The Oakland Athletics finished the 2020 season with a 36-24 record and won the American League West for the first time since 2013. It was their third straight trip to the postseason and they took down the Chicago White Sox in the best-of-three Wild Card series. That set up a Division Series matchup with their bitter division rivals, the Houston Astros.
Unfortunately, they caught the Astros at a red-hot time as they lost in four games. What does a team that has historically been successful enough to make the playoffs, but not enough to make a deep run, have to do this offseason to get over the hump? Perhaps a few significant additions will give them a shot at winning their first AL Pennant since 1990.
The A’s need to improve their pitching, most notably their bullpen which is left with a gaping hole with the departure of stud closer Liam Hendriks. The “Moneyball” team is known for spending lightly at positions of need. Marcus Semien and Tommy La Stella are also free agents, leaving a couple of holes in the middle of the infield. They probably won’t be able to retain either of them, so they will have to look at the “clearance bin” for replacements.
Keys to the Offseason
Find Middle Infield Replacements
The A’s have some in-house options for Semien and La Stella, like Chad Pinder and Tony Kemp – who platooned at second before the A’s acquired La Stella at the trade deadline. They have a few shortstops in their farm system in their No. 2 prospect Robert Puason and No. 4 prospect Nick Allen, but both need time to develop in the minors. They will likely look to add a veteran shortstop from the free-agent market.
Add High Leverage Relievers
The departure of Hendriks isn’t Oakland’s only concern, as right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria and left-hander T.J. McFarland are also free agents. Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, and Jordan Weems are some in-house options for the closer role, but the A’s will certainly have to look at the free-agent market for some high-leverage arms. They will need to find ways to get through the late innings and close games out.
Freddy Galvis, 31, SS
Galvis is what you can call a poor man’s Semien, as he has the power and running ability to put up big numbers, but just hasn’t put it all together for a full season. He is a fairly steady bat, however, and wouldn’t cost the A’s too much. He is also a switch hitter, which would provide balance in a right-handed heavy lineup.
Alex Colome, 31, RP
The A’s usually have a strong bullpen and will look to uphold that by filling the void left by Hendriks. Colome would be a much cheaper closer than Hendriks but is still just as good in production. Colome held a 0.81 ERA in 2020 as the White Sox closer while striking out 16 batters in 22.1 innings. He also wasn’t hit hard, limiting hitters to a .301 xSLG against.
Kolten Wong, 30, 2B
If the A’s are unable to retain La Stella, Wong is a guy who could fit well with them after the Cardinals declined his $12.5 million option. Wong is a top defensive second baseman in the league but would provide slightly less production than La Stella on the offensive side. He gets on base at a nearly identical clip with a power gap, but he doesn’t strike out as much. That is exactly what the A’s need for their lineup – with his 14.9 percent strikeout rate being 30th lowest among 164 qualified MLB hitters.