After a surprising 97 win season in 2018, the A’s will look to contend in 2019 once again. It’ll be tough for them to make a splash with financial limitations, so they can be expected to make some out of the box signings to improve their rotation.
Current State: Playoff Contender
A’s Extend Manager Bob Melvin, GM David Frost, and VP of Baseball Operations Billy Beane
After a 97 win season, the A’s have extended Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane, manager Bob Melvin, and general manager David Frost. Two years have been added to Melvin’s contract, at around $3.5 million per year. Meanwhile, Frost has been extended four years. Beane has been the captain behind Oakland’s success despite a limited payroll, and the fact that he was able to put together a team capable of winning 97 games despite that is incredible. He definitely needed to stay in charge of the team he built. Melvin also needed to stay after leading a team with limited talent and a weak rotation to the playoffs, and he has a high reputation as being a great manager in the clubhouse. Frost is also a superstar executive, as he drew interest from both the Mets and Giants. He was the last piece of the puzzle that needed to be extended. Why fix something that isn’t broken? That’s what the A’s ownership is thinking here after an incredible season, and now these three can continue to do their part to guide Oakland to the playoffs for the second straight season with some sort of security.
A’s Sign RP Joakim Soria
The A’s have signed Joakim Soria to a two year, $15 million deal. Soria, 34, had a 3.12 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and 2.44 FIP. He struck batters out at a career rate (11.1 K/9), and maintained a terrific strikeout to walk ratio (4.69). His ground ball rate went way down last season, as he induced more fly balls than ground balls. Still, he avoided hard contact (25.9%) and he can get away with a low ground ball rate pitching in Oakland. This gives Oakland a replacement for Jeurys Familia, who signed with the Mets. It also allows Lou Trivino to have a flexible, multi-inning role, since Soria can pitch the 8th inning. The best way to make up for a weak rotation is a strong bullpen, and that’s what the A’s have after this signing. Soria also may be the better pitcher than Familia, who signed a three year deal with $30 million. Therefore, Oakland upgraded and saved money all at the same time.
A’s Acquire UTIL Jurickson Profar in Three Team Trade With Rangers and Rays
In a three team trade with the Rangers and Rays, the A’s have acquired utility player Jurickson Profar. In this trade, Oakland will send infield prospect Eli White and $750,000 in international bonus money to Texas while sending reliever Emilio Pagan and a 2019 Competitive Balance A Pick to Tampa Bay. Profar, 25, finally had a breakout season after so much hype with him being a former top prospect. He had a .793 OPS with 20 home runs and a 2.0 WAR. He played three infield positions and two outfield position last season, so he could be a fine utility player. At second base, which is where he’ll likely play the most with the A’s, he played solid defense with two defensive runs saved. Profar will be Oakland’s starting second baseman this year, and makes them a better team this season. He also has two years left of team control, so if he is indeed emerging into the player he was supposed to be, the A’s will be getting a solid starting infielder at a cheap price for the next two seasons. Oakland is banking on his development and his breakout season last year, and I see no reason why he won’t have another career season this year. White isn’t a major prospect, and Pagan was expendable. The A’s didn’t give up a lot, and they got a young player with multiple years of cheap team control who can fill in for them at multiple positions, including their hole at second baseman.
A’s Sign SP Mike Fiers
To boost a currently awful rotation, the A’s have brought back Mike Fiers, signing the starting pitcher to a two year, $15 million deal. Fiers, 33, had a breakout season last year with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. However, when looking at his underlying stats, the legitimacy of that breakout season has to seriously be put in question. For starters, Fiers had a uniquely high left on base percentage. 84.2% of his runners were left on base, and considering it was just at 73.2% the year before, it’s unlikely Fiers will keep it up. Fiers also gave up hard contact at a career high 39.1%, which means his low .269 batting average balls in play was likely a result of a lot of luck. His FIP- of 112 was also below league average, while his FIP of 4.75 is way thigh. The A’s are getting a severely below average pitcher at way above market value, which they can’t afford to do as a small market team with limited spending power. Oakland got too desperate to upgrade their rotation, and now they are stuck paying Fiers to be what he certainly isn’t, a front-line starter.
A’s Sign SP Marco Estrada
The A’s have signed starting pitcher Marco Estrada to a one year, $4 million contract. Estrada, 35, was arguably the worst pitcher in baseball last season. He posted a 5.64 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP and a 5.44 FIP, and that’s a year after he had a 4.98 ERA in 2017. He gives up a lot of home runs, as evidenced by his 1.8 HR/9 last season, in large part because he induces fly balls in more than half of the batted balls hit against him. In that regard, a move to Oakland and out of the AL East will help him, especially since he isn’t allowing a crazy amount of hard contact (29.9%). However, practically all of Estrada’s pitches were ineffective last year, including a fastball that barely reaches 89 MPH. The changeup that once was his bread and butter has become another part of his collection of below average pitches, and it looks like Estrada is heading in the wrong direction as he continues to get older. He seems like someone that you’d take a flier on with a minor league deal, but certainly not a $4 million deal. For similar money, the A’s likely could have just brought back Edwin Jackson, who at this point of his career is far more productive. Either way, Estrada isn’t an upgrade over anyone they had, despite having an awful rotation, so this is just a waste of $4 million for a team that can’t afford to do that.
A’s Sign SP Brett Anderson
The A’s have brought back starting pitcher Brett Anderson, signing the left hander to a one year contract worth $1.5 million with an additional $1 million in incentives. Anderson, 31, posted a 4.48 ERA with a 4.17 FIP and a 1.28 WHIP this past season. Anderson remained one of the league’s best at limiting walks (1.46 BB/9), and did a terrific job inducing ground balls (55.6%). Still, he’s a very limited pitcher. His strikeout rate was awful (5.27 K/9), while he allowed his fair share of hard contact (35.4%). One promising sign is that Anderson got more hitters to chase outside of the zone this season, but he also only pitched 80.1 innings last season and hasn’t topped 100 inning since he was a member of the Dodgers in 2015. At best, he’s an average pitcher and that salary reflects it. Still, there are better options in free agency to fill their rotation even with their limited spending power, and it may have been better for them to go a different route.
A’s Sign OF Robbie Grossman
In an effort to add more depth, the A’s have signed veteran outfielder Robbie Grossman to a one year deal worth $2 million. Grossman, 29, was decent for Minnesota in a limited role, posting a .751 OPS and a 1.5 WAR. Grossman’s best trait is his plate discipline, as he has a career 12.8% walk rate, and had a 18.6% chase rate last season. He’s never going to be a major thumper in the lineup, but provides value with his ability to get on base. On defense, Grossman is slightly below average defensively (-4 drs, -0.9 UZR). He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling type of player that fits best as role player, but that’s exactly what Oakland will likely expect of him. It’s a slight overpay for a small market team to make for a bench player they don’t really need, but it’s still a decent signing.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The A’s Make.