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Sunday Edgar Allan Poe-pourri

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
“OK I should probably mix in some outs next inning.”
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

A veritable grab bag of notes ahoy. The first one being that in a last minute (because what other minute could I have done it) decision, I am flying down to Arizona the first week of April and will have in my grubby hands a clubhouse credential for to seek some player interviews. So while I may only attend one game in this hurried trip, the Eyeball Scout will be back in the Cactus League for the first time since 2019 and I hope to return with some nuggets — assuming I can recognize anyone (“Are you Snead? No? Smith? Oller? OK just give me a hint...”) and that we can hear each other’s muffled speech through masks.

Meanwhile, the A’s are playing actual games that don’t actually count so here are a few stray thoughts in search of a loving home...

Sean Manaea

Don’t get me wrong: knowing that Sean Manaea is on the trading block, when I heard the A’s were down 7-0 in the 1st inning my first thought was, “Of course.” It was the second possible inevitable outcome to Manaea’s arm flying off towards third base after delivering a pitch.

But remember, only fans care a whit about the results of early spring training games and Manaea’s trade value was not affected by last night’s shaky performance that saw him surrender 4 hits and a walk to the 6 batters he faced in the inning.

To put it in perspective, in first appearances pitchers lack the control and command they will have later in the exhibition season as they are just getting back their repeatable delivery and rhythm in front of live hitters. Also, oftentimes a pitcher’s velocity is about 3 MPH down from where it open the season. So if Manaea was battered around a bit throwing 88 MPH with poor location it doesn’t really tell you anything.

There is basically zero correlation between a pitcher’s first spring training appearance and his success that season. When (not if, folks) Manaea is dealt this spring and the return is a bit underwhelming, it’s because he is a very solid SP but no one’s ace, and has just one year left on his contract (which is why I’m pretty certain he will be dealt in the next 2 weeks).

My guess is that Manaea will bring back slightly less than the return for Chris Bassitt, in which case I personally hope the A’s hold out for one very good prospect rather than two pretty good ones. Pick a target you really like and try to get him, because spreading talent across multiple prospects won’t mean getting very highly rated ones for a SP who is somewhere between an “innings eater” and a “mid rotation SP”.

Matt Chapman

Yes it was aggravating, on principle, to hear that Matt Chapman was offered a 10 year, $150M deal by an A’s front office that has never contracted for more than $66M to any player (Eric Chavez), and even more aggravating to know that Chapman declined.

But honestly, I believe that deal would have been the consummate “lose-lose” in the long run. I think Chapman, after a bounce back year or two going into free agency, will probably get a deal with a higher AAV, a higher total, or both. I also think he will not age well and that a 10-year deal through 2029 would have hamstrung Oakland Khris Davis style as Chapman hit his 30s.

Granted, if the stadium progresses and payroll rises, a $15M/year commitment won’t be as crippling in 2027 as it was with Davis (whose contract pretty much replaced the one-year deal Marcus Semien signed with the Blue Jays, instead of the A’s, in 2021). But albatross gonna albatross, and while I think Toronto will come out fine with this trade I suspect the big loser will be the team that signs Chapman to a free agent contract after 2023 and that the A’s will be glad it’s not them on the hook through the likes of 2029.

On the flip side, if the A’s could have offered (or did offer, who knows — it won’t come out for 2.5 years, apparently) Matt Olson $19M/year for 8 years, that’s an extension I would have liked Oakland to do as I believe Olson will be very productive, and likely stay healthy, through his mid-30s. But that’s water under the bridge now, and I do like the haul the A’s got back from Atlanta. As for Chapman, I’m not thrilled about the return at the moment but prefer it to a costly (for the A’s) 10 year deal that ages badly.

Cristian Pache

Hey the A’s might not win a ton of games in 2022, but there are some new names to get excited about and it starts with Pache, who has at least a shot of breaking camp with the team and will almost certainly be up at some point in 2022.

No doubt Pache is big league ready defensively, and then some apparently, but there are legitimate questions about the readiness of his bat. Complicating matters is the 27 games Ramon Laureano will need to sit out to begin the season, creating an April OF opening that closes in early May.

One thought is that Pache could use Laureano’s suspension time to get his feet wet in the A’s outfield, and then be optioned upon Laureano’s return if he is struggling with the bat. I would like to endorse this plan by introducing another variable into the equation.

Remember that the lockout produced a shortened spring training and this will impact pitchers the most. Not only will starting pitchers be on shorter leashes, meaning we will see more of the underbellies of teams’ bullpens in April, but we can expect pitchers to be a bit less dominant in April overall.

It creates, in essence, somewhat of a AAAA setting for a player like Pache not to be overmatched. These might be the ideal 27 games for an “on the cusp of ready but maybe not quite with the bat” prospect to play on the Varsity team without looking like a JV scrub.

Perhaps with Laureano’s suspension and a lockout induced short spring training, the stars are aligning for Pache to be the A’s Opening Day CFer — and then see where we’re at when Laureano returns.

Also, who should I interview when I’m in Mesa? Some of it is impacted by opportunity, but any feedback is appreciated. The floor is open on all these topics...