Tag Archives: Sean Manaea

Oakland A’s Organization is in Desperate Shape

As recently as the 2014 season, the Oakland Athletics were legitimate contenders in the American League. The A’s finished 88-74 that season, good for second place in the AL West standings.
The club had taken the division crown the two previous seasons. In 2014 they were again in the postseason after capturing an AL Wildcard berth.
In that 2014 American League Wildcard Game against the Kansas City Royals, the A’s took a seemingly comfortable 7-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning.
The Royals rallied for three in the 8th and a run in the 9th to send the contest into extra innings. In the top of the 12th, Oakland scored to regain the lead. But Kansas City fought back once again, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame for a dramatic walkoff victory.
The loss would prove deflating for the entire Oakland organization, which has not recovered. The following year, the A’s sank to the bottom of the American League standings. Then a year ago, the A’s again finished at the bottom of the West Division.
Just three weeks ago, Baseball America released their annual MLB Organizational Talent Rankings. Oakland finished just 17th in all of baseball, which is actually their highest finish in at least the last seven years.
Unfortunately for the team and their fans in the Bay area, the Oakland A’s have fallen, and they can’t get up. At least not any time soon.

LINEUP STRUGGLES TO SCORE

The biggest culprit is the everyday lineup. In 2016, the A’s finished at the bottom of the American League statistical rankings in Runs and OPS, and next-to-last in Steals. This demonstrated that there was little in either power or speed with which to attack opposing pitchers.
The 2017 lineup is slated to feature 29-year old left fielder Khris Davis and 26-year old shortstop Marcus Semien as the only true proven power sources.
25-year old Ryon Healy banged 13 homers after making his big league debut in mid-July. He will likely fill the DH role this year, backing up at both the first and third base positions.
Oakland signed Rajai Davis as a free agent to patrol center field. While his best days are behind him, the now 36-year old did swipe 43 bags with the Cleveland Indians a year ago.

HOPE FROM A YOUNG ROTATION

Assuming health, the pitching staff is not bad. 27-year old Sonny Gray needs to bounce back. 25-year old lefty Sean Manaea showed promise in his rookie campaign. 26-year old Kendall Graveman looks like he can at least be a reliable back of the rotation option.
Athletics
Oakland is counting on 25-year old rookie Jharel Cotton to step up and take on a rotation role. He arrived in last summer’s big trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Josh Reddick.
The bullpen will be relying heavily on a trio of relievers who are now all north of 30 years of age in Ryan MadsonSean Doolittle, and John Axford.

MONEYBALL DAYS ARE LONG GONE

GM Billy Beane could use a couple of his veterans as trade chips, but none would appear capable of bringing back impact talent. The one piece that could do so would be Gray, if he comes out strong. But if he does, the A’s might consider trying to keep the righty and build a rotation around him moving forward.
Beane is no longer the “Moneyball” innovator that he was a decade ago. The rest of baseball has caught on fully to the modern concepts of advanced statistical evaluation. He is going to have to find a way to turn this around the old-fashioned way: a slow rebuild through the draft and opportunistic trades.
As I wrote back in November, it does appear that there is finally real hope on the horizon for a much-needed and long overdue new ballpark in Oakland.
That hope comes from the presence of a new management team in John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The new heads in the front office need to sell the passionate Oakland fan base on a future that includes that new park, and young prospects such as shortstop Franklin Barretto.
If you squint, you can envision the Athletics winning again in a new Bayside ballpark with exciting young players and pitchers. But you are going to need to squint really hard, because that vision appears to still be at least a few years off.

Can Oakland A’s Get Back Into Contention Quickly?

The Oakland Athletics have fallen to the bottom of the American League West and look to get back to regular contending status.

In 2016 the Oakland Athletics finished 69-93 and in last place in the American League West Division, 26 games out of first place and 20 behind an AL Wild Card playoff spot.
This was a second consecutive last place finish for the A’s after three consecutive appearances in the MLB postseason.
The Athletics won the division in both 2012 and 2013, losing both years in a tough LDS, each going the distance. Then in 2014 they lost the AL Wild Card to the Kansas City Royals by surrendering two runs in the bottom of the 12th inning.
The A’s had traded away the big outfield bat of Yoenis Cespedes at the 2014 trade deadline to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester, and then lost Lester that offseason to free agency.
Then the club dealt away another big bat in Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason as well. Donaldson was due to begin seeing big contract increases which the small market Oakland Athletics were not in a position to support.
The franchise has not carried a top-20 payroll since the 2007 season, so any improvement is almost certainly going to have to come from within, and from smart, lesser free agent signings.

There is plenty of money to spend. Coming off a season in which the payroll exceeded $80 million, they have less than a $30 million obligation entering the offseason.
The club could free up another $7 million or so if they choose to deal away Ryan Madson, their highest-paid player and a luxury as a reliever. If former closer Sean Doolittle proves healthy, this might be a legitimate consideration.
This should allow the A’s to easily meet whatever increase should come in arbitration, or via a contract agreement, with slugging center fielder Khris Davis. Davis banged 42 homers and drove in 102 runs this past season in his first year after coming in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers. He turns 29 years old next month.
The only other “first division” caliber player in the current starting lineup might be shortstop Marcus Semien, who in his second full season slammed 27 home runs and produced 75 RBI.
For a team that needs to play youngsters, they have some starters approaching baseball old age, which these days starts at around the 30-year-old mark.
Catcher Stephen Vogt just turned 32 years old, first baseman Yonder Alonso will turn 30 at the start of the 2017 season, and second baseman Jed Lowrie will turn 33 years old a week later.
There are a pair of talented young pitchers on the roster in Sonny Gray (27) and Sean Manaea (25), and with a pair of smart yet economical free agent signings, the A’s could put a contending-level rotation together for the 2017 season.
The club could look at arms such as Jeremy HellicksonDoug FisterR.A. Dickey, and Andrew Cashner, hoping to find a couple of bargains, even on one-year deals.
The only losses to free agency will come in pitcher Ross Detwiler and outfielder Sam Fuld, neither a major loss as far as pushing competitiveness forward.
The club’s top prospect is shortstop Franklin Barreto, who came in the Donaldson deal. Barreto will turn 21 years old as Spring Training opens.
The youngster could well push for a starting spot at either second or third base right now. If the club insists on keeping him at shortstop, he is likely going to need another full year in the minors to work on his defense.
The real possible future at shortstop may be Yairo Munoz, who also turns 21 years old in early 2017. However, Munoz is just coming off his first year of full-season ball.
Lefty A.J. Puk, the club’s first round pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft, and righty Grant Holmes who came from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2016 trade deadline deal that sent Josh Reddick and Rich Hill to L.A., are the team’s top two pitching prospects. Neither is likely to be ready in 2017.
The bottom line is that there does not appear to be much help coming from the minor league system in the short-term.
The only way that the Athletics can return to contending sooner rather than later is by opening up their wallets, something that the franchise has rarely done, especially in recent years.
Aside from the arms mentioned earlier, bringing in two to three veterans like Jose BautistaJustin Turner, and Rajai Davis would significantly increase the production. 
A veteran such as Chase Utley could really help the development of the younger players, as well as help in the locker room.
There is probably going to be at least $30-40 million available this offseason to spend on free agents, if the club wishes to go in that direction. Doing it will be the only way to that short-term contention.