As usual, it’s been a busy offseason for the A’s – and it’s not over yet! Over the past few weeks since the end of the regular season, the A’s have acquired a total of 20 new major and minor league players. Let’s take a look at how the team’s 10 most important offseason acquisitions factor into things for the A’s in 2016 and beyond – with a quick glance at the other remaining 10 as well…
The A’s made their first big move of the offseason by signing left-handed free agent starter Rich Hill to a one-year contract. Later that same day, the team also announced the trade of right-hander Jesse Chavez to Toronto for right-handed reliever Liam Hendriks. And with Chavez’s departure, it quickly became clear that Hill would take over Chavez’s spot in the A’s starting rotation, where he’ll join right-handers Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman – unless, of course, the A’s are able to make another surprising addition. The A’s front office would clearly like to add another veteran starter if they can, especially with Hahn still experiencing some forearm discomfort in the offseason.
The hard-throwing Hendriks, who served as a solid set-up man for Toronto last season, was just the first piece of the A’s major, and much-needed, bullpen reconstruction project. On Friday, the team also announced the signings of free agent right-handed relievers Ryan Madson and John Axford, both of whom have had 30+ saves in a season and should go a long ways towards stabilizing the A’s bullpen picture in 2016. But Oakland also added a new lefty to the bullpen mix when it acquired Marc Rzepczynski from the Padres, along with first baseman Yonder Alonso, in exchange for major league left-hander Drew Pomeranz, minor league left-hander Jose Torres and a player to be named. And as far as the A’s bullpen goes, it looks like Madson, Axford, Hendriks, Rzepczynski and a full season of a healthy Sean Doolittle are set to replace Pomeranz, Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner, Dan Otero and Edward Mujica, which ought to represent a significant upgrade.
Alonso was one of the key pieces in the A’s infield makeover, taking the place of the recently-departed Ike Davis, who was non-tendered. Jed Lowrie returned to Oakland from Houston in exchange for minor league right-hander Brendan McCurry, and is now slated to take over at second base for Eric Sogard, who is set to shift to a utility role. And with the recent trade of Brett Lawrie to the White Sox for minor league pitchers J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin, Danny Valencia will now take over as the team’s everyday third baseman next season, leaving shortstop Marcus Semien as the only member of the A’s 2015 opening day infield to return to a starting role with the team in 2016.
The A’s completed the Lawrie deal with the White Sox on Wednesday, bringing young righty Wendelken and young lefty Erwin into the fold. Wendelken is a 22-year-old strike-thrower from Georgia, who should start the season with Triple-A Nashville but could end up in the A’s major league bullpen before the season’s through. The 21-year-old Erwin was Chicago’s 4th-round draft pick out of Clemson last year and posted a 1.34 ERA without allowing a home run in his first 40 1/3 innings of pro ball. Erwin will start the season in A ball, but he could prove to be a fast-riser.
The A’s acquired one more minor league arm via trade when the team dealt Evan Scribner to Seattle for minor league right-handed reliever Trey Cochran-Gill. He’s another one who home run hitters don’t like. Cochran-Gill has yet to surrender a home run in 111 1/3 innings of pro ball. And he’s likely to start the season in the bullpen at Double-A Midland, where home runs are already hard enough to come by.
So at the top of the A’s offseason acquisitions list is a new first baseman (Alonso), a new second baseman (Lowrie), a new starting pitcher (Hill), four new relievers (Madson, Axford, Hendriks, Rzepczynski) and three minor league pitchers (Wendelken, Erwin, Cochran-Gill). But there have been a number of other minor league acquisitions as well, including five more arms to go along with five position players.
The A’s signed minor league left-handed starter Brandon Mann out of the independent American Association, along with four minor league free agent pitchers. Right-hander Chris Smith made 22 starts for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate last year and could start the season in the Nashville rotation, while left-hander Eric Surkamp has pitched both as a starter and as a reliever but, with a number of other starting options available at Nashville, he may be more likely to find himself pitching out of the bullpen for the Sounds. Meanwhile, left-hander Patrick Schuster and right-hander Eduard Santos are both successful Double-A relievers who could end up in either the Nashville or Midland bullpens depending on how rosters shake out after spring training.
On the offensive side of things, Oakland claimed outfielder Andrew Lambo off waivers from the Pirates, and he should start the season in the Nashville outfield, as long as the A’s can slip him through waivers. The organization signed minor league infielder Josh Rodriguez, who looks like he could end up being a good fit for the second base spot at Midland this season. And the A’s also picked up three players in the minor league portion of the Rule-5 draft – outfielders Danny Oh and Alex Glenn and first baseman Viosergy Rosa, all of whom are likely to start the season at Midland.
That’s it for the A’s key acquisitions so far this offseason, but stay tuned, it’s not over yet!