Band members come and go yet the song goes on and on. Thus is the plight of the Oakland A’s. The team that invented small market guerilla tactics enters the offseason with that process intact and their course set.
Only one player on the roster qualifies as a big-money player and that’s Khris Davis. The designated hitter heads into the last year of the two-year, $33.5M contract extension he signed in 2019. Davis has scuffled the past two seasons (25 HR, 85 RBI, 566 AB combined 19’/20′) mostly due to injury. He turns 33 just before Christmas and is likely gunning for the last big contract of his career. The Oakland Faithful could very well be in for a return to the 40+ HR days of Khrush Davis.
The only other significant earners on the A’s roster are Stephen Piscotty and Jake Diekman. Piscotty has two years left on the extension he signed in 2017 at $7.5M each. Diekman has the team on the hook for $4M in 2021.
More Puzzle Pieces
Another annual ritual the A’s have become accustomed to is arbitration hearings. The 2021 season will be no different as nine players on the roster are eligible for the process. That list includes Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas who represent sixty percent of the starting rotation. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are also each in their first years of arbitration eligibility. The countdown to decision time on The Matts is officially on.
Mark Canha is in his last year of arbitration eligibility. Chad Pinder, Tony Kemp, and Burch Smith are also eligible. Other mainstays like Ramon Laureano and Lou Trivino are cued up and ready to take their places in the arbitration pipeline next year.
Plugging the Latest Hole
The departure of Marcus Semien means that if right now a ground ball is hit to Matt Chapman’s left, no one will be there to catch it. Barring an uncharacteristic free agent signing of Andrelton Simmons or Didi Gregorius, the solution will come from within the organization. The A’s believe they have just the guy in Vimael Machin, a Rule Five selection the team purchased from the Philadelphia Phillies last year. The 27-year old from Puerto Rico made his big league debut in 2020 with a .206/.296/.238/.534 slash line in 63 at-bats. But the VCU product has a history through college and the minors of struggling when first promoted, then finding his way to success. Machin’s 2019 slash line from AAA Iowa was .295/.390/.412/.802. Look for the A’s to give a long look at Machin in spring training.
Plan B for shortstop falls to a rotation/mixture of Pinder, Kemp, and possibly rookie Sheldon Neuse. Neuse is a third baseman by trade but has seen some time at short in the minors. But at 230 pounds, Neuse isn’t a likely long-term fix at shortstop.
Minors to Majors
Young players will always be the staple of the A’s as long as their situation is the same. The catching triumvirate of Sean Murphy, Austin Allen, and Jonah Heim has 303 major league at-bats between them. Most fans forget just how young Olson and Chapman really are (26 and 27 respectively). And pitchers in their 30’s are limited to Bassitt and Diekman.
Filling the other needs of the club will undoubtedly fall to young players coming up from the minors. Luckily, the A’s do this for a living and their farm system has a bevy of players on the cusp of the big leagues. The pitching staff needs another regular starter and at least two relievers so James Kaprielian, Daulton Jefferies, Grant Holmes, and Miguel Romero should get their opportunities to make the big league roster. There will be at-bats available in the outfield and that’s where Luis Barrera, Greg Deichmann, Seth Brown, and Skye Bolt could get their shots.
The A’s have some lineup and roster spots to fill, but that’s really nothing new. General Manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin always seem to have enough pixie dust to sprinkle and magic beans to plant that gets the job done. Free agency really isn’t their style, although mid-market relievers always seem to find their way to Oakland. So don’t be surprised to see Brandon Workman, Trevor May, or Jeremy Jeffress in a yellow jersey come opening day. Otherwise, non-tenders and Rule Five draftees along with the odd DFA that catches their attention will fill out their roster. And the A’s will out-play, out-hustle and out-perform their big-spending opponents in the American League West division once again. That’s because playoff baseball is the familiar tune the Oakland A’s always seem to play.
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