Five things the A’s must do before spring training begins
The to-do list
The recent Bay Area weather certainly wouldn’t suggest it, but spring training is just a month away. With that in mind, here’s the first entry in a series of top-five lists that will each tackle a different topic pertaining to the A’s. We’ll unveil one each week leading up to the Feb. 14 reporting date for Oakland’s pitchers and catchers. First up: Five things the A’s need to accomplish before spring training begins …
Add a left-handed reliever
Say what you will about the A’s never splurging in the offseason, but the bullpen is one area they definitely get aggressive. They struck early this winter, trading for Emilio Pagan and signing ex-Giant Yusmeiro Petit. Landing a lefty reliever remains a big need however. The best southpaws on the free agent market are Tony Watson and Brian Duensing, and Watson has even racked up double-digit saves in each of the past two seasons. Daniel Coulombe is the only left-hander currently projected for Oakland’s bullpen. He needs company.
Sign a starting pitcher
The A’s feel there’s safety in their starting pitching numbers, but the truth is beyond Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea, there’s no one that can confidently be written into their five-man rotation. Paul Blackburn, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett, Jesse Hahn, Daniel Mengden and Andrew Triggs offer the potential for growth and development, but it’s a really inexperienced bunch. The A’s say they won’t sign a veteran just for the sake of doing so. It’s got to be the right fit. There are intriguing options out there, including Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman and Travis Wood.
Get clarity on Bruce Maxwell’s status
Back when the catcher’s mug shot appeared everywhere following his October arrest on a gun charge, it seemed his A’s days might be numbered. But Maxwell seems to still have the front office’s backing. The question is whether the legal process will keep him away from the A’s for any period of time. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 29. A plea deal would hasten things, but he could still face a suspension from MLB. Without Maxwell, the A’s catching situation looks in need of outside help.
Get Dustin Fowler healthy and ready
The A’s have an excellent center field prospect on their hands if the 23-year-old Fowler is recovered from surgery to repair a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee. The most recent reports from the team have been encouraging, but until Fowler is running the bases and chasing down fly balls in Mesa, it’s tough to gauge how quickly he could become a factor. This much is clear: If Fowler, acquired in the Sonny Gray trade, has a healthy spring, there’s a great chance he’s the Opening Day center fielder.
Re-boot the ballpark search
The topic that simply will not go away. It won’t have any bearing on the A’s fortunes in the 2018 standings, so there’s no clubhouse distraction. But this organization needs to recover from the Peralta disaster, pick a new site to build a stadium and start taking tangible steps to making it a reality. With their revenue sharing check incrementally being phased out by MLB, the A’s need the future revenue stream from a new ballpark in the worst way. It’s not a topic that exudes the optimism of spring, but identifying a site to build is the single biggest challenge facing this organization in regards to long-term prosperity.