The rebuilding Oakland Athletics are looking to continue their momentum during the 2nd half of the 2017 season into the 2018 season. A very rough start before the All-Star break led to Athletics GM David Forst calling up prospects formed first round picks 1B Matt Olson and 3B Matt Chapman. Olson and Chapman both impressed in their short time in Oakland.
Led by a power-slugging lineup, the 2018 Oakland Athletics are hoping to at least reach .500, and possibly work their way in as a dark horse wild card team with a few key offseason acquisitions.
Veteran Starting Pitching
Last year, the A’s starting rotation was in the bottom half of the league in terms of innings pitched and cumulative ERA. The back end of the staff was constantly being rotated around with guys like Jharel Cotton, Paul Blackburn, Daniel Gossett, and Chris Smith who struggled to give consistent innings.
With lefty fireballer Sean Manaea and right-handed sinkerballer Kendall Graveman having the only locked up rotation spots, the A’s are hoping to add at least one veteran starter to help bolster a young rotation.
CC Sabathia could very well end up pitching for the green and gold in 2018. The Vallejo, California native was raised just 25 miles north of Oakland, and he would be a good veteran presence for the young A’s staff. The A’s have a history of acquiring players that are from the East Bay, such as former player Jonny Gomes and current players SS Marcus Semien and OF Mark Canha. If the Yankees fail to re-sign him, CC could very well end his career in Oakland.
Outside of 2011, Lance Lynn has consistently gone over 175 innings pitched in each season of his career. Lynn would add some much needed right-handed variability to a primarily left-handed rotation. The lack of immediate pitching depth on the farm system makes Lynn a prime candidate to come to Oakland and provide stability for multiple years.
Tyler Chatwood would be a good fit in Oakland as well. After successful career reboots in Scott Kazmir and Rich Hill, David Forst and company may be looking to strike lightning in a bottle for a third time. Chatwood would come with an Oakland-friendly cheap contract. His high groundball rate in Coors Field makes for an interesting proposition for what he can do in the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.
With the recent trade of 1B/DH Ryon Healy to the Mariners, OF Khris Davis can be put down as the permanent DH. This leaves a potential hole in the OF with Matt Joyce taking RF and a combination of Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell in CF. Fowler, acquired in the Sonny Gray trade, is still recovering from a ruptured tendon in his knee. As of now, it is assumed he will not be ready for Opening Day. The case is still out on Powell as he had a great start in the latter half of the season but with a small sample size.
The A’s have already been rumored to be interested in numerous outfielders via trade including Avisail Garcia, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. Garcia had a breakout All-Star season last year which makes him a prime trade candidate for the rebuilding White Sox. The outfielder would bring a strong but risky right-handed bat at a relatively low cost due to his contract ending in 2 seasons.
Oakland has also been connected to rumors surrounding at least one outfielder from the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately for A’s fans, Stanton will not be coming to Oakland, but rumors have been popping up about Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich donning the green and gold. Ozuna is the more likely of the two to come to Oakland, as he brings the consistent right-handed bat the A’s are looking for. Ozuna wouldn’t cost the A’s too much as his contract is expiring soon.
While an acquisition of Yelich may be costly, Oakland may be one of the few places with enough depth in the minors to be able to pull it off. At the end of last season, Forst and Beane continued to emphasize that the A’s were in rebuild mode. This makes a trade unlikely, but there are options out there if other American League teams fail to make win-now moves. Highly touted and recently acquired middle infield prospect Jorge Mateo could be the odd man out in the future for the A’s, and he could be the center of a trade if it were to happen. Oakland last year was reportedly trying to sign current SS Marcus Semien to an extension. Current top prospect Franklin Barreto is seen as the future 2B from 2019 on. While a trade would go against everything the A’s front office is claiming to want to do, the A’s have made a few surprise trades in the past, and Yelich, almost 26 years old, may be worth the price for Oakland.
The Unanticipated Catcher Problem
The catcher position has become an unexpected issue for the A’s this offseason. Starting catcher Bruce Maxwell was recently charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as disorderly conduct with a weapon. If convicted, the A’s would assuredly cut ties with him quickly. Maxwell was penciled in as the A’s Opening Day starting catcher going into the 2018 season before the legal issues.
With no help coming from the upper levels of the minors, the A’s are going to have to look at outside sources to find their catcher. The two catchers on the roster, Dustin Garneau and Josh Phegley, are both right-handed, meaning the A’s will lean towards signing a left-handed catcher.
Unfortunately for the A’s, the market for left-handed catchers is very shallow. Alex Avila and Miguel Montero are left-handed veterans who could end up in Oakland with Avila being the better option with Montero’s issues last season.
Through trade the A’s options are limited. The Dodgers have been rumored to shopping their switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal. The A’s rarely trade their assets for rentals, which Grandal is, as his contract expires after this season. This trade has potential as the A’s and Dodgers have partnered in deals recently, but there is uncertainty about what the A’s could give the defending National League champions.
In conclusion, the A’s are primarily looking for starting pitching to help support a very power-heavy lineup, some insurance in the outfield, and most likely a catcher if the Maxwell situation does not improve. With key acquisitions, the A’s could see themselves in the Wild Card picture in a very top-heavy American League.