Do the A’s continue with Mark Canha in center field and Ramón Laureano in right in 2020?
As remarkable as Canha’s breakout season at the plate was, his emergence as an above-average outfielder may have been his most impressive development.
In all conversations I had with scouts throughout the season about Canha, his athleticism and overall ability to adapt to center field was something that came as a pleasant surprise. It’s no wonder Canha had some success playing football in high school as a receiver because he can cover some serious ground.
While Laureano’s move to right was temporary as the A’s eased him back from a shin injury and he should find himself back in center to begin the 2020 season, having Canha available to play the position at a high level is a nice luxury to have.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster or risks being lost in the Rule 5 Draft. And who is out of options?
The big name that needs to be added in order from protection from the Rule 5 Draft is right-hander Daulton Jefferies, who was named Oakland’s top pitching prospect of the year by MLB Pipeline. Jefferies should be a no-brainer, but after that, you start to get into tougher decisions like catcher Jonah Heim and hard-throwing right-hander Wandisson Charles. Richie Martin drew a lot of interest after going unprotected by the A’s last year, ultimately selected first overall in the Rule 5 Draft by the Orioles. There could be some interest in Charles this year if he is not added to the 40-man, given his 100-mph fastball and overall good numbers in the Minors this past season -- Charles posted a 2.89 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, ending the year at Double-A Midland.
Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo will both be out of options, putting them in make-or-break situations at a second-base position that is already in a bit of a logjam with Jurickson Profar and Sheldon Neuse getting most of the playing time there over the final month of the season.
On the pitching side, Daniel Mengden will also be out of options. While there probably wouldn’t be a spot for him in the rotation, Mengden could be an option to transition into more of a relief role.
1) Blake Treinen: Non-tender or tender? 2) Chris Bassitt to the bullpen? 3) Do you feel there will be any thought of going with a six-man rotation?
After an overall disappointing season that was cut short due to a back injury, one has to wonder if Treinen has pitched his last game for the A’s, which is crazy to think given he’s one year removed from a historically great season as their closer.
The issue here is that Treinen is going to become an expensive option after earning $6.4 million through arbitration last year. Oakland could tender him a contract and try finding a trade partner, but I think the more likely scenario is that the right-hander gets non-tendered. Given that incredible 2018 campaign he put together, there would be no shortage of clubs in line looking to get their hands on him in search of regaining that form.
Bassitt appeared to be quite the weapon out of the bullpen for the A’s over the final two weeks of the regular season. It was kind of a bummer the postseason run was cut short with a loss in the AL Wild Card Game, because Bassitt definitely would have been fun to watch rev up his fastball in the late innings of a postseason game. At this point, his best chance to stay with the A’s likely comes in a relief role, and given his past experience in the bullpen, it’s one he could thrive in given his nasty stuff.
The six-man rotation option is interesting, given the injury history with Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. But I do not see that as a real possibility, at least not to begin the season.
Will Luzardo or Puk have an innings limit in 2020?
I asked this exact question to A’s general manager David Forst during an end-of-year session and this was the response:
“I think we’ll get into that in the offseason with the medical people and the pitching staff people. Both guys are coming from different places. A.J. has had years in college and pro ball where he’s thrown 130-40 innings. Coming off surgery, that’s different from Jesús, who had a couple of different injuries but never a full season that way. There are a lot of variables. I don’t think we’ll know until we get into the season next year if we’re talking about a certain number of innings or starts or anything like that. I think we’re happy that both guys finished the season healthy, came back from injuries and are going to be a big part of this.”
Of the two, Puk would be the pitcher more likely to have an innings limit, given the Tommy John surgery, but we’ll know more as we get into Spring Training
Early projection for the A’s starting rotation next season?
It’s not often that a club can feel comfortable about potentially losing three members of its starting rotation, but the A’s might not be sweating the departures of free agents Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark despite their strong seasons, thanks to a promising group of arms ready to slot into starting roles.
Next year’s rotation is likely to feature Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers and Frankie Montas, along with Luzardo and Puk transitioning back into starters after contributing in major roles out of the bullpen in 2019.
Why wasn’t Luzardo considered to start the Wild Card Game?
Luzardo’s arm was built up to go multiple innings and given his ability to perform in high-leverage situations down the stretch, there’s no doubt he had the mental fortitude to handle such a game, but it probably would have been unfair to the 22-year-old to have him adjust to all those games in relief during the three weeks prior only to thrust him back to starting for the most important game of the season.
The A’s were grooming Luzardo to pitch out of the bullpen in that Wild Card Game. The overall result was not what the A’s were hoping for, but the electric lefty certainly shined as he racked up four strikeouts over three scoreless innings. I think Luzardo will get plenty of opportunities to start big postseason games for the A’s, starting next year.
Who do you think will be the starting second baseman next season? Will anything happen with Profar, Barreto or Mateo this offseason?
As mentioned earlier, the A’s might have a logjam on their hands at second base.
Given the lack of options and roster spots that will need to be freed up for others, there’s almost no chance Profar, Barreto and Mateo all remain on the club by Opening Day. Profar helped his case by showing off his versatility as a utility man down the stretch, and that may be the best option for him going forward given his defensive issues at second base, whether he remains with Oakland or gets traded elsewhere. After a couple of years as the top prospect in the organization, Barreto has still not received a real chance to play every day in the Majors and battle through the struggle. He might be better off getting traded to find a change of scenery, but the A’s might be selling low on him at this point. Mateo was named Oakland’s top hitting prospect by MLB Pipeline and missed out on a September callup due to injury. He could also become a trade candidate.
As far as who will be the starting second baseman, don’t count out Neuse, who impressed the A’s with his ability to adapt to the position after playing third base most of the year at Triple-A Las Vegas. The A’s are big fans of Neuse’s defense, believing he could be in the upper tier of MLB’s best defensive third baseman right now. Of course, the A’s possess the best at that spot in Matt Chapman, but they also feel good about Neuse at second. There’s also the possibility the A’s go outside the organization for help, but with so many in-house options, one of Profar, Neuse, Barreto or Mateo will likely get that chance to play every day. If I had to make a guess today? I’d say Neuse is the Opening Day second baseman.
Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.