Several members of the 2018 A's are roaming yet another slow-developing free-agent market, and it's unclear just how many of them eventually will find their way back to Oakland.Most of the remaining parts of the club's broken-down, veteran-clad rotation at season's end are on the open market -- Edwin Jackson,
Several members of the 2018 A's are roaming yet another slow-developing free-agent market, and it's unclear just how many of them eventually will find their way back to Oakland.
Most of the remaining parts of the club's broken-down, veteran-clad rotation at season's end are on the open market -- Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson -- and it would prove sensible for the A's to retain at least one of them, should they hope to build on a commendable 97-win regular season.
Jackson seemingly offers the most upside, and, in turn, brings with him the most competition.
"It's a free market, so when they get out there and talk to 29 other teams, you just kind of have to wait and see how things fall," A's general manager David Forst said at this week's General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif.
Forst and Co. are in wait-and-see mode following the GM Meetings, which provide wheelers and dealers ample opportunity to lay the groundwork for future deals. Meetings abound, but that's usually it, so it was rather standard for Forst to depart without any new toys in his possession.
"There's a number of guys we've reached out to," Forst said. "Without getting into specific guys, bringing back some of our free agents is a priority. Those are conversations that are ongoing."
Second baseman Jed Lowrie and catcher Jonathan Lucroy headline the list. The A's are expected to bring back one, but only one -- if they're lucky.
Lowrie has positioned himself well for a prime payday. Though he's entering his age-35 season, the veteran infielder will see a robust market in free agency following the best two-year stretch of his 11-year career. He hit .272/.356/.448 with 37 homers and 86 doubles in that span, compiling a WAR that ranks higher than everyone but Jose Ramirez and Jose Altuve at his position.
There are no guarantees as to how Lowrie will sustain such success, but there will be plenty of suitors regardless. Lowrie and the A's have made their mutual interest in another reunion publicly known, but the All-Star infielder is likely to draw serious interest from nearly a dozen other clubs.
Oakland must subsequently practice patience, even more so after learning of Lowrie's change in representation. The former client of Brodie Van Wagenen, who is transitioning from agent to Mets GM, has latched on with Casey Close and Excel Sports Management.
"Any time there's a change like that and you have to start the conversations over, it could affect it, but that remains to be seen," Forst said.
Close also represents Lucroy, offering a one-stop shopping experience for these A's, and it's Lucroy who is seen as the player more likely to be retained. Why? Simply put, cost and positional need.
Lucroy will demand fewer dollars than Lowrie, and he could probably be had on another short-term deal while A's catching prospect Sean Murphy acclimates to Triple-A Las Vegas. Lowrie, though, will assuredly seek multiple years, and there's little reason for the A's to enter a lengthy pact with a second baseman when they have prospect Franklin Barreto ready to take over the position.
Like Lowrie, Lucroy was a vital part of Oakland's 2018 success, pedestrian offensive numbers aside.
"Yeah, I think it's a little different situation," Forst said. "With Franklin as an option, we do feel like we could plug him in and let him play that spot. Behind the plate with Murphy, we probably think he's a little further away. That doesn't necessarily mean we're talking to more guys at one spot, but they're different situations.
"We need to have two [catchers] on Opening Day, so it's a little more urgent than the second-base situation."
Recent comments from Oakland's front-office brass suggest an increase in payroll, but that doesn't necessarily translate to a spending frenzy. It's all relative, so the bump will likely be minimal at best, leaving the A's left to prioritize the Lowries and Lucroys of the free-agent market, all the while saving some money to alleviate their biggest need: starting pitching.
It's safe to assume they won't be players for any of the top-tier options. Their focus will be narrowed to the next-best group, which includes J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, Giovany Gonzalez and Wade Miley.
"We're reaching out, but we never go out and set the market or necessarily play at the top of the market," Forst said. "We've got a little more payroll room this year than we did in the past, but I don't expect we're going to shock anyone with huge deals, but we need to sort of be judicious with what we spend."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.