Major League Baseball's offseason has only just gotten underway, yet all signs point to the Oakland Athletics having a busy and difficult winter. The A's have already lost longtime skipper Bob Melvin, who skipped town to join the San Diego Padres. Next, the A's appear likely to begin disassembling a core that has reached three of the last four postseasons, including once as the American League West champions.
"This is the cycle for the A's. We have to listen and be open to whatever comes out of this. This is our lot in Oakland until it's not," general manager David Forst told MLB Network's Jon Heyman on Tuesday. That doesn't guarantee any movement, but the Athletics appear to be in a spot where a reset is more likely than not, as our Mike Axisa explained after they missed out on the playoffs:
This could be an offseason of significant change for the A's. The roster could turnover tremendously, Beane and Melvin could head elsewhere, and the ballpark situation looms over everything. Nothing has changed yet, but it is starting to feel like the end of an era in Oakland. The A's could look very, very different when everyone reports to spring training in February.
With that in mind, allow us to present a "buyer's guide" to Oakland's six most realistic trade candidates, as well as highlight a few potential landing spots for each of them. (Do note that the players are presented in alphabetical order.)
Contract status: $8.8 million (projected); free agent after next season
Chris Bassitt has emerged as a well-above-average starting pitcher since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. To wit, he's amassed a 3.23 ERA (129 ERA+) and a 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 77 appearances. He made the All-Star Game this summer and received Cy Young Award consideration last fall, suggesting folks are starting to notice. Bassitt has good command and control over a broad arsenal, allowing him to suppress both walks and quality of contact.
Potential landing spots: What contender couldn't use Bassitt? On the West Coast alone, the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres all seem like potential fits. Pretty much every team with competitive aspirations for next season should inquire about Bassitt.
Contract status: $9.5 million (projected); free agent after the 2023 season
Prior to the pandemic, Matt Chapman had a case to be recognized as one of the best players in the game. A lot has changed in a short window of time, and that includes the steadiness of the ground under his feet. Over the last two seasons, his strikeout rate has ballooned to 33.1 percent, or the sixth-highest clip among players with at least 500 plate appearances. Despite homering 27 times in 2021, his overall quality of contact metrics also dipped. That's a worrisome combination, and one that teams will have to investigate if they're to pay a superstar's cost in trade and wage.
Potential landing spots: A lot depends on how teams view Chapman heading forward. The Mets, the Phillies, and the Mariners would all make varying amounts of sense.
Contract status: $10.2 million (projected); free agent after the 2022 season
The zone-pounding Sean Manaea picked a good time to set career bests in starts (32) and strikeout rate (9.7 per nine). He doesn't have the loudest stuff in the rotation; his three-pitch arsenal is led by a low-90s sinker, yet he has a deceptive delivery and a deep release point that allows opponents less time to track the ball.
Potential landing spots: As with Bassitt, there's no wrong answer here. Manaea would make sense for all those West Coast teams with spacious ballparks, as well as various other teams, including the Cardinals, who have shown no predilection for velocity.
Contract status: $5.2 million (projected); free agent after the 2023 season
Frankie Montas was in the midst of a breakout campaign in 2019 before testing positive for a banned substance that netted him an 80-game suspension. He then had a miserable pandemic-shortened season thanks to bloated home run and walk rates. Montas rebounded well enough in 2021, starting a career-high 32 games and posting a 3.37 ERA (121 ERA+) and a 3.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's about as pure of a power starter as there is in the majors: his fastballs averaged 96 mph last season and the slowest of his four offerings, a swing-and-miss splitter, checked in at 87.5 mph. His inconsistencies may hurt his stock, but it's hard to deny he's an intriguing pitcher.
Potential landing spots: As with Oakland's other starting pitchers, you can put down pretty much any contender and there's a reasonable chance it happens. We'll note that Montas was a member of the Dodgers before he was with the Athletics, so it's possible Los Angeles' front office would like him enough to reacquire him.
Contract status: $12 million (projected); free agent after the 2023 season
Matt Olson has become one of the game's premier sluggers. Over the last three seasons, his 89 home runs are tied for the third most in the majors, behind only Pete Alonso and Eugenio Suárez. Olson greatly reduced his strikeout rate in 2021, slicing it from 31.4 percent to 16.8 percent without losing any walks or power. Provided those gains are sustainable (and he did post the best contact rate of his career), he could be in the midst of establishing a new true talent level.
Potential landing spots: The Yankees, of course, but the Mariners and Rays should think about it given the kind of impact he could have on their lineup for two whole seasons. Ditto for the National League's contenders if the universal DH is installed.
Contract status: $2.8 million (projected); free agent after the 2022 season
Chad Pinder's name lacks the cachet possessed by Chapman and Olson, but his game has its charms. His wOBA against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons ranks in the 69th percentile, above right-handed sluggers like Pete Alonso, Franmil Reyes, and Luke Voit. Unlike those three, Pinder isn't anchored to a corner or DH spot; he's routinely seen action all across the diamond, making him a nifty utility starter type.
Potential landing spots: Again, almost any contender could use a player like Pinder. We'll spotlight the Dodgers, White Sox, and Mariners as a few of the teams who might make the most sense for him given his versatility and low cost.