Athletics

AL West offseason update: A's in holding pattern, others making moves

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USATSI

AL West offseason update: A's in holding pattern, others making moves

While the A's have been relatively quiet this offseason, the same cannot be said for the rest of the American League West. The Astros, Angels, and Rangers have all signed key free agents already, and the Mariners' fire sale has been one of the biggest stories in baseball.

Here's a closer look at what each AL West rival has done so far and what it means for the A's:

Angels

Key additions: Matt Harvey (SP, Justin Bour (1B)

Key losses: Garrett Richards (SP), Jose Alvarez (RP)

The Angels' biggest move came Tuesday when they signed Matt Harvey for way too much money -- $11 million to be exact, with incentives that could bring the deal to $14 million. After a spectacular first three seasons with the Mets, Harvey has fallen apart the last three years in part due to injuries, but mainly just poor performance.

Harvey hasn't posted an ERA under 4.80 since 2015. He pitched a little better last season after getting traded to the Reds, going 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA in 24 starts with Cincinnati. But that's still a far cry from the pitcher we saw between 2012 and 2015.

The Angels also signed free agent first baseman Justin Bour to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. They still need to add a catcher as well as more starting pitching, and perhaps some relievers too. At this point, they don't appear to be a serious threat to the A's in the AL West.

[RELATED: A's GM David Forst says there's 'still an opportunity' for Mike Fiers in Oakland]

Astros

Key additions: Michael Brantley (OF), Robinson Chirinos (C), Aledmys Diaz (SS)

Key losses: Charlie Morton (SP), Brian McCann (C)

Michael Brantley and Robinson Chirinos are solid additions for the two-time defending AL West champions, and they likely aren't done. Houston is reportedly pursuing former Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz, who belted 37 home runs last season.

However, the Astros' starting rotation took a hit with the departure of pitcher Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel could also sign elsewhere. To make matters worse for Houston, starter Lance McCullers Jr. will miss the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The Astros do still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to form a strong 1-2 punch, not to mention one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. They will return plenty of young talent in their lineup and should once again be a legitimate World Series contender. Until dethroned, the Astros have to be considered the favorite in the AL West.

[RELATED: Source: Edwin Jackson, A's not on same page in contract negotiations]

Mariners

Key additions: Edwin Encarnación (DH), Mallex Smith (OF), Jay Bruce (OF)

Key losses: Edwin Diaz (RP), James Paxton (SP), Robinson Cano (2B), Jean Segura (SS), Juan Nicasio (RP), Alex Colome (RP), Mike Zunino (C)

The Mariners' fire sale is truly one to behold. Seattle has already traded away three former All-Stars in Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and Jean Segura, while shipping their best starter James Paxton to the Yankees. The aforementioned Nelson Cruz will also be playing somewhere else next season.

Despite winning 89 games last year, Seattle decided to go full rebuild. That's good news for the A's and the rest of the division, at least in the short-term, as the Mariners figure to be one of the worst teams in baseball next season.

Oakland will be especially happy to see Cano leave the American League. The eight-time All-Star has destroyed A's pitching over the years, slashing .292/.344/.470 with 25 home runs and 33 doubles in 160 games. Same goes for Segura, who has slashed .351/.380/.485 in 32 career games against Oakland.

[RELATED: A's expect recent trade acquisition Tanner Anderson to help rotation]

Rangers

Key additions: Lance Lynn (SP), Jesse Chavez (RP), Jeff Mathis (C)

Key losses: Adrián Beltré (3B), Matt Moore (SP), Robinson Chirinos (C), Alex Claudio (RP)

At least the Rangers have tried to address their woeful pitching with the additions of Lance Lynn and Jesse Chavez. They still have a lot more work to do.

Texas' most notable departure is future Hall of Famer Adrián Beltré, who announced his retirement after 21 MLB seasons. It's safe to say the A's won't be upset to see him go -- in 223 career games against Oakland, Beltré slashed .287/.332/.485 with 41 homers, 50 doubles, and 145 RBI.

The Rangers lost 95 games last season to finish dead last in the AL West. They might move out of the cellar next year, thanks to Seattle's rebuild, but they almost certainly won't be anywhere near the top of the division.

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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AP/USATSI

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.

A's first baseman Matt Olson undergoes surgery on his right hand

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AP

A's first baseman Matt Olson undergoes surgery on his right hand

The A's announced on Friday that 2018 Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson underwent successful right hamate excision surgery on his right hand. The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin:

Olson left Thursday's game against the Mariners in Japan due to some discomfort in his right hand as he was having some trouble gripping his bat. 

While we are unsure how long Olson will be out, this article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine states similar injuries could sideline players from three to seven weeks with the median time ranging around five weeks.

For now, the A's do have Mark Canha who can play first base. Jurickson Profar is always an option as well since he can play anywhere. But he covers so much range in the middle of the infield, picturing him anywhere else but second base seems strange.

We knew this was looking like bad news when it happened, but now that we know for sure, the A's need to figure out a more direct plan knowing the team is without their first baseman and a very powerful bat to start out the season.