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Inbox: Which free agents will be on A’s radar?

Beat reporter Martin Gallegos answers questions from fans
@MartinJGallegos
October 14, 2019

What are some good free-agent options you could see the A’s going after? -- @RobbSilverstein With so many young players who impressed in their 2019 big league cameos expected to contribute over a full season next year, like Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Sean Murphy and Sheldon Neuse, don’t expect the

What are some good free-agent options you could see the A’s going after?
-- @RobbSilverstein

With so many young players who impressed in their 2019 big league cameos expected to contribute over a full season next year, like Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Sean Murphy and Sheldon Neuse, don’t expect the A’s to make too big of a splash in free agency. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be active.

With Luzardo and Puk heading to the starting rotation, the A’s could keep an eye on non-closing free-agent relievers. There should be a good amount of quality arms available, with names like Will Smith, Will Harris and Dellin Betances headlining that category. Murphy will likely get the bulk of playing time at catcher next year, but the A’s could also look to bring in a veteran left-handed-hitting backstop (Stephen Vogt reunion, anyone?) who could also serve as a mentor to the rookie catcher.

What happened to Dustin Fowler? Even Skye Bolt passed him by.
-- @henryo34567

It wasn’t too long ago that Fowler was considered Oakland’s center fielder of the future. After his play was inconsistent in his shot at regular playing time in 2018, he was eventually supplanted by Ramón Laureano, who took an opportunity and ran with it as he’s now cemented himself as the everyday center fielder. Bolt was called up over Fowler this year due to better defense and the ability to switch-hit.

Where does Fowler stand for 2020? He certainly finds himself in a tough spot. At this point, he’s mostly providing organizational depth for the A’s. He’ll turn 25 in December, so the “prospect” label has pretty much worn off at this point. The numbers in 2019 weren’t bad for Fowler, who took advantage of playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark at Triple-A Las Vegas by batting .277 with 25 home runs and 89 RBIs to go with 12 stolen bases. He could be part of a group that includes Bolt and Seth Brown battling for a backup outfielder spot in Spring Training, with Robbie Grossman set to become a free agent.

Are the A’s still high on Jorge Mateo, and is there any chance that he ends up winning the second-base job out of Spring Training?
-- @TBW247

Mateo certainly raised his stock in the A’s farm system with a stellar 2019 that earned him Oakland Minor League Hitter of the Year honors from MLB Pipeline. MLB Pipeline rates him the club’s No. 4 prospect behind Luzardo, Puk and Murphy, who are all set to graduate to the Majors full-time in 2020. Given that Mateo will be out of options, he should be in the crowded mix to earn that second-base job in Spring Training in a competition that will also feature Neuse, Jurickson Profar and Franklin Barreto. If Mateo does not make the team entering the season, he would be placed on waivers, and it’s unlikely a player with such a dynamic skillset would go unclaimed.

Any changes planned for the coaching staff? What is the plan for Khris Davis this offseason? Will we see the golden tops back next year? Thanks for the coverage this season, Martin. So much fun while it lasted.
-- @IAmAndresMM

Thank you for the kind words. With the coaching staff, A’s manager Bob Melvin likes his current group, so I think it’s unlikely they would like to make any changes. However, as is the case with most successful teams, there will be other clubs around the league interested in some members of Oakland’s coaching staff for open managerial positions. As far as Davis goes, the A’s are hoping his uncharacteristic 2019 season was just an anomaly. He’ll enter '20 as the club’s designated hitter, looking to get back to his 40-homer ways. Lastly, on the gold tops, those are pretty much extinct for now with the wildly popular kelly green tops, which I happen to think are the best uniforms in baseball.

Do you expect Daulton Jefferies to have a role with the big league club next year? Is his ceiling as high as a No. 2 starter or is that too much?
-- @undrtheradrhoop

Jefferies, the A’s No. 12 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, who also happened to earn the club’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors, will likely enter next season as their top pitching prospect with Luzardo and Puk in the big leagues. The right-hander finished 2019 in Double-A, so he’ll need to get some time at Triple-A before making an impact in the Majors for Oakland. After undergoing Tommy John in April 2017, Jefferies will likely still have some type of innings limit next season, but the 24-year-old is getting back to the promising stuff that made him a 2016 first-round selection.

It’s too early to put a real ceiling on Jefferies right now. This upcoming season should give a good idea as to what the A’s can expect from him as it pertains to their big league plans.

What’s the plan for the bullpen knowing that key arms are moving into the rotation? Complete overhaul outside of Liam Hendriks? Or are they going to gamble that guys such as Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino will return to form?
-- @dsertich

Trivino will get a shot to return to his dominant ways. Treinen is a different story, however, as his projected salary increase through arbitration might be too rich for a pitcher who has been supplanted by Hendriks as the team’s closer. Even if Treinen and Trivino are both back in the fold, the A’s could look outside the organization to add some pieces to a bullpen that led the Majors with 30 blown saves. Jake Diekman, who has a mutual option for 2020, is a candidate to return as a left-hander who can get both lefties and righties out.

Looking back, should Stephen Piscotty have made the postseason roster?
-- @JimmyCabralShow

There were some people in Piscotty’s corner to make the American League Wild Card Game roster given his postseason experience with the Cardinals, but because he'd only played in one game over the final month and a half of the regular season, it’s understandable why the A’s preferred to go with Franklin Barreto, who provided more versatility and speed on the roster. In the end, a rusty Piscotty was likely not going to be the difference in the A’s 5-1 loss to the Rays. Had he made the roster, it would have been in a bench role.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.