There are no smoke and mirrors in the eyes of Oakland front office people like general manager Dave Forst.
The 29 other major league teams know the A’s are in a tight spot, and need some serious upgrades to win more than 85 games. Forst knows it, too, and everyone knows what the A’s are offering.
It’s easy, too, to forget where the A’s are organizationally. Who they need to keep. Who should remain trending upwards. We look at all of that here, with no trade projections, just a simple yet thorough analysis.
Who the A’s have to keep
The Oakland infield is actually a pretty good unit, save for Brett Lawrie, who is all but certain to need a real estate agent somewhere beyond Oakland very soon.
Shortstop Marcus Semien hit well in stretches, and defended well in stretches. Neither happened at the same time until the final 45 days of the regular season, which doesn’t register on most fans memory bank.
Semien has the talent to be an all-star shortstop, and his quick improvement under Ron Washington is the biggest reason why — his defense was awful for the first two months, then a lot of work with Wash, and he was a solid infielder.
The A’s must keep Semien around for as long as he is willing to work hard. Period.
There’s also his former college mate, first baseman Mark Canha. The rule-5 pick had his own ups and downs, though he was battling a serious respiratory illness which he played through. Once he healed, the guy showed why Oakland wanted him so badly.
Another guy with all-star potential, and more strikingly, Canha is so down to earth. Not important on the field, but it would be an injustice not to mention that Canha would sign autographs to anyone who asked. That’s rare these days.
Eric Sogard will probably hit .250, steal a few bags and drive in 50 runs. Nothing staggering. But his defensive abilities are crucial to what the A’s do, or more pointedly, didn’t do last year.
Valencia was claimed off waivers from Toronto during the final third of last season, and provided a massive upgrade on both offense and defense. He’s a solid player, and he might not do any one thing incredibly well, but in this market, probably the best option for Oakland.
Ladendorf is a guy most fans won’t remember. He was raking to open the season, but got hurt, didn’t perform well and was sent to the minors. Where he got hurt again.
Ladendorf won’t likely be asked about in trade talks — but that’s excellent for Oakland. The kid is hard not to like moving forward.
Lowrie is an average player, but a solid clubhouse guy with plenty of clutch upside.
Burns can bunt for a single, steal bases, and is the quintessential run-producer. He’s like a white Rickey Henderson to a point. Smolinksi, a waiver pickup from last year, is a lefty killer with some everyday upside, but not one a team would hedge their bets on.
He’s an excellent platoon man, though, and his value to the A’s is more than meets the eye.
Who the A’s should dump
The A’s disdain for Brett Lawrie is clear, if you read SFBay at all. The players don’t care for him much, as told by multiple team sources, and it shines through just being in the clubhouse regularly.
Bad defense makes the case for why a team wouldn’t want him. He just isn’t very good at any one infield position, and doesn’t appear to have wanted to put in extra time to fix his inadequacies.
Lawrie was also a knucklehead at the plate. Nothing says it more than a bases loaded duel versus Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa, where Lawrie wasted away an opportunity for the win.
Outfielder Josh Reddick, who didn’t fit well with the new cast of A’s this last season, has been asked on by different teams over the last few seasons. The time to trade him is now.
The Georgia native finished the year with some of the best overall numbers of his career, but did some things on the field that just seem silly.
He may have been pressing, surely the veterans were trying to pick up some slack, but the fact remains the same: Reddick’s value has never been higher.
The A’s also have several pitcher to trade, though getting a big return is highly unlikely. Jarrod Parker, Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, Felix Doubrondt and Fernando Rodriguez are all guys who are young enough, and might net some mid-level prospects with upside.
The big Kahuna, though, is catcher Stephen Vogt. He can play first base and left field on top of his primary position, and has the pop and plate discipline which makes him a solid bet for an above average OPS in 2016, especially in a hitter friendly ballpark.
Tazawa is coming off a down year by his standards, but finished nearly 60 innings of relief with an 8.6 strikeout per nine innings ratio, and his fielding independent pitching metric was slightly above 3.00, suggesting that poor defense was a larger part of his rough season.
The A’s need more in their bullpen.