5 questions A's must answer before Opening Day

March 13th, 2022

OAKLAND -- Prior to the lockout, the A’s were having a relatively slow offseason aside from the hiring of new manager Mark Kotsay. Now that the work stoppage is over and clubs are once again free to negotiate, business will start to pick up.

Big changes could still be looming for the A’s, who could move some high-profile players elsewhere in order to kick off the rebuilding process. Knowing the challenges that lie ahead, here are five questions facing the A’s entering the 2022 season:

1. Will the stars stay put?
Much of the buzz during the early part of the Hot Stove season centered on trade rumors involving several top A’s players, such as All-Star Matt Olson, as well as Matt Chapman and Sean Manaea. Each of those core players is in line to receive a high salary bump through arbitration this offseason, leading to speculation that multiple teams around the league -- the most recent rumblings pointed to the Yankees and Braves interested in Olson -- are ready to poach Oakland’s stars.

So far, these trade candidates remain under contract. However, the transaction window is now restored. As general manager David Forst put it back in November, the A’s “have to listen and be open” to all trade offers, so the conversations with the several teams inquiring about their talent should quickly pick back up.

2. How will the transition to new manager Kotsay go?
The A’s head to Spring Training under new guidance with first-year manager Kotsay, who was hired to replace Bob Melvin after the longtime A’s skipper departed Oakland to fill the managerial vacancy with the Padres this offseason.

There is some obvious familiarity with Kotsay, as he served as a right-hand man to Melvin on the A’s coaching staff over the previous six seasons. However, with Kotsay looking to carve out his own managerial style, an adjustment period should be expected.

“I do have some differences [from Melvin], and those differences will probably show themselves throughout my tenure," Kotsay said in December. "I know I’m definitely a little more emotional than Bob. … But if I can have half the success Bob had here as an Oakland A’s manager, I’d be excited about that.”

As the 31st manager in franchise history, Kotsay, 46, will enter the 2022 campaign as the sixth-youngest manager in the Majors, perhaps making him even more of an ideal fit for an A’s squad that could be getting younger in the next year.

3. Who will be the closer?
Lou Trivino earned the full-time closer job with his early-season success in 2021. But by season’s end, his and the rest of the bullpen’s struggles led to a consistent inability to close out games, contributing to a late-season collapse that left Oakland out of the postseason for the first time since 2017.

With so many pieces from last year’s bullpen currently free agents, Trivino might be the early favorite to regain the closer role. The A’s will also likely explore both the free agent and trade market for relief arms. Depending on the names brought in, who closes out games for the A’s in 2022 could be decided based on performance in Spring Training.

4. What will the outfield look like?
Mark Canha and Starling Marte both signed with the Mets as free agents this offseason and Ramón Laureano still has 27 games left to serve of an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance, leaving the A’s without their top three outfield options from last season. While Laureano should be back patrolling center field by late April, the A’s will need to find new options for the corner outfield spots.

There are internal options aplenty for the A’s, from veterans Stephen Piscotty and Chad Pinder to versatile defenders Seth Brown, Luis Barrera and Tony Kemp. The A’s have been known to favor left-right platoon situations for the corner outfield spots in recent years, and that could be the direction they go with this group.

5. Could the A’s finally secure a new ballpark in Oakland?
The A’s pursuit of a new waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal continues gaining positive momentum, most recently receiving a unanimous vote by Oakland city council to recommend approval of the environmental impact report that was released for the proposed new stadium.

Though A’s president Dave Kaval maintains contact with Nevada officials for a possible new ballpark in Las Vegas, the primary focus seems to now be on finally pushing this long-pursued deal for a new home in Oakland across the finish line.