Last week, a shocker out of Oakland saw that team’s manager leave the Bay Area to ply his trade with San Diego. It came as a shocker since Bob Melvin had been with the team for many moons, but writers had written that he was “unhappy” with the direction the team was headed.
Melvin was unhappy in Oakland, and the #Padres just landed one of the greatest in the game.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 29, 2021
What that unhappiness is will probably be largely left to speculation, but one doesn’t have to go far in that speculation to assume it has to do with payroll and the lack thereof. We’ve seen this before from Oakland, but with the move of Melvin, it seems like that team is about to enter another era of rebuilding yet again.
Until they finally find a place to put a shovel into the ground, then build and open a new facility, this cycle will continue. They’ll go through a few years of rebuilding and losing, (hopefully) craft a roster that might be able to surprise some people despite a low payroll, then maximize that window until it’s time to blow it up again. Melvin, who knew he wouldn’t be the team’s manager if/when they finally stepped foot in a new ballpark, already went through this once and didn’t have the stomach to do it a second time.
So, with the offseason only days away, there are probably general managers circling the Athletics’ roster as buzzards do when they spy a nearly dead carcass on the ground. Hovering over and waiting to see which players will be made available will be something each team looks at as they enter this brief time of player movement before the CBA question gets answered, one way or another, at the beginning of December. As a team on the West Coast, you may not be familiar with their roster and who the Phillies should be looking at, so let us help you.
Dave Dombrowski mentioned a middle of the order hitter, a top of the lineup hitter, a player who can improve the defense and relief pitching as his objectives this offseason. Scanning down the Oakland roster, there are several options that do make some sense for them to move now, either due to their impending free agency or their salary arbitration status. These are some of the players the Phillies really should be asking about as soon as possible.
2022 contract status: est. $12M (2nd year of arbitration)
Let’s start with the big guns. Olson plays first base, so he’s going to require the team to move on from Rhys Hoskins. However, he is a Gold Glove caliber first baseman, one that saves his infield many, many errors with his ability to pick balls in the dirt and save balls thrown high.
Oh, and he can hit.
A career 132 wRC+ from the left side of the batter’s box is something the team doesn’t have outside of Bryce Harper and would be exceedingly well received from an offensive standpoint as well. 2021 saw him drop his strikeout rate substantially, so it’s possible he’s getting better with the bat as well. Swapping him out for Hoskins would make some sense for the Phillies, even though he would cost them almost double what Hoskins is projected to cost them. Seems that crossing off two things on Dombrowski’s checklist, though, would be worth that cost.
2022 contract status: est. $9.5M (2nd year of arbitration)
Speaking of upgrading defensively...
If the team was truly serious about upgrading as a defensive unit, you’d be hard pressed to get much better than getting Chapman to man the hot corner. Having won the Platinum Glove already in his career, Chapman would lock down third base for several years running.
Of course, the decline in offense is concerning. The last two years have seen Chapman’s strikeout rate do the exact opposite of what Olson’s did, almost doubling from what it was in 2019. He’s had some injury issues, but he’s also a solid bounceback candidate if he is fully recovered from those injuries. He’d almost surely require the team to send Alec Bohm back to Oakland as any kind of compensation, risking another J.P. Crawford situation where former prospect thrived in another environment, but getting Chapman back might be worth that risk.
2022 contract status: est. $10.2M (final year of arbitation, FA after the ‘22 season)
Now we move on to the pitchers. The Phillies sorely need some pitching depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen, so looking at Oakland could address some of those needs. Manaea would help with the rotation depth and provide something the Phillies haven’t had prior to 2021: left-handed starting pitching.
When Ranger Suarez entered the rotation, it marked the first time in <checks math> 11 million years that the team was able to get dependable starting pitching from a left-handed pitcher. Adding someone like Sean Manaea, even though he would be in his final year of control, would help balance a rotation that would face the likes of Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman for the next however many years. Of late, he has shown himself to be a durable starting pitcher, as well as one that is still improving, seeing his strikeout rate climb to a career high 25.7% in 2021 (he only made five starts in 2019, so we don’t count that).
2022 contract status: est. $8.8M (final year of arbitration, FA after the ‘22 season)
Bassitt might be the least known of this quintet, but he also might be the one the team targets the most.
Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, Bassitt has very quietly become one of the better starting pitchers in the American League. He, like Manaea, has seen his strikeout rate steadily climb the past few seasons while his other, less palatable numbers (walk rate and home run rate) have declined. He’s also shown some solid durability, notching a career high 157 1⁄3 innings last season over 27 starts. According to the arbitration estimates we have, he’d be cheaper than Manaea, something that the Phillies’ front office would probably like a little more as well.
2022 contract status: est. $2.8M (first year of arbitration)
Do you like steroids?
Laureano will be missing some time to begin the season due to his needing to finish a steroid suspension. After that, he will (presumably) resume his career as a capable defensive center fielder as well as a quality bat that can handle the top of the lineup. There is the possibility that his stock might be down somewhat since he’s already guaranteed to miss some time, coupled with the possible need to go to the minor leagues to get his timing back, but a pursuit of Laureano could fill two holes for the team.
Of course, there is always the possibility that his acquisition would be a PR nightmare, but when has the team cared of late what PR they get with their center fielder?
It’s not a guarantee that Oakland will be looking to sell, but the signs all point to that being the case. Their asking price might be high, especially on players like Matt Olson and the pitchers, but any of these players mentioned would be solid additions to the Phillies team. They’re trade explorations they need to make to try and take advantage of the Athletics’ seemingly endless rebuild cycle.