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Thao Shalt Not Steal (Them Back)?

Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants
A new ballpark right on the Vegas Stripling?
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

On The Field

The A’s finally made some headlines on the field, acquiring not one mediocre Giants pitcher but two, count ‘em, two! Both have some upside, with excellent seasons in their past.

Ross Stripling was even good as recently as 2022, when he started 32 games for the Blue Jays posting a 10-4 record with a sterling 3.01 ERA. Alex Wood struggled in his last 2 seasons with the Giants, especially when starting, but who can forget his 16-3, 2.72 ERA season with Dodgers? I guess you could possibly forget it considering it was 7 years ago, but still.

So on the field, the A’s are suddenly a bit plush in veteran starting pitchers with the trio of Stripling, Wood, and Paul Blackburn vying to be 3/5 of the rotation. Joe Boyle, due to performance, and Luis Medina, out of options, will be primary considerations as well, and J.P. Sears appears to be a lock.

Those 6 are backed by the depth of Joey Estes, who can start in AAA and await an early call-up, Kyle Muller, who might make the team as a swing man solely because he is out of options, and the somewhat intriguing Oswaldo Bido. And then at least in theory, one could see Ken Waldichuk return at some point if he avoids the dreaded TJS.

The adding of not one but two veterans also raises at least the possibility that the A’s could entertain turning around and dealing Paul Blackburn, one of the few players left who has value on the trade market (+7.6 according to BTV). Or perhaps the A’s opt for depth knowing that the excess you have in February generally turns into a deficit by April.

Off The Field

But enough about the actual team. The worst run franchise in all of pro sports makes its headlines off the field, where the team still has not revealed any renderings, any financing plan, any home for 2025, or any proof that they have a clue as to what they are doing.

Enter Mayor Sheng Thao, whose Chief of Staff Leigh Hanson recently made the unwise quote that “Oakland won’t miss the A’s” (she meant financially but forgot to mention it), causing Mayor Thao to respond strongly by taking a vow of silence.

Yesterday, though, Thao remembered how to speak and said she will continue to fight for the A’s and speak to viable buyers. Meanwhile, the team’s most pressing concern is finding an “interim home” for 2025-27, which will turn into 2025-28 if no ballpark is ready for the 2028 season.

Let’s recall Thao’s previous (and so far still current) stance: In order to lease the Oakland Coliseum to the A’s for these “interim years” she wants the guarantee of an expansion team and to keep the “A’s” name. In other words, the current franchise goes away as something else and the A’s stay in Oakland with a brand new set of players to be named later.

I think we all know that is not going to happen, but there is a new option of which I think the mayor should avail herself. We have reached the point in the process where it’s clear the A’s are desperate. They are touring minor league parks that hold 7,500-10,000 fans and talking about the possibility of “disbanding” for several years if necessary.

The A’s won’t be disbanding — one of the country’s most powerful labor unions isn’t going to allow it and it would be a logistical nightmare for minor leaguers rising to nowhere — but just the fact that the A’s are putting the concept out there (likely to try to force some action at one of their pathetic site options) shows how poorly their efforts are going.

Enter Thao with a new offer. The A’s can extend their lease at the Oakland Coliseum for 3 years, with a club option for a fourth year, guaranteeing them a home in a big league stadium and city through 2028 if needed.

However, a key stipulation would be that if the A’s are not ready to play their home games in a new Las Vegas stadium on Opening Day, 2029, Fisher would be required to sell the team to an Oakland buyer ready to build a new stadium in Oakland. These would not need to be hypothetical buyers, as one or more could be lined up waiting and ready to go.

You are, in effect, forcing Fisher and Kaval to bet on themselves that they can complete this stadium project within a year of the originally projected timeline. You have created a binary option where selling to a different Las Vegas investor, or to a buyer keen on moving the team to Salt Lake City or Nashville, are no longer possible. It’s Vegas or Oakland, and two businessmen who are really bad at what they do are the ones betting on Vegas.

Worst case scenario now becomes that the A’s stay in Oakland for 3-4 additional seasons and have continuity in seamlessly transitioning from Oakland to Las Vegas. Best case scenario is also the only alternative scenario, and that is the stadium deal in Vegas falls apart and the owner has no choice but to sell to Joe Lacob or whatever Oakland buyer can top his offer.

From the A’s point of view, first off they need a place to play after 2024 and leasing the Coliseum gets them off the hook for what is becoming a desperate search. One hopes MLBPA is quietly asserting that minor league stadiums are not acceptable, and that part of the A’s wildly flapping about “disbanding” is that they actually are not closing in on a solution.

Also, if the A’s think Vegas is happening then why not bet on it? What are they afraid of? Isn’t this a great offer, since the only caveat is one that won’t become relevant as a beautiful stadium on the strip rises majestically to serve as the home of the new $170M payroll A’s?

Thao isn’t going to gain any traction with her first set of demands, as MLB simply isn’t going to guarantee Oakland an expansion team or leave the team name behind if they relocate. But “bet on Vegas or sell to an Oakland buyer,” with both Howard Terminal and the Coliseum site ready to begin construction on any time, instantly solving the A’s need for a home between 2024 and 2029 and guaranteeing continuity one way or the other?

Make Fisher and Kaval bet on themselves, because that’s a bet only a fool would take. Just a thought.