations, of course until 2021. This goes to show you things don't have to be perfect for the A's to do well, I guess. And on the batting side, despite all the turnover the A's firmly control one half of the players with the most productive offense performances since 2018. One more chart, this is of the fangraphs board:
|Player Name||ETA||Opening Day Age||FV|
I am going to make one distinction that goes beyond the "experts" here. Soderstrom's ETA is listed as 2025. If the A's were to advance his bat quicker and move him off a more valuable position, that might change. On the one hand, if the A's plan on sucking for a few years, there is no reason to rush him. But Soderstrom the LF might have an ETA of June 2023- at the earliest.This is of course barring injuries, because that's what shut down his season in Stockton in '21.
It is a dangerous concept for the A's to entertain another 2016-17 repeat. The A's have never tanked in recent memory- and I would argue it's impossible to do so playing in the Coliseum. There might not be many amenities, or good views of the action, so the A's need at least a decent team or attendance could crater. The team still needs goodwill before a hypothetical HT opening, which might be at 2027 at the earliest. This either requires more years at the Coliseum, or two seasons sharing a park with the Giants. All this goes out the window if HT is stalled, and the A's make a quick move out of state.
Going back to the headline, of overlapping careers. The chances that Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Tyler Soderstrom would ever share the field together are microscopic. But even with fangraph's conservative ETA, Soderstrom would be called up during Sean Murphy's (theoretical) final year of arb control. The A's don't have a place to play in 2025, so maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. All of the A's decent pitching prospects could be up in the big leagues by 2023. The question of "who to keep" becomes a question of "whose careers will overlap?" If Soderstrom were to take a a conventional path of super prospects, he might even be up during the Matt's final year of control.
Whenever you see the A's send away veterans this February, think about overlapping careers. Because the A's have a lot of talent unlikely to move, all positioned to contribute to the 2024 squad- potentially the final year in the Coliseum. And that's a conservative estimate- the A's could pull a 2018 out of their dugout and turn the ship around as soon as mid season 2023. For the A's to be a bottom 5 club in baseball next year, there might be a trillion bad injuries. Or the A's have decided the young half of the current core and a few of their top prospects aren't worth building around. Being that bad for that long risks burning through a lot of good will, or the A's can choose to build another strong team shortly before opening a new ballpark.
Whatever the A's decide to do, a cheap option remains to be good in a short amount of time. The A's certainly need depth for that next run- which can be acquired quickly. Thank you for taking the time to read this thought piece. Go Aviators (I mean, A's!)