Inbox: Will A's take new direction for '22?

Beat reporter Martín Gallegos answers questions from fans

November 16th, 2021

Between the search for a new manager and trade rumors involving several key players, this offseason is shaping up to be one of the more active winters the A’s have gone through in quite some time.

So much uncertainty presents plenty of questions, which sparked the return of the first A’s Inbox of the offseason.

Here’s a look at some of the big questions surrounding the A’s:

We were not that bad of a team last year, so why rebuild now?
-- @Acesbestfriend, via Twitter

While there has been no official indication that the A’s are entering a rebuilding phase, general manager David Forst’s comments during last week’s GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., may have hinted at the direction this team might be heading. Asked about the swirling trade rumors involving some of the club’s biggest stars, Forst indicated that the A’s are going through “the cycle” and that they have to listen and be open to offers this winter.

That’s precisely why, even after the A’s finished 86-76 this season to miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2017, big changes to the roster could be brewing. It’s not that the team isn’t good enough, rather the club’s top players like starting pitchers and , as well as star corner infielders and , are reaching the point where their expected salary raises through arbitration are going to push Oakland’s tight financial constraints to the limit.

These three or four-year cycles alternating between postseason contention and rebuilding have become common for the A’s over the past decade. With 13 players from this year’s club also hitting free agency this offseason, the A’s are in a challenging spot. Do they try to squeeze in a shot at one more playoff run with the current group or utilize this chance to trade away some strong core players from the past four seasons for some top prospects and replenish a farm system that MLB Pipeline ranks 28th in baseball? That decision will have to be made in the next two months.

Any chance the A’s upgrade the bullpen and actually try to compete instead of tearing this down?
-- @mradich, via Twitter

Regardless of the direction the A’s go next year, upgrades to the bullpen might be necessary just based on how many players could leave through free agency. Back-end bullpen pieces like left-handers and Andrew Chafin and Jake Diekman and right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Romo are all currently free to sign with any club.

With a farm system that lacks big league-ready relief arms, the A’s will likely need to fill their bullpen with players outside of the organization. It’s a process that quietly got underway earlier this month with the signing of right-hander Dany Jiménez to a Minor League deal. Jiménez was selected by Oakland in the December 2020 Rule 5 Draft before getting returned to the Blue Jays during Spring Training and went on to post a 2.22 ERA in 39 games with 73 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings pitched for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate and will likely enter spring with a strong chance to make the A’s bullpen.

With talk of a salary floor a possible reality, wouldn’t it make sense to postpone a sell-off until understanding the CBA possibilities?
-- @WillMartin001, via Twitter

This was a popular question submitted for the Inbox and, quite frankly, it might be a reason as to why the A’s have not said they’re committed to a full rebuild just yet. Say the A’s trade players like Chapman, Olson and Bassitt in the next month and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB’s players and owners in the new year includes a salary floor of $100 million. All of a sudden, they’d need to go out and find new players to add to the roster until that salary floor is fulfilled.

Of course, nobody really knows exactly what a new CBA might look like, so it’s all speculation at this point. But the A’s hearing about a potential salary floor could cause them to hold off on trading away some of their higher-paid players until things get finalized.

Will Nick Allen be the starting shortstop on Opening Day?
-- @fcmason9, via Twitter

Allen, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Oakland’s No. 3 prospect, had a rapid ascension in 2021. He began the year at Double-A Midland, gained invaluable experience at the Tokyo Olympics as a member of Team USA and finished his campaign with a callup to Triple-A Las Vegas in September.

There’s no question Allen’s defense is ready for the big leagues. He also made notable strides in his offensive approach over the past year. With Elvis Andrus under contract for next year, Allen likely won’t supplant him as the starter at shortstop come Opening Day. But especially after getting some playing time at second base in the Minors this season, a position which might be open for the A’s next year, you can expect Allen to reach Oakland at some point in 2022.

Was Bob Melvin to San Diego a surprise to the clubhouse or did it seem like it was coming?
-- @NotBanwagon, via Twitter

Throughout a historic managerial tenure in Oakland, Melvin developed a reputation for his straightforward honesty with players. He always made it a point to establish clarity with each player about their role for the season so that nobody was ever left in the dark about their standing with the club.

That quality continued all the way up to the end of his time with the A’s. While local media and the rest of the baseball world were shocked to learn of Melvin’s departure, he made sure to inform his players of what was going on once the A’s allowed him to interview with the Padres shortly after the regular season had ended.

Who has the inside track to become the manager? Is Mark Kotsay being considered?
-- @greg_nieto, via Twitter

It’s too early for anyone to have the inside track. The A’s have yet to reach out to other clubs for interviews with external candidates, names which could include Atlanta coaches Ron Washington and Walt Weiss. Until that process gets underway, there is no favorite.

As far as Kotsay, he’s certainly going to be in the mix, and deservedly so. Not only has he developed strong relationships with A’s players and front office members while working under Melvin since 2016, he’s also been interviewed for managerial openings around the league over the past few years. Kotsay’s time to manage in the big leagues is coming soon, whether it’s with the A’s or another club.