With the Raiders leaving the Coliseum as early as 2020 and the Warriors moving across the water in the fall of 2019, the A’s are soon to be in the cross-hairs of East Bay sports fans. Or at least the one’s that haven’t jumped ship to the Giants already.
I’ve been here for awhile.
The frustrating thing as an East Bay native is watching the Warriors, Sharks, and Giants see success in our “small market,” but don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for them! There’s nothing better than seeing friends and family overjoyed with playoff success.
My keen awareness of Oakland baseball began actually with an Oakland Oaks wool hat that my dad kept from when he was in his 20s; something about the red stripes positioned against the green leafy logo is emboldened into my memory. Being born in fall of 1991, I wasn’t around for the heyday of the late 80s with Ricky, Jose, and Mark but those shadows were all people could talk about as Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann took the stage as the A’s new owners in 1995. I don’t remember that exact moment, but, as the voice of the ownership team, Schott’s name has become synonymous in my mind as the definition of poor workmanship and function.
Within two weeks of Schott’s first public interview, the team saw him badmouth it’s beloved stars, show HOF manager Tony La Russa the door, and boot the team’s well liked play by play announcer out onto the porch.
Not exactly a shining example of loyalty and legacy, right Steve?
So I grew up watching McGwire leave and blossom, watching the front office let Tejada/Hudson/Mulder/Zito/Giambi/Damon walk out the door, watching Grieve/Harden/Bonderman/Crosby/Blanton/Brown/Teahen NOT be the next greatest thing.
2012-14 was special though, I’ll be the first to admit it. Every A’s fan I knew had to keep pinching themselves at the All-Star break in 2014 to realize that having seven All-Stars was an actuality!
But here we are a few years later; the A’s have gone 234-307 (0.433) since July of 2014, including a wild card game that will eat away at me until we see the success we wanted then.
2012-14 was the shit. We saw Spiderman and the return of Spiderman IN THE SAME GAME.
We saw Donaldson go from nobody to MVP candidate overnight.
We witnessed a Twitter MVP grow up in front of our eyes as well.
We got to witness one of the all time defensive throws out of left field.
And don’t forget fan base icons getting inaugurated left and right.
Yet here we are.
So how do we get back?
Today, we’re going back to platforms, bell bottoms, and chevron. We’re talking that time of Vida, Rollie, Catfish and the crew. You may say “Isn’t it too late because spring training starts next week?” It’s never too late to make up for lost time. As I’ve told myself every time I start a diet: “The best day to start was yesterday, the second best day is today.”
Let’s uncover the radical steps to making Oakland
great again the BEST again.
1. Fire Billy Beane, David Forst, and Bob Melvin.
Yeah, I started this way. This is more about getting the shadow of Billy out of the front office than sending Forst/Melvin packing, but we need to clean up both our current image and our past reflections.
With Billy overlooking the club since Sandy Alderson left in the fall of 1997, the A’s have been….generally mediocre. Sure, Moneyball shed light on Billy’s ability to seek out alternative player identification methods, but that was him being in the right place at the right time. Sabermetrics were coming in hot, whether Billy latched on or not.
Here’s the mediocre facts about Billy’s 20 season tenure at the helm:
- The A’s have gone a total of 1,696-1,542 (0.524). That includes 9 losing seasons and 12 seasons out of the 20 that the team has underachieved based on its Pythagorean W/L%. Compared to other AL ball clubs, the A’s winning percentage of 0.524 puts does place them 4th in the AL over the past two decades, however with little to show for their success.
- One of the obvious flaws has been both ability to make the postseason and postseason success. Even with our vaunted pitching staffs of the 2001-2004, 2006, and 2012-2014 seasons, wins in the playoffs continued to elude the A’s. 8 playoff appearances, 35 games, just 12 wins since ’98.
- Billy seems to prefer similar types of managers while he’s in charge; Art Howe, Ken Macha, Bob Geren, and Bob Melvin have all been passive, veteran-first clubhouse presences that stuck around on an average of 5 seasons (Melvin is heading into his 7th full season with the club).
- 8 times over the past 20 seasons, the front office has chosen to trade or let go via free agency the team’s top player (via WAR) by the end of the next season’s offseason.
- Of the team’s AL leading 4 Rookies of the Year since 1998, only Huston Street has produced more cumulative WAR than the three season (thus far) career of former A’s prospect Addison Russell.
I feel as though it’s worth noting here that Beane owns a ~5% stake in the A’s worth ~$44 million, but that shouldn’t be a factor in making a decision in the long term future of the A’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I could sit here and cherrypick stats supporting Billy’s GM legacy too. But the more I look through the legacy he has made and the fan perception of his results as a decision maker, the more I realize that 20 years may be long enough for the Moneyball tenure.
2. Hire Kim Ng as GM and Stephen Vogt as Manager.
Who? And what?!
Kim Ng, former Yankees Assistant GM and current Senior VP of Baseball Operations for MLB’s league offices in new York, is the ideal candidate for this job. And it has nothing to do with her heritage (Chinese), gender (female), or height (5′ 2″).
Ng, who first started as right out of grad school with the White Sox as a special projects analyst in arbitrations and case contracts, is the splashy hire to change a culture of mediocrity in and around the Oakland baseball legacy. Not only was she the youngest assitant GM ever when she was hired by the Yankees at the age of 29, Ng (now just 49 years old) has been a finalist for three separate GM positions in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego (notice the West Coast theme here?).
