Five offseason tasks for the A's
Time to get to work
Don’t expect a roster makeover with the A’s as some recent offseasons have brought. They have a solid young nucleus to build around, and generally things appear headed in the right direction after a strong finish to the 2017 season. But there’s still a decent-sized to-do list...
DECIDE ON JED LOWRIE'S CLUB OPTION
This is a formality. A’s officials made clear Monday they plan to exercise Lowrie’s $6 million option. “Jed Lowrie had one of the best years a second baseman has ever had in the history of this franchise,” VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said. The upshot: Top prospect Franklin Barreto, still just 21, is likely to start 2018 in the minors. “I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world for Frankie to get some more time” at Triple-A, GM David Forst said.
BOLSTER THE STARTING ROTATION
Considering Oakland’s starters finished 11th in the league in ERA, it’s no surprise the A’s plan to scan the free agent market to strengthen the rotation. But help from in-house may come at some point in 2018. Beane said top pitching prospect A.J. Puk and James Kaprielian, a righty acquired in the Sonny Gray trade, may be ready to contribute in the bigs next season. Kaprielian is recovering from Tommy John surgery but should be throwing off the mound in spring training.
GET CLARITY IN CENTER FIELD
Forst indicated the A’s want to identify a starting center fielder from within the organization. Boog Powell made a nice first impression and will be in the mix. But the A’s have high hopes that Dustin Fowler, another piece received in the Gray trade, will be healthy enough to command the job. Like Kaprielian, Fowler is a highly regarded prospect coming off a major injury. He’s recovering well from knee surgery he had for a ruptured right patellar tendon in June. The A’s say he’s currently on track to be ready for the start of camp.
SHORE UP THE BULLPEN
Manager Bob Melvin had strong praise for Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen, who stabilized the back end of the bullpen after Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson were traded to Washington. Treinen notched 13 saves over the second half and may open next season as the closer. But this unit needs some reinforcements. Melvin mentioned a situational lefty and another late-inning righty as potential targets. Santiago Casilla, under contract at $5.5 million next year, will be back in a yet-to-be-determined role.
MAKE PROGRESS ON THE BALLPARK PLAN
It all revolves around this, right? This isn’t typical Hot Stove stuff, and a lot of the work will be taking place behind the scenes. But the A’s have to continue making headway on their plan to build a ballpark at the Peralta site, next to Laney College. Opposition already has mounted, but the A’s expected that. That’s why president Dave Kaval will spend the next year continuing to have dialogue with local officials and residents, trying to smooth things out and clear a path for construction to begin in 2021 with an eye toward a 2023 opening.