A LOOK AT WHAT NEEDS THE A’S SHOULD ADDRESS THIS WINTER
After their surprising decision to not offer a contract to Mike Fiers last week, the A’s need for starting pitching only became even more obvious.
A’s Executive Vice President Billy Beane and General Manager David Forst already have deemed the rotation as their main focus this winter, but that’s not the only position of need they’ll be looking to full during next week’s MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
Key pieces from the A’s unexpected 2018 playoff run remain unsigned, and plenty of teams are sure to be interested in those assets in order to make their own postseason chase next season.
Here’s a look at what the A’s will need to address this winter in order to avoid letting 2018 become a one-hit wonder: Starting pitching: Now that Fiers and Kendall Graveman have been allowed to walk and become free agents, the A’s do not have a single starting pitcher under contract. Sean Manaea, who served as the team’s ace for most of last season, was tendered a contract and is up for arbitration, but he’ll most likely miss the entire 2019 season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in September.
Beane and Forst have already expressed interest potentially bringing back any combination of Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, or Brett Anderson, three free agent starters who along with Fiers helped piece together a stable rotation for manager Bob Melvin throughout the second half of 2018.
Pitching phenom Jesus Luzardo, who blazed his way from Single-A to Triple-A last season, will be a candidate to start the year on the big league starting rotation with a strong spring performance, but that’s just one potentially filled rotation spot.
Whether it’s Jackson, Cahill, Anderson, or new veteran options on the market such as Wade Miley, Clay Buchholz, or a Gio Gonzalez reunion, the A’s have no choice but to add starting bodies via free agency.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy enters free agency coming off a year in which his numbers continued to decline, but his value to the A’s came more in the clubhouse. Signed just before the start of the
2018 regular season, the
32-year-old veteran quickly established himself as a leader on the team, and pitchers constantly raved about his attention to detail when it came to coming up with game plans for opposing hitters.
Getting through last season batting .241 was fine for the A’s given their high-powered offense, which scored the fourthmost runs in baseball, but the low averaged combined with just four home runs and a .617 OPS may not be appealing to other teams in the market for a catcher. Even Lucroy’s impressive stat of an MLB-best 31 runner caught stealing is a bit misleading, as he also allowed a league-high 72 stolen bases.
If the opportunity to get Lucroy back on another one-year deal is available, the A’s likely would jump on it. Should Lucroy get a multi-year deal elsewhere, expect them to go after a player like Matt Wieters, similar to Lucroy in age and production, to serve as a stopgap before promising catching prospect Sean Murphy is ready for the majors.
Second base: Decision time is coming fast. Will the A’s bring back Jed Lowrie? Coming off a career year in which he was named an All-Star for the first time at age 34, the second baseman was a major part of the A’s playoff run as the No. 3 hitter that carried a huge load on offense through the first half of the season.
Beane has made his appreciation for Lowrie clear as he’d like to find a way to bring him back, but his projected value of three years, $30 million probably would be too much for the A’s to commit. Franklin Barreto, the club’s top hitting prospect for the past couple of years, is waiting in the wings.
Should Lowrie find a new home, Barreto easily can be inserted into the everyday role for 2019. But if Lowrie returns, the writing could be on the wall for Barreto’s time with the A’s as they could use him as a trade chip for a starting pitcher. Left-handed relief: Ryan Buchter is the only lefthanded reliever on the 40-man roster. Although Yusmeiro Petit is a pitcher Melvin trusts against righties and lefties, adding another left-hander should be a priority to at least have depth in case Buchter goes down with an injury.
KEY PIECES FROM THE A’S UNEXPECTED 2018 PLAYOFF RUN REMAIN UNSIGNED, AND PLENTY OF TEAMS ARE SURE TO BE INTERESTED IN THOSE ASSETS IN ORDER TO MAKE THEIR OWN POSTSEASON CHASE NEXT SEASON.
Jed Lowrie may be too costly for the budget-minded A’s to keep on the roster.