What free agent bargains could help the A’s in 2016?
The Oakland Athletics actually have a chance to sign some free agents, even the ones who end up denying their qualifying offers. Having one of the ten worst records in baseball assures them that their top-ten draft pick is protected, and they would not have to give it up if they signed even a big-name free agent.
Still, the likelihood of that happening isn’t exactly good; this is the A’s we’re talking about. They had the third-lowest payroll in 2015. Let’s assume they’re going to go after second- and probably third-tier free agents.
If we know VP of baseball operations Billy Beane and GM David Forst, they’ll be able to find the real bargain free agents that could help the team. At least they’ll be able to help in the short term while all of the new prospects spend their time developing in the minors. Beane has expressed that he does not want to rush them.
The A’s could use some help at almost every spot on the field. Starting pitching is supposed to be high on their list, as would a power bat or at least one with some pop, maybe a left field upgrade and possibly some bullpen help, but it seems that they have that covered via in-house pitchers.
There are some bargain free agents out there who would be of assistance to Oakland in 2016. Their prospects will not all be MLB ready in 2016. However, they’re going to want to try and contend, or at the very least have a better season than their 2015 campaign in which they finished at 68-94. It was their worst year under Beane’s tenure as general manager, so there will definitely be some attempt at upgrading for 2016.
As far as starting pitching goes, the A’s have a lot of it. However, the health of some of the pitchers is…questionable at best. It would seem prudent to sign a veteran starting pitcher to add to the rotation, just to be safe. I’ve already written about the reasons that the Athletics’ should sign Bartolo Colon. Though he will be 43 in May, the veteran can still mow hitters down using fastball after fastball. He also can be used out of the bullpen. Even at 43, Colon could be a valuable fifth starter or bullpen arm, and would come fairly cheap.
Another good bargain free agent who would be an excellent addition to the starting rotation is Chris Young. Young made just $2 million over the last two seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, making most any offer he receives a pay raise. He isn’t an overpowering pitcher, but his 6’10” frame gives him an advantage and a likelihood to make it through the lineup twice. He would be a good insurance piece for the A’s.
The A’s could use a utility infielder, and although Juan Uribe is almost 37 years old, he’s been known to show good clubhouse leadership and the ability to relate to younger players. As it came out after the season, that was something the A’s sorely lacked in 2015. He showed some pop in 2015, putting up a .730 OPS between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. Uribe is also at a time in his career where he might be fine taking a one-year deal, which the A’s would happily offer.
The fourth bargain free agent I’ve written I’ve written on already is first baseman Justin Morneau, formerly of the Colorado Rockies. He would be a solid replacement for Ike Davis and there is no telling what the A’s are going to do with Billy Butler and the $20 million he is owed over the next two seasons. While Stephen Vogt can also play first base, it feels like there is going to be a need to replace Davis, whose performance was underwhelming in 2015 to say the least. Morneau can hit if he can stay healthy. Of course, there is a difference between hitting at Coors Field and the pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum, but he’d still be a contributor to the offense.
With Coco Crisps’ lingering neck injury, Billy Burns has taken over the centerfield spot; don’t expect that to change in 2016. However, the A’s could use some kind of upgrade at left field. Sam Fuld is a great defender, but perhaps picking up someone to platoon with him, someone with a little more pop in his bat, would be prudent. Someone like Denard Span.
He may or may not end up being a bargain simply because he had an injury-ridden 2015 where he was limited to 63 games. His skill set, however, is still quite good, and at 32 years old – if he can stay healthy – he might be a good overall replacement for Fuld. Span had a great on-base percentage when he was playing last season (.365) and was 11-for-11 in stolen bases in 2015. If he remains cheap enough, the A’s could pursue him. You never know.
With the A’s, you never really know what they will do once the Hot Stove season hits, but these are players who would be affordable for the A’s, as well as helpful in the areas they need assistance in.