2018 was a wonderful year for fans of the Oakland A’s and we were given an early Christmas present on Friday to sign the year off on a good note. The team confirmed the rumoured signing of relief pitcher Joakim Soria and announced the more surprising capture of Jurickson Profar in a three-team trade involving the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays.
This season’s success was such a jump forward from the past three campaigns that there will be understandable questions as to whether it was a one-off. Only time will tell, but filling some of the holes that have appeared on the roster is a good way to start to address them.
The bullpen was a significant part of the A’s good season so it made sense to ensure that remains a strength. Although some seem surprised that the A’s picked up their $4.25m 2019 option on Fernando Rodney, he did well for us and keeping him in the fold – rather than creating another hole to fill – made sense.
Soria can be seen as the replacement for mid-season recruit Jeurys Familia, now back with the Mets on a three-year, $30m free agent contract. He’s a proven good relief pitcher and the two-year, $15m contract is what you’d expect to pay for such a player on this free agent market, so no complaints with that deal.
The addition of Profar will naturally be seen alongside the loss of Jed Lowrie. Jed was tremendous for us this season, and good under-the-radar in 2017 too, and unfortunately his timing ahead of hitting the free agency market made it likely he would price his way out of a return. I can’t wish anything but the best for him though and Profar is an intriguing replacement. His story as a former number one prospect bedevilled by injuries is well known and 2018 was the year in which he finally got to play regularly (146 games) and showed some of the talent that made him so highly regarded.
A’s general manager David Forst is quoted in the MLB.com article stating: “We feel like this is a guy who’s just getting to what he’s capable of … we feel like he’s really ready to break out as one of the stars of the American League”.
Sounds good to me.
What about other holes? Jonathan Lucroy is another player who did well enough in 2018 to raise his free agency contract expectations beyond the A’s comfort zone. Chris Herrmann has been signed as a free agent, although it’s not clear if the intention is for him to be the main catcher alongside Josh Phegley or if another player may join too. That may well depend on the A’s plans for prospect Sean Murphy who has earned plenty of positive reviews. My guess at the moment is that Murphy may be called-up before the All-Star break, if not even making the Opening Day roster, and the A’s may go with what they’ve got until then.
However, we all know where the gaping holes are on the roster.
The primary reason for pre-2018 scepticism was the starting rotation, a rag-bag bunch of maybes and probably-won’ts behind Sean Manaea. The additions of veteran pitchers Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, followed by Edwin Jackson and Mike Fiers during the season, made a difference not in making the rotation a strength compared to American League rivals, but in preventing it from being a damaging weakness.
None of those veterans are around now, Cahill signing a one-year deal with the Angels this week and the others still out on the market, and Manaea is unlikely to pitch in 2019 whilst recovering from shoulder surgery.
Much as I hope for the best for all players in the A’s system, all that looking at the A’s current starting pitching options (RosterResource.com has the top five currently as Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks and Paul Blackburn) tells you is that the A’s will be adding at least two, if not three pitchers to the group over the next few months. That’s not going to be easy though with the A’s ever-present budget restrictions meaning the Front Office is going to need to get creative.
It’s nothing new for David Forst, Billy Beane and company so we’ll see what tricks they can pull ahead of the A’s early MLB regular start in Tokyo, Japan in March.