Oakland A’s Teardown Reexamined

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Following the A’s teardown over the offseason, there weren’t many baseball writers in America that would have given the Oakland Athletics much of a shot at staying competitive in the AL West in the 2022 season. After the MLB lockout ended, the team decided it was time to part ways with all of their core players. Nearly every one of them departed via trade, which rocked the fanbase. The A’s teardown has left first-year manager Mark Kotsay with a difficult job, to say the least. The trades, along with the relocation game, have led to tough times for the Oakland A’s. The team is off to a 10-15 start and has now lost six in a row. It’s safe to say this A’s team probably won’t be competing this year, so it’s a good time to start examining these offseason moves to really see what the future holds in, hopefully, Oakland.

 

What Led to the Sell-Off

 

Before the 2022 season, the A’s had made the playoffs three of their last four years, beginning with a surprise 2018 campaign that featured a 97-win season and ended with a heartbreaking wildcard loss to the New York Yankees, in New York. They followed this up with another 97-win season and a wildcard loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. This time it was in front of 54,000 fans at the Coliseum. In the 2020 shortened campaign, the A’s managed to get through the best of three against the Chicago White Sox, before faltering in four games to the Houston Astros in a series in which they looked overmatched. 

Marcus Semien, who had turned himself into a star in Oakland, was lost to free agency after the 2020 season. The third-place finisher in the 2019 AL MVP voting’s departure was a blow to the roster. The A’s were still returning much of their core for the 2021 campaign in a season that had playoff expectations written all over it. On August 12, the team was 67-48 and had maintained themselves at the top of the AL Wildcard race for much of the summer. The goal was to catch Houston in the division and avoid the wildcard game. Then things blew up. The bullpen turned into a major liability the rest of the way, and the offense was lacking significant firepower. The A’s would go 19-28 to finish the year, completely falling out of the AL wildcard race. Despite missing the playoffs in 2021, postseason ineptitude was the main reason that sparked the A’s teardown, without a doubt.

Chapman and Olson

Third Basemen Matt Chapman, the two-time platinum gold glove winner who had at one point seemed like a sure bet to be a franchise cornerstone, ended up batting .210 in 2021 with 27 Home Runs. The Home Run numbers were there for him, but his batting average had continued to sink since 2018. Across the corner though, the extremely durable Matt Olson had turned himself into a star. In 2021, the two-time gold glove first basemen hit 39 HR, and collected 111 RBI, to go with a .271 batting average. Olson proved himself to be a reliable bat in a lineup that didn’t have much of them.

The A’s continued their reputation for first-round postseason exits, which dates back to the turn of the century. Because of this, the 2021 second-half collapse was not something that the A’s organization could tolerate. It was time to get as much value back as they could for these guys and start the rebuild process, or as the A’s like to refer to it, the “retool” process.

 

The First Deal

 

The first deal that Oakland made following the lockout sent Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets, sparking the beginning of the A’s teardown. This came in exchange for J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller. Ginn, a Starting Pitcher who was a second-round pick in 2020, currently resides in Double-A Midland. Oller, on the other hand, is a 27-year-old Starting Pitcher who made his major league debut in the A’s rotation this year. He was sent back down after getting blown up in his first three starts. Bassitt, 33, came into form last year and made his first All-Star team after posting a 12-4 record, with a 3.15 ERA to go with it. He has now found himself a new home in the stacked Mets rotation. 

Ginn seems to be the prize in this trade for the A’s. He’s only 22, and it remains to be seen what he can turn into. This being said, the A’s are only provided with a question mark, while the Mets get a proven Starting Pitcher that would be an ace on a lot of teams.

 

The A’s Key Acquisitions From Their Teardown

 

The second and most notable player that the A’s dealt this offseason was Matt Olson. The A’s teardown was essentially made official by this trade. Oakland acquired four players in return. Among them were Cristian Pache and Shea Langeliers. The most intriguing guy that the A’s acquired this offseason was Pache. Along with Langeliers, Pache came into the year widely regarded as a top 100 MLB prospect. By giving up a guy as talented as Olson, it’s obvious that the A’s front office is counting on both of these guys to step up and be key pieces of this team in the future.

What makes Pache, 23, the most attractive is that he’s ready now. He came to the A’s with not only some big league experience, but with postseason experience as well. He was in the lineup numerous times in the Atlanta Braves 2020 postseason run. However, In Oakland, he has been disappointing to this point. Coming into Friday’s action, he’s hitting .177 with a .198 OBP. It’s expected of a young player to struggle early on, but if these struggles continue the A’s front office is likely going to face some questions. 

Langeliers, on the other hand, may be the biggest bright spot among the A’s 2022 offseason acquisitions. The Catcher has spent the whole year in  Triple-A Vegas, where he has been tearing it up. Through 24 games he’s hitting .330, with a .433 OBP to go with 10 Home Runs. Many people in the baseball media expect Langeliers, 24, to debut with the A’s sometime this season. We’ll see if his hot start can lead to a quicker call-up for him.

 

Solidifying the Future

 

Following the Olson trade, the next guy to head out the door was Chapman. On March 16th, the A’s traded Chapman for Starting Pitcher Gunnar Hoglund, Relief Pitcher Zach Logue, utility man Kevin Smith, and Relief Pitcher Kirby Snead. The players to watch for in this trade are Hoglund and Smith. Hoglund was the Blue Jays’ first-round pick in 2021, but he has yet to pitch professionally after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in May of 2021, which was only a month before he was drafted in June. Many people thought he would go even higher in this draft class if it weren’t for his surgery.

Smith, 25, has established himself as an everyday guy in the A’s lineup through the first 25 games of the season. The A’s would love to see him continue to get comfortable at the big league level. Smith is hitting .217 to go with five extra-base hits to start the year.

Finally, the Sean Manaea trade was what capped off the A’s teardown this past offseason. The players that came in return for this one were infielder Euribiel Angeles and Starting Pitcher Adrian Martinez. Both of these guys are at different stages in their development. Angeles, 19, is currently playing High-A ball, while Martinez, 25, is in AAA. Keep an eye on Angeles’ development throughout the minor leagues. He could be a guy that eventually becomes an impact player in the A’s lineup, but right now it’s too early to know for sure how he’ll develop.

 

What to Look For From the A’s, Post-Teardown

 

It remains to be seen who won each of these trades. The moves that this A’s team made over the offseason are going to drastically shape the team’s future, for the better or the worse. The guy that the A’s are counting on the most is Pache. Nobody expects young players to blossom into a star right off the bat, so look for him to start getting comfortable at the plate as the year goes on. And If Langeliers can turn into a guy that can hit for average, along with giving you 30+ Home Runs a year, then lookout.

When it comes to guys like Ginn, Hoglund, and Angeles, the A’s will be hoping that at least two of them can solidify themselves at the big league level. They’re each still at least a couple of years off, but their development is crucial to the A’s future success.

The A’s have been here before. The 2014 second-half collapse led to the team moving on from guys like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and others. The A’s spent three years developing young talent before they returned to playoff form in 2018. When will the A’s return to their winning ways this time around? Who will be the guys that step up? Only time will tell, but it’ll be worth tuning in for.

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Players Mentioned:

Marcus Semien, Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, J.T. Ginn, Gunnar Hoglund, Zach Logue, Kevin Smith, Kirby Snead, Sean Manaea, Euribiel Angeles, Adrian Martinez, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Adam Oller