Let’s track back to Stephen Vogt, someone you shouldn’t need quite the introduction to. Vogt, who is still on the Brewers roster heading into spring training 2018, is still a beloved figure of the 2012-14 Oakland A’s and was a strong clubhouse presence during his time with the club. Watch this video created by his alma mater and feel free to make me a case (@westcoastpious) about where this could go wrong!
3. Bring in your untouchable players, and let them know where you stand and where your plan is for the next 24 months.
Uncertainty has plagued many of the A’s free agent conversations; why would free agents want to come to Oakland after watching the front office dismantle their team (albeit not as bad as the Marlins) every 3-4 years.
So let’s have an open and honest conversation with these four players. Bring the gents into the office before spring training, and hash out what you are trying to accomplish and where they fit in those plans.
For most teams, that list of untouchables could be 5 or 6 players deep; for this A’s team that has a variety of prospects ready to emerge, we’re looking a few players deeper than that to invigorate this core.
There’s a few methods to this list of untouchables.
- They must be heading into their age 26 season or younger.
- They must have at least 3 years of arbitration/team control left.
- They must be generally agreed upon by scouts and media as a future above average MLB player with upside. In other words, generally considered a sure thing with a basement of everyday major leaguer.
I could dive into every in and out of why we need to keep Franklin Barreto, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Sean Manaea, but I think each of them are fairly self-explanatory. Each shows potential to be top of the league talent and are young enough to still be around in some resemblance of a prime.
4. Sign Andrew Cashner for 2 years and $22 million.
As of February 1st, there’s quite a few reasonable names available still in the free agent market. We could go crazy here and dig deep for gems that don’t cost much, but there’s not so many obvious signings that work really well for short term success and long term flexibility. This contract estimate is courtesy of Fangraphs.
Cashner, who had a career year last year, has been labelled a one year wonder last year with the Rangers. Many of the baseball pundits have clamored for their teams to stay away from a likely regression on what was a great strikeout pitcher in 2017. Even Fangraphs did not splice words:
Ten years ago, Cashner probably would have gotten paid for his sparkly ERA, but no one thinks you can maintain a 74 ERA- with a 12% strikeout rate in this era. Cashner’s velocity is still there, so maybe he’ll start missing bats again someday, but I wouldn’t pay much for the most obvious fluke season of any player in this class.
Taking all of that into consideration, Cashner is a low risk, high reward for a team nearing playoff contention in 2018. With a ceiling being a repeat of 2017 and a floor being a replacement level pitcher, $22 million is a small price to pay for a short term risk in much needed veteran depth for the starting rotation.
5. Get rid of Jed Lowrie….again.
I do like Jed Lowrie a lot, and he would have a lot to add to this team. His quiet production and defensive adaptability are invaluable for a team looking to make an obvious playoff push.
Which is why we should trade him to one.
2018 could in fact be a year that the A’s push over the hump and nab a wild card berth in October, but in all likelihood, this team is geared towards 2019 and beyond. This may be the last chance we have to get good value out of a player of Lowrie’s reputation, and we can swap him and one of our
My trade: send Jed Lowrie and a low level prospect to the SF Giants for RHP Tyler Beede.
Giants get another veteran to align with their current strategy, and they get value out of a former #1 prospect in their farm system. The A’s get back a highly touted arm who had a disappointing 2017 season in AAA, but gets a shot to be a meaningful part of a rotation in the big leagues for 2018.
6. Step back from the checkbook, Mrs. Ng.
Every new GM wants to make a name for themselves; some do so by making major moves days into the job (here’s looking at you AJ Preller) and others do so by sitting back and not doing anything stupid.
With two quick moves, we place the A’s roster at a healthy total of under $60 million. That’s a number Mr. Wolff will be more than happy with, unless…..
7. Make a safe, splashy trade.
The Oakland A’s should trade Marcus Semien (SS) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Troy Tulowitzki (SS) and Bo Bichette (SS).
Semien, the A’s defacto shortstop for 3 years now, is no slouch.
Once derided for his poor defense Though he is still not the defensive presence fans had hoped he’d develop into under Ron Washington’s tutelage, he certainly holds down the position with maturity and a sense of command. An above average offensive threat and an average defensive liability, you could do much worse for $3.125 million a year.
So why then, would we attempt to trade for one of the worst contracts in the league in Tulowitzki? It certainly isn’t for Tulo’s sparkling 0.1 WAR in 2017, injury ravaged history, 77 OPS+, and -1.1 UZR.
It would be all about Bo.
Obviously, this is a hypothetical trade that could be carried out with a number of awful contracts (Kendrys Morales, Russell Martin, Mark Trumbo, David Wright, and many others), but Bo Bichette is the type of prospect you want to see accompany the monetary pain. The son of former MLB star Dante, Bo Bichette is ready to step into a 2B/SS position alongside Franklin Barreto and form the next Correa/Altuve type duo in the AL West.
In summary, this trade is all about eating up some of that roughly $25 million difference between the 2017 and projected 2018 payroll, all while acquiring a Baseball America top 10 prospect for the 2019/2020 seasons. While this may not be a popular move among A’s fans to trade Semien (the A’s current longest tenured player at just 3 seasons with the team), the potential to allow Bichette (or another star-ceiling prospect) to develop with this current crop of emerging prospects is incredibly appealing.
Obviously, not one other A’s fan will read through this and agree with more than half of the things I mentioned, and that’s the best part! Feel free to engage us on Twitter @westcoastpious to tell me off or congratulate me for being a genius.
Here’s to hoping that Lew Wolff reads obscure blogs from uncredentialed journalists the week before spring training.