Athletics

A's front office facing worst-case scenario after wait-it-out strategy

A's front office facing worst-case scenario after wait-it-out strategy

The suggestion that the Oakland Athletics might be targeted for a reduction in their revenue sharing checks from Major League Baseball comes at the least appealing time for the A’s.

Then again, the A’s have become so comfortable in profitable stasis that maybe a kick in the ribs might be just the thing to prod them into some sort of action, just to show that they are capable of taking action.
 
A small component of the current collective bargaining negotiations is a debate over the A’s annual stipend from the central office for existing, as outlined by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, and whether the franchise still deserves one.
 
There is no guarantee that Major League Baseball is going to instruct Santa to skip the Oakland Coliseum, but the threat suggests that patience is thinning with the Elephants’ ongoing business plan of keeping a low financial profile and bathing in the annual revenue check from their corporate overlords.
 
And all this comes while they are waiting to see if the Raiders are indeed leaving the Bay Area, either for Las Vegas or Los Angeles.
 
The heavy betting still has the Raiders moving, preferably in Mark Davis’ mind to Nevada by himself but in a less-appealing scenario as the second tenant in L.A. to Stan Kroenke’s Rams if San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos does not exercise his Los Angeles option first.
 
But if all Davis’ plans collapse, either because Sheldon Adelson pulls his $650 million offer to kickstart the Las Vegas stadium plan or because the other NFL owners want to contrive a way to squeeze him into a submission that would cause him to stay in Oakland just to keep control of his team, that would mean something damaging for the A’s.
 
Namely, that if Davis stayed in Oakland, he would doom any plans for a new baseball stadium because the economics say that two Oakland stadiums are beyond anyone’s fiscal capability and the politics say that building a baseball stadium but not a football stadium (or vice versa) simply won’t fly.
 
This is where Raider aficionados would suggest that the Ronnie Lott/Fortