The A’s knew they were taking a risk by relying heavily on a pitching staff low on Major League experience, and that danger reared its head often in what was a historically bad 112-loss season. Entering 2024, they’ll hope to avoid a repeat of that situation.
The A’s have some reason for optimism that their pitching will be improved based on the progress made by young starters such as JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk and Luis Medina. But this can’t be the sole reliance to improve a rotation whose 738 innings were the least by a staff in the American League.
During a call with reporters from the General Managers Meetings in Arizona last week, A’s GM David Forst intimated that the club is looking to bring in an experienced veteran-type starting pitcher who could potentially help ease the burden on its younger pitchers.
“I think we’re going to explore more options for bringing in starting pitching,” Forst said. “It’d be nice to have someone with experience who can throw innings. I think I’ll take the talent that we have and, hopefully, augment that in whatever way possible. But pitching is certainly a subject of a lot of our conversations happening right now.”
Given the A’s low payroll flexibility, they won’t be involved in bidding wars for premier arms. Instead, here’s a look at some free agents in the next tier who might fit that description:
RHP Michael Lorenzen
Lorenzen’s 2023 campaign was a tale of two halves. He enjoyed a strong run with the Tigers that earned him his first career All-Star selection before joining the Phillies at the Trade Deadline and struggling a bit down the stretch. Overall, the California native went 9-9 and posted a 4.18 ERA in 29 games (25 starts) with 111 strikeouts and 47 walks in 153 innings. The A’s expressed interest in Lorenzen as a free agent last offseason, so there’s a good chance they’ll inquire again this time around.
RHP Julio Teheran
Teheran began last season with the Padres, but he later exercised an opt-out clause in his contract after he was stuck in the Minors and signed a deal with the Brewers, with whom he posted a 4.40 ERA in 14 games (11 starts) with 50 strikeouts and 13 walks over 71 2/3 innings. He has proven to be an innings-eater over his career, racking up no less than 174 2/3 Major League innings each season from 2013-19.
RHP Jakob Junis
Junis pitched mostly in a multi-inning relief role across the Bay with the Giants in 2023, posting a 3.87 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 86 innings. Previously a back-end starter with the Royals and Giants earlier in his career, the right-hander would fit the mold of what the A’s are looking for as a veteran arm who has experience performing in different situations.
RHP Frankie Montas
Montas evolved into the eventual ace of the A’s pitching staff before joining the Yankees at the 2022 Trade Deadline. Coming off an injury-riddled stint in New York, there might not be a better place for Montas to try to rebuild his value than Oakland, where he has enjoyed by far the most success of his career and could also provide leadership for a young pitching staff.