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Last week, the Athletics announced they had entered a binding agreement to purchase land in Nevada near the Las Vegas strip. The A's intend to begin construction on a new stadium at that site sometime next year, with relocation from Oakland looming as a possibility as early as 2025. (The A's lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.) A's officials are undoubtedly thrilled -- not just because they finally secured a ballpark after decades of trying and failing, but because the news distracts from the most recent thing built by this group: the worst team in Major League Baseball.

The A's enter Monday with a 4-18 record on the young season, putting them on pace for 29 wins. The 2003 Detroit Tigers, the worst team since the last round of expansion, won 43 games. These A's have also already amassed a minus-103 run differential on the season -- that is, they've been outscored by nearly five runs per game on average. The Colorado Rockies, at minus-54, were the next closest club on that side of the ledger. For those wondering, here are the five worst full-season run differentials since 1998:

TeamSeasonRun differentialWins

Detroit Tigers




Detroit Tigers




Baltimore Orioles




Detroit Tigers




Arizona Diamondbacks




The A's current pace won't hold -- it can't hold, really -- but if it somehow did, they would finish having been outscored by more than 750 runs. Granted, a terrible April does not necessarily mean a team is destined for historic futility. Just last season, the Cincinnati Reds rebounded from a 3-18 start to finish 62-100 — not great, by any means, but better than all-time bad. 

The thing about these A's, though, is that the ground seems to be the limit. You have an ownership group with more than one foot out of the door; you have a front office that, long hamstrung by self-imposed financial limitations, has decided to bottom out; and you have a roster that isn't getting the job done. That's a dangerous combination for anyone trying to enjoy what could be the final days of professional baseball in Oakland, California. 

With that in mind, let's tackle three other points worth acknowledging about these A's and what may end up being an historically awful season.

1. Returns on stars have fallen flat

Coming into Sunday, there were four former Athletics players listed in the top 30 of Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs' calculations: Matt Chapman (No. 5), Sean Murphy (6), Marcus Semien (11), and Matt Olson (30). Semien left as a free agent (following a laughable extension offer), but the other three were traded, either in March 2022 or over the offseason. You would think the A's would have fetched a ransom in return for some of the best-performing players in the entire league. You would think wrong.

The A's received 13 players back across those three trades, with all but one of them counting as a prospect. (Sorry, Manny Piña.) Two of those players have already departed the organization (Zach Logue, Cristian Pache), while another three (Gunnar Hoglund, Kirby Snead, Freddy Tarnok) are out injured. That leaves seven others, with four of those having spent time on the big-league roster this year. Let's run through their seasons to date:

  • OF Esteury Ruiz: The A's were widely panned within the industry for targeting Ruiz as the main piece of the Murphy return. So far, he's been arguably the best version of himself. He entered Sunday with a 117 OPS+ despite not hitting the ball hard or walking often (he ranks in the 19th percentile or worse in both respects). We will note that Ruiz's defense, which was supposed to be one of his main attributes, has graded worse than expected. It's early, so the jury remains out on if he can keep hitting well enough to justify the A's deal.
  • C Shea Langeliers: The main benefactor of the Murphy trade, Langeliers has long profiled as a potential starting backstop thanks to his raw strength and defense. He's hit for a 107 OPS+ in his first 18 games this season, although that comes with its share of swing-and-miss issues.
  • LHP Kyle Muller: Muller has split evaluators on whether or not he can start in the majors. The early returns this year suggest no. Oakland's Opening Day starter is now sporting a 76 ERA+ and a 1.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 career big-league innings. 
  • SS Kevin Smith: Smith has served as the A's starting shortstop most days. He entered Sunday with a 9 OPS+ and 15 more strikeouts than walks (zero) in his first 41 plate appearances. He'll turn 27 in July.

Ruiz and Langeliers are off to promising starts. Overall, though? Not great when you're talking about surrendering some of the better players in the sport.

As for the other three players the A's received, they're all pitchers: Ryan Cusick, Joey Estes, and Royber Salinas. Cusick has struggled with his command as a professional (he's handed out 12 free passes in 13 Double-A innings this year), but both Estes and Salinas are off to promising starts and could reach the majors and help make the trades look more balanced before year's end.

2. Interesting trade deadline awaits

It should be self-evident to note that teams this poor seldom have many positive contributors. The A's are likely to field calls on their top performers between now and the trade deadline, with other clubs lining up to check in on the status of injured outfielders Seth Brown and Ramón Laureano.  The A's will likely hold onto the Ruizes and Langelierses of the roster -- that is, the youngsters performing well enough to envision making the trip to Vegas -- but the most fascinating calls will be on players in the proverbial phantom zone: those who are on the older side, but who lack real track records.

This pertains to three players in particular: outfielder Brent Rooker, first baseman Ryan Noda, and reliever Zach Jackson. Noda, at 27, is the youngest of the three, yet combined they have less than three years of service time. They've done what they could to put themselves on the radar here in the early going.

Rooker, 28, has launched four home runs en route to a 201 OPS+ through his first 14 games. It's a pathetically small sample, but all of his ball-tracking metrics are pointing in the right direction. Maybe he turns out to be this year's Joey Meneses? (Just, you know, don't look at what Meneses has done in 2023.) 

Noda, for his part, has been a two-true-outcomes hitter, if such a thing exists: he's walked or struck out in more than 50 percent of his trips to the plate. The Los Angeles Dodgers felt comfortable exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft last winter, and you can see why. His combination of extreme patience and swing-and-miss make him a candidate to strike himself out of the majors.

Jackson, meanwhile, has a two-pitch arsenal -- rising fastball, bullet slider -- and arm action built on verticality. He's shown equally persistent abilities to miss bats and the strike zone in 65 career big-league appearances. 

None of the three are going to net huge returns. Teams are right to remain reluctant on them, even if they continue to perform. Still, playoff hopefuls shopping on the downmarket side of things should keep an eye on each.

We'll note that the A's were faced with a similar situation last summer. Catcher Christian Bethancourt, then in his age-30 season and not yet arbitration-eligible, posted a 99 OPS+ in his first 56 games. The A's shipped him to the Tampa Bay Rays in early July in exchange for two minor-league players. If Bethancourt can serve as precedent, then expect some movement.

3. Soderstrom, Gelof could be en route

Enough about departures. What about arrivals? We mentioned in the first subheading that the A's could call upon Estes and Salinas before the season ends. They have some other interesting young players on the way, most notably in the form of catcher/first baseman Tyler Sodersrom and infielder Zack Gelof. (And that's not to mention right-hander Mason Miller, who leveraged his big stuff to strike out five batters in four-plus innings of work on Wednesday as part of his MLB debut against the Chicago Cubs.) 

Soderstrom, the 26th pick in the 2020 draft, has split his defensive duties between catcher and first base. Scouts have opined to CBS Sports since his amateur days that they would move him out from behind the plate as a means of freeing up his potentially well-above-average bat. Soderstrom will test the A's resolve on that matter, since he's hitting .286/.343/.603 in his first 15 Triple-A games. It's the Pacific Coast League, a notoriously offensive-friendly environment, but he's going to club his way into the majors sooner than later.

Gelof, the 60th pick in 2021, missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury. In seven games since returning, he's posted a .766 OPS with three extra-base hits and three steals. While Gelof had previously played all over, including at third base and in the outfield, the A's have seemingly settled on using him at the keystone. In theory, he could become an above-average hitter. In practice, he's struck out a lot in the upper-minors dating back to last year.

It seems reasonable that both could slot into the big-league lineup before the season ends. Whether or not they'll be able to keep these A's away from the indignity of becoming one of the worst teams in recent times? Well, we'll see.