After a disappointing year in Bay Area baseball from both teams, the Oakland A’s will aim to build off the improvement they made throughout last season.
While they maybe didn’t make the splash in free agency that their rivals across the Bay did, the A’s have more continuity than in past years, having retained most of their core. The team also performed much better in the second half of the season and finished September with a winning record for the month.
While the last decade has certainly been a roller coaster, that’s basically the best you can ask for when the team has both a payroll consistently among the league’s lowest and a thing for trading away young talent while deciding to cash out on very questionable signings.
The low payroll has forced the A’s to rely on young players on cheap deals and undervalued veterans. When it works, it works, but the A’s have found themselves in last place every year since the last time they made the playoffs in 2014.
This year’s team doesn’t scream “playoff contender,” but there’s definitely a glimmer of hope. Although the team’s longest-tenured player, Marcus Semien, has only been on the roster since 2015, this year, unlike most years, the team will retain most of its production from the year before.
The two Matts, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, are two huge reasons that many are optimistic about the future of the team — assuming the A’s can hold on to them.
In 2017, Olson set the franchise’s rookie record of most home runs in a single month, with 13 home runs in September. Chapman wasn’t as strong offensively, but he certainly was no slouch for a rookie, excelling defensively and finishing seventh in defensive WAR despite only playing 84 games.
The A’s were able to retain their star power hitter Khris Davis, who finished third in the league in home runs with 43. After negotiations, the A’s were able to reach a deal with Davis for $10.5 million and were able to avoid arbitration.
Offensively, the A’s look like they have a lot to look forward to. Outside of the aforementioned players, the A’s have a crop of young players such as Boog Powell and Chad Pinder, who look like they could have potential as solid middle lineup hitters. The team also finished fourth in home runs, so there is certainly no shortage of power.
On the other hand, the team’s pitching leaves a lot to be desired. The team has a ton of young arms, but many of them have failed to live up to expectations. Almost the entire A’s starting rotation spent some time on the DL, and the team will be without starter Jharel Cotton because of his Tommy John surgery.
The A’s will have returning starters Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Gossett and Andrew Triggs, all of whom are fairly young but had lackluster performances last season.
The team will likely have to rely on prospects such as Jesus Luzardo, as well as Trevor Cahill, a familiar face who is set to return to Oakland after playing for the A’s from 2009 to 2011.
While the team certainly doesn’t look mind-blowing or star-studded, the young promise and talent on the A’s gives the East Bay a lot more to look forward to than there has been in several years.
Rafael Botello writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].