Baseball

Oakland Athletics Free Agent Outlook

Oakland Athletics
(Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

With the playoffs in full swing, the Oakland Athletics are yet again watching their bitter rival, the Houston Astros, make a deep run in October. While they recover from a disappointing season, their championship window is dwindling. Over the next three off-seasons, the A’s core will be up for free agency and each due to more money than the A’s can afford. The time to win a championship will be within the next two seasons. With a bottom 5 farm system, it is unlikely they will be able to spin a trade that will bring back the talent that is needed to get them over the hump. For that push, they will need to open their wallets and spend a bit of cash in free agency. While the A’s won’t be signing Carlos Correa or Max Scherzer, there are a few players the A’s should go after.

Key Free Agents

The A’s made one of the best mid-season trades of the year when they got Starling Marte from the Marlins on a rental deal. Marte was phenomenal for the A’s and will be one of the most coveted free agents this winter but will likely be out of the team’s price range. The A’s also made a mid-season trade that brought Josh Harrison over from the Nationals. Harrison played well, hitting .254 with 2 HR in 48 games with Oakland. Don’t be surprised if the A’s bring Harrison back as a platoon guy.

Mark Canha will also be a free agent and a priority for the A’s. The 32-year-old has been with the team since 2015 and has become a fan favorite. Canha has also been a very productive player for the Athletics slashing .231/.355/.419 with a 2.6 WAR in 2021. Look for the A’s to make Mark Canha their top priority entering this offseason.

Pitching

The biggest issue for the Athletics in 2021 was the downfall of their bullpen. After the All-star break, the A’s bullpen fell apart posting an ERA of 4.51 with 14 blown saves and a WAR of -.05. Along with the bullpen issues the A’s have always seemed to be a starting pitcher or two away from competing with the top teams. If the A’s want to make a run for a championship, they will need to address their bullpen issues and maybe find a solid starter to go along with it. Luckily for the A’s, there are a few free-agent pitchers that they may be able to afford.

One pitcher the A’s could go after is relief pitcher Archie Bradley. The hard-throwing righty had a solid season for the Phillies, pitching in 51 innings with an ERA of 3.71. Bradley signed a 1 year 6-million-dollar deal with the Phillies last offseason. If the A’s can sign him to a similar deal that would be a great addition to the staff. Another name that could be discussed is Sean Doolittle. Doolittle, a relief pitcher, split time between the Reds and Mariners this season. With the Mariners, he had an inflated ERA of 4.66 with three rough outings but seemed to find his stride late in the season. The former Athletic may look to get his career back on track with the team that drafted him.

Now if the A’s are serious about going for a championship and are willing to open their wallets a bit there are a few pitchers that would tremendously help the team. Collin McHugh was lights out for the Rays in 2021 striking out 74 in 64 IP to go along with a 1.55 ERA. If the Rays re-sign Nelson Cruz, it’s a strong possibility they won’t be able to afford McHugh. While he may come with a larger price tag, he could be an anchor out of the pen. As far as starters go, the A’s could north of the border and go get Steven Matz. The 30-year-old lefty had a bounce-back season in 2021, starting in 29 games with an ERA of 3.82 and a WAR of 2.8. Matz signed a 1-year 5.2-million-dollar deal in 2021 and will more than likely looking to get more this offseason.

Position Players

When it comes to hitting, the A’s could use a solid outfielder to make up some of the production lost with the departure of Marte. Unfortunately for the A’s, this free-agent class is top-heavy with players that will be out of their price range. If they were to break the bank for any player this winter it would be Starling Marte, but that is doubtful. A cheaper option could be outfielder Tommy Pham who is coming off a decent year with San Diego where he slashed .229/.340/.383 with 15 bombs in 155 games played. Realistically the A’s will probably resign Harrison and Cahna while having prospect Luis Barrera come up to be a platoon player.

The Oakland Athletics find themselves in a peculiar situation where they can take their franchise several ways. With the possibility of leaving Oakland soon, the 2022 offseason will be an important one for the franchise. They can either go all in and acquire key pieces for a championship push or start the dismantlement of the roster and look ahead to a new era in Athletics baseball.

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