PHOENIX, AZ. — We all know the season didn’t go the way the Oakland A’s would have liked last year. With a shortstop that committed all the errors and a bullpen that gave up all the runs, it wasn’t hard to see the A’s were going to need to make some changes in the off-season. In mid October with the playoffs in full swing the A’s released Jason Pridie and watched as switch pitcher Pat Venditte and regular right hander Cody Martin were claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, respectively. After the Kansas City Royals were able to claim their first title since 1985, the off-season was in full swing and the A’s could start building toward a hopeful contender for the 2016 season.
Barry Zito elected free agency in a move that surprised no one. Zito had an excellent career with the A’s and made one of his final appearances in a memorable showdown with former “Big 3” member Tim Hudson against the San Francisco Giants. The month also involved a lot of activating guys from the DL and designating for assignment, as is customary following the completion of any season. Oakland lost Dan Otero to the Phillies via waivers, and claimed right fielder Andrew Lambo from the Pittsburgh Pirates. In one of their first trades, they sent Jesse Chavez to Toronto in exchange for Liam Hendricks. Hendricks is younger than Chavez and although he sports a career ERA of 5.15, he had far and away his best season last year with the Jays where for the first time he was used strictly in relief. If the A’s keep him in the ‘pen, it should provide a slight upgrade at middle relief and at least give them an option if they need a long reliever at some point. The A’s also traded 24 year old Brendan McCurry to the Houston Astros to bring back 3B Jed Lowrie. The A’s are familiar with Lowrie, as he spent two years with the Oakland club before taking a year sabbatical with Houston. He should provide solid depth at third and is currently listed as first on the depth chart at second.
The holidays saw the A’s complete a four player swap with the San Diego Padres. The A’s sent Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres, and a player to be named later that ended up being right fielder Jabari Blash down the coast for Mark Rzepczynski and Yonder Alonso. Rzepczynski has long been a solid option for any team searching relief help and Alonso had a few solid years at first for the Padres. Oakland also shipped out Evan Scribner to Seattle for Trey Cochran-Gill. Scribner was part of the awful bullpen last season so it’s worth it for Oakland to bring in a minor leaguer and see if he can earn a spot on the team at some point. At 23, it’s a bit of a long shot but it also gives the A’s some depth should a reliever go down this season. A day after the Scribner trade the A’s sent away third baseman Brett Lawrie for J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin from the Chicago White Sox. This was strictly a patented Oakland move where they ship out a vet for future prospects. Only time will tell who wins this trade but it’s going to be the Sox that benefit in the immediate future. The A’s then went heavy with the pitching, signing free agents John Axford, Ryan Madson, and Henderson Alvarez. Both Axford and Madson have previous closing experience so should Doolittle suffer any setbacks like he did last year, the A’s should have quality depth when it matters most. Alvarez looked to be a promising pitcher for the Miami Marlins before he was injured and missed most of last season. Not a bad idea for the A’s to take a flyer on him, although he’s currently listed as their seventh starter on the depth chart so chances seem slim he makes the trip when the A’s come back to the Coliseum.
The A’s decided that cash is worth more than Arnold Leon when they traded him to Toronto. Leon seemed serviceable in the few games he appeared in last season but Oakland decided against giving him a roster spot this year.
The A’s offered a lot of invitations to players for Spring Training. They also made a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, acquiring Khris Davis for Bubba Derby and Jacob Nottingham. The A’s wisely took advantage of a Brewer team that knows it’s not ready to contend and is looking to rebuild. The prospects that Oakland shipped out will probably never amount to what Davis has already done in the bigs and he should just get better for the next two to three years. They also traded Aaron Brooks to the Chicago Cubs for Chris Coghlan. Although not known as a power hitter, Coghlan has some pop and had his best season last year at the friendly confines. The A’s are hoping he just improves. The addition of Davis and Coghlan should give Oakland a bit more depth in the huge outfield spans of the Coliseum.
Overall the A’s made some moves they should have made. They attempted to shore up what can only be described as a shaky bullpen, and looked for a little more offensive pop. However, Oakland will still come into this season with quite a few question marks that have to break just right for them if they want to take a shot at seeing the playoffs. Their rotation will have to consistently take them into the 7th, something that didn’t happen last year. Even with the upgrades in the bullpen, any reliever gets worn out if you use them too much and with three closers, they don’t exactly have the stamina to be stretched out more than once or twice a month. They are still listing Marcus Semien as the starting shortstop and he made 35 errors last season, which led the league. The next worst was Ian Desmond who made 27 errors for the Nationals.
If I had to rate it overall I’d say the A’s did what they do best; they stayed about the same with a chance to be slightly better, but only time will tell.