The Reboot Will Not Be Televised: Imagining Best Case 2022 Hypotheticals

The lockout is dull. I was bored during this transaction freeze, so I thought I would try and imagine a best-case version of the ’22 Athletics. For this, I set team payroll at $ 65 M. This would be a cut from 2019-21, and slightly less than the $ 68 M the A's started with in 2018. I don't know how the payroll negotiations are going "in real life". But I believe this hypothetical allows for the A's to still tear down to a bare bones $ 50 M payroll if the team is under-preforming, because fringe contenders will always overpay for assets at the deadline. I used fangraphs steamer projections for this hypothetical because I couldn’t think of anything better. I also used the MLB trade rumors salary and arb estimates when applicable- although I expect the major league minimum to increase by Opening Day.

One key variable in this is trades. Maybe I picked all the wrong free agents the A's would target- but my goal is to create a hypothetical where the A's wind up in a position to scare the Astros from their expected perch in first place. My goal was not to exactly predict what the A's should or will do. I am not even remotely qualified. If the A's still wanted to break their record for lowest payroll, I have created a situation where they have about $ 20 M to spend on the open market for soft tossing relievers, a right handed bat in the outfield, and Brett Anderson.

In this hypothetical, most of the impact prospects in the A's system are completely off limits. As I believe they should be. The minor league system only improves in a minor fashion- adding back the depth the A's shed during previous trade deadlines sort of, but no 50 FV talent... yet. So what are my potential trades?

White Sox get: C. Bassitt, S. Piscotty

A's get: Gavin Sheets, DJ Gladney, Matt Foster

I would be a little peeved if the A's packaged Piscotty with one of their best assets, to depreciate their value. But the White Sox could exchange Sheets here for a veteran hitter, who put up average numbers when healthy. They get OF flexibility and another ace, while the A's get three players with team control.

Padres get: S. Manaea

A's get: Chris Paddack, Brandon Valenzuela, Esteury Ruiz

The Padres here get an ace rental and short term major improvement over Paddack. The A's get two prospects in positions of need and one major league ready starter projected for 1+ fWAR next year.


Player Name salary est proj fWAR +/- 2021
Sean Murphy Min. 3.0 -0.3
Austin Allen Min. 1.1 +0.8
Christian Bethancourt Min. 0 0

First Base

Player Name salary est proj fWAR +/- 2021
Matt Olson $ 12 M 4.6 -0.4

Second Base

Player Name Salary Est proj fWAR +/- 2021
Tony Kemp $ 2.25 M 2.1 -0.6
Vimael Machin Min 0.3

Short Stop

Player Name Salary Est proj fWAR +/- 2021
Elvis Andrus $ 6.75 M 1.2 +0.1
Nick Allen

Third Base

Player Name Est Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Matt Chapman $ 9.5 M 3.5 +0.1


Player Name Est Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Gavin Sheets
Luis Barrera

Tony Kemp
$ 2.25 M


Player Name Est Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Ramon Laureano $ 2.8 M 2.9 +0.8
Luis Barrera
0 -2.1


Player Name Est Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Chad Pinder
$ 2.725 M
Seth Brown
Gavin Sheets


Player Name Est Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Austin Allen
1.1 +0.2
Jed Lowrie
$ 1.25 M


Player Name est. Salary Proj fWAR +/- 2021
Frankie Montas
$ 5 M
2.8 -0.5
Martin Perez
$ 5 M
James Kaprielian Min
Chris Paddack
Cole Irvin

Any of this group not cut it? Jefferies, Puk, Blackburn, Honeywell Jr. and Howard can all slot in.


Player Name est. Salary Proj. fWAR +/- 2021
AJ Puk
Matt Foster
Jesse Chavez
$ 575 K
Matt Strahm
$ 1.9 M
Deolis Guerra $ 815 K 0.1
Lou Trivino $ 2.9 M 0

I'm leaving the +/- from 2021 empty because How Can Hell Be Any Worse? There are only 6 spots listed because I believe the A's can get two solid relievers out of this group: Sam Moll, Justin Grimm, Grant Holmes, Dany Jimenez, Zack Erwin, Aaron Brown, Brady Fiegl, Adam Kolarek, Ryan Castellani, Trey Supak. If that group combines for 0.5 fWAR, the A's are "back in it". If you have more faith in this group than I do, then the A's don't need to dole out $ 1.9 M to Strahm.

Total arbitration/free agent number: $ 47 M (a savings of about $ 20 M).

May lineup vs. RHP

Player Name vs. RHP proj. wRC+
4-Tony Kemp .290 109
3-Matt Olson .271 140
5-Matt Chapman .201 107
DH-Austin Allen ? 97
9- Seth Brown .220 94
2- Sean Murphy .227 99
8- Ramon Laureano .217 111
7-Gavin Sheets .268 111
6-Elvis Andrus
.269 86

May lineup vs. LHP

Player Name vs. LHP proj. wRC+
8-Luis Barrera
? 81
3-Matt Olson .270 140
7-Ramon Laureano .304 111
9- Chad Pinder .291 104
DH-Jed Lowrie .257 99
5- Matt Chapman
.228 107
C- Sean Murphy
.194 104
6- Nick Allen
? 77
4- Vimael Machin ? 88

Both lineups have about 6-7 above league average hitters, an mvp caliber guy no one will pitch to, and two high ceiling electric talents. And three duds. Which shouldn't be a problem if the talented players reach their expectations. Which did not happen in '21.

Every year the A's face two main opponents: a wildly unfair schedule and repercussions from their lack of depth. The later requires higher payroll, and the former is unavoidable. Looking at the A's '22 schedule, the months of June and August involve some head-spinning road trips. Not as dire as the two and a half straight weeks of games to end the '21 season, but it is close.

The A's team I have created has a league average bullpen, better than the '21 team. The rotation takes a significant step back. But it would project to be more valuable than the '18 rotation. The A's have attempted to trade a starter and still compete before, and I believe this is because the Coliseum fixes a lot of errors as a pitcher anyway. Behind them, it's maybe the best defensive team in the league. I agree and disagree with some of the 2022 projections, however I don't want to inject my bias to directly face off against a computer. Only to say, ignoring the projections and looking at the names, I don't have a bad feeling about it.

Especially with the Matt's + pre arb talent + Montas's splitter. While my free agent signings may stink, surely the A's can use $ 20 M to find a league average starter, and two platoon hitters. If even I can find a way where the A's are projected to win 85-88 wins, with some "baseball luck", a wild card appearance in Oakland is possible. What do you think about this team?

Thank you for reading and go Aviators (I mean A's).