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Oakland A’s announce 2021 Opening Day roster

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These 26 players will suit up Thursday against the Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s announced their 2021 Opening Day roster on Thursday. They left a couple decisions down to the last moment, but we now know which 26 players will suit up tonight at the Coliseum for the first game of the season against the Houston Astros.

The A’s made a few transactions in order to finalize things.

  • Placed RHP Mike Fiers and RHP Trevor Rosenthal on 10-day injured list (link)
  • Added 2B Jed Lowrie and LHP Reymin Guduan to 40-man roster; DFA’d OF Skye Bolt (link)
  • Optioned RHP Daulton Jefferies and LHP A.J. Puk to Triple-A (link)

That leaves the following list for April 1.

Oakland A's 26-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Chris Bassitt (R)
Jesús Luzardo (L)
Sean Manaea (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Cole Irvin (L)

IL: Mike Fiers (R)

Relievers

Jake Diekman (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Sergio Romo (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Burch Smith (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Reymin Guduan (L)

IL: Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Aramis Garcia (R)

Infielders

Matt Chapman (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Elvis Andrus (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Mitch Moreland (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Tony Kemp (L)


Outfielders

Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ka'ai Tom (L)

Here’s a quick look through each position group.

Starting pitchers

  1. Chris Bassitt (R)
  2. Jesús Luzardo (L)
  3. Sean Manaea (L)
  4. Frankie Montas (R)
  5. Cole Irvin (L)

Update: The order will actually go Bassitt, Luzardo, Irvin, Manaea, Montas

This could be the best A’s rotation since their last contention window back in 2012-14. Bassitt had a breakout last year and now has added a new slider, and Luzardo got some experience on the way to his own hopeful stardom. Manaea was solid last year and got his velocity back this spring, and Montas looks to put a disappointing and somewhat injured 2020 behind him.

The fifth spot is supposed to be Mike Fiers, but he went on the IL with a lumbar strain in his back that also affected his right hip, so offseason acquisition Irvin will fill in for him.

There’s star power at the top, the likes of which we haven’t seen in nearly a decade, or maybe not even since the Big 3. There’s significant upside in the middle, with pitchers we once looked at as future stars and could again someday. And there’s quality depth, whether it’s workhorse Fiers, new addition Irvin, or top prospects Daulton Jefferies and A.J. Puk waiting for their turns at the alternate site camp and/or Triple-A.

Pitching can always go wrong, and there’s plenty of risk and injury history attached to this group, but there’s also a high ceiling.

Relief pitchers

  • Jake Diekman (L)
  • Yusmeiro Petit (R)
  • Sergio Romo (R)
  • Adam Kolarek (L)
  • J.B. Wendelken (R)
  • Lou Trivino (R)
  • Burch Smith (R)
  • Reymin Guduan (L)

The A’s had arguably the best bullpen in 2020, and they might have improved it over the winter. It’s absolutely stacked, especially if you believe at all in advanced metrics like FIP and xwOBA.

The pen took a hit when Trevor Rosenthal was unexpectedly placed on the IL, but there’s still plenty to like. Diekman was an All-MLB Team finalist last year and then allowed zero hits this spring in six innings, Romo has tons of closing experience, Petit has been a setup man here for years, and everyone else down the list has put up superb numbers in the majors with no specific reason to think that will change.

The new emergency addition to replace Rosenthal is Reymin Guduan {ray-MEEN / goo-DWAN}, who was a non-roster invitee to spring camp and impressed in the Cactus League. Click here for more info on the lefty. After him, next in line in the minors on the 40-man roster figures to be righty Jordan Weems, or perhaps prospect Miguel Romero or non-roster veteran Deolis Guerra.

Again, pitching can always go wrong for any reason, but on paper this area of the team looks like a serious strength again.

Catchers

  • Sean Murphy (R)
  • Aramis Garcia (R)

Murphy established himself as a rising star last year, placing fourth for AL Rookie of the Year and arguably finishing as the best hitter on the team. And he’s a glove-first player, who could begin competing for award hardware this summer.

Garcia is also glove-first, with some power if he can make enough contact at the plate. He was acquired from the Rangers in the Khris Davis trade and earned the job with a strong spring. This position is a strength regardless because of Murphy, but if Garcia (or fellow backup Austin Allen) can also pan out then it would push the ceiling even higher.

Infielders

  • 1B: Matt Olson (L)
  • 2B: Jed Lowrie (S)
  • SS: Elvis Andrus (R)
  • 3B: Matt Chapman (R)
  • UT: Tony Kemp (L)
  • UT: Chad Pinder (R)
  • DH: Mitch Moreland (L)

The Matts are the two best players on the team until further notice, with award-winning defense and excellent bats. Olson in particular had an enormous spring, for what that’s worth, and Chapman looks to be fully healthy after hip surgery that ended his 2020 early.

They’re now joined by a pair of aging veterans looking to recapture the magic. Andrus got dumped by his longtime Rangers team after a few off-years and some back problems, and Lowrie missed two full seasons to injury for the Mets and now vies for a comeback with the one team he’s always stayed healthy on. They both have star ability at their best, with the question being how much of it they can produce this summer at ages 32 and 37, in place of free agent departures Marcus Semien and Tommy La Stella.

Pinder and Kemp offer versatility, which could mean helping out Lowrie at 2B, or backing up anyone who needs a day off or gets banged up in a game. They can also play the outfield, especially Pinder. Vimael Machin is in the minors as the next such utility option.

Moreland is the DH, which is an upgrade over what Khris Davis offered the last couple years but not as impactful as what Davis was at his peak.

Outfielders

  • LF: Mark Canha (R)
  • CF: Ramon Laureano (R)
  • RF: Stephen Piscotty (R)
  • OF: Ka’ai Tom (L)

Familiar crew, but without free agent departure Robbie Grossman, who is more or less replaced by a new Rule 5 draft pick. Tom didn’t just get his spot by default, either, but earned it with a great spring performance. He can get on base, hit for some power, run the bases, and hopefully play some good defense at each outfield position, which is basically all the boxes you can check.

The only question here is how playing time will be split up. There’s no more DH spot to stash surplus outfielders, as Moreland and Lowrie will presumably use most of those at-bats, so Tom’s path to the starting lineup will likely require supplanting one of the right-handed vets against righty pitching. Next in line in the minors appears to be Seth Brown.

***

This is an easy roster to get excited about, because it’s difficult to choose the biggest area of strength and there are almost no weaknesses. The rotation looks good, the bullpen looks even better, there’s a star catcher, an infield with multiple stars, and an outfield with multiple stars. The middle infield still needs to prove it has something left in the tank, but even then there are a few backup options up their sleeve.

Will it all work out and come together into another title contender in 2021? We’ll begin to find out tonight!