We are three weeks into free agency, and as expected, the market has been slow to develop with a lack of major signings across the Majors.
Aside from making some additions to their 40-man roster last week to protect a few prospects from being selected in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, the A’s offseason has been fairly quiet. The 10 players from their 2020 club that became free agents remain available, including team leader Marcus Semien and All-Star closer Liam Hendriks.
With Thanksgiving this week, I’d like to give a shoutout to all of you who continually submit questions and/or read these Inboxes and other stories on MLB.com. You are greatly appreciated. Let’s get to some of those questions:
Chad Pinder has shown himself to be an elite defender in the corner outfield and has the potential to be a plus hitter. With the A’s lacking a lot of outfield depth, what are the odds Pinder gets a full season to prove what he can do in the outfield?
Even with Robbie Grossman hitting free agency, the A’s outfield depth may not be as lacking at the Major League level as it appears when you consider MLB-ready prospects Luis Barrera and Seth Brown are waiting in the wings. Greg Deichmann, the A’s No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was added to the 40-man roster last week and is also not too far away from reaching the Majors.
Pinder has earned a chance at an expanded role, but the A’s might still prefer to play him all around the field as a super-utility man. Whatever his official role is, it should come with the maximum number of at-bats possible given his performance at the plate to end the season in place of the injured Matt Chapman.
What is Seth Brown’s role going to be next season? With Robbie Grossman most likely leaving in free agency, I feel Brown deserves a shot at some real playing time.
If Grossman leaves, the door is open for Brown to earn some playing time, especially against right-handers. The A’s could always decide to bring in an outfielder through free agency, but right now, Brown has a good chance of beginning 2021 in some form of a platoon role with Mark Canha in left field.
Considered to have some of the best raw power in the organization, Brown handled himself well as a callup in 2019. He checks the boxes as the type of player the club values with a consistently high on-base percentage throughout the Minors. The time is now for the A’s to see what Brown, 28, can do with extended playing time over a full season.
Do the A’s have a time where they will be formally announcing their 2021 payroll projection?
It’s unlikely the A’s will announce a payroll projection, but given the financial impact felt throughout baseball due to the pandemic, it's unlikely that payroll will increase much, if at all. A large chunk of filling the A’s payroll will likely come in their efforts to sign as many of their 10 free agents as they can. Another big focus will be on their several key players going through salary arbitration, including Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea.
President of baseball operations Billy Beane and the front office have always found a way to get creative in order to boost their roster under tight financial constraints during normal offseasons. That savviness will only grow in importance during these uncertain times.
Can Nick Allen make the jump to the Major Leagues next year or will he need to spend time in Triple-A before coming up?
By all accounts, Oakland’s No. 4 prospect is without question one of the top defensive players in the Minor Leagues. But the A’s have to decide if they’d be comfortable rolling out a player who has not appeared in a game above Class A Advanced. It's not unlikely that Allen could make an appearance in Oakland at some point next season, but don't expect that until he gets some at-bats at Double-A and possibly Triple-A. One thing is certain: It’s going to be pretty fun watching Allen and Chapman lock down the left side of the infield whenever that time comes.
Do you think the A’s will trade Stephen Piscotty? Oakland has some young outfielders in the system, and money saved could be used elsewhere.
I’ve heard nothing to suggest the A’s will be shopping Piscotty, though this type of move would make sense for a team looking to create room on payroll, which is a possibility. The question here would be if another team would want to take on Piscotty’s contract, which has $21.5 million remaining over the next three seasons, with his salary rising to $15 million or a $1 million buyout option for 2024. Given his struggles with injuries the past few years, the 29-year-old outfielder might not be in high demand on the trade market at this time. At this point, I’d expect Piscotty to remain with the A’s in '21.
Are the A’s still full steam ahead with the Howard Terminal location for the new stadium?
Nothing has changed as far as the desired location of Howard Terminal for the A’s new ballpark. As anticipated, the process towards getting the necessary approvals has slowed significantly during the pandemic. The next step in the process would be examining the results of the City of Oakland's the environmental impact report. Originally delayed to late 2020, the A’s may have to wait until early '21 for that. The reality is that with the city dealing with pandemic-related issues, the A’s have been pushed down its list of priorities.
How is A.J. Puk doing, health-wise?
Oakland’s No. 1 prospect continues to go through rehab from the surgery he underwent on his left shoulder in September. His electric arm makes him an intriguing option for the bullpen, especially with Hendriks likely to sign elsewhere in free agency. But general manager David Forst said in October that the current plan is to keep Puk in a starting role. The left-hander is expected to make a full recovery and be at full strength by Spring Training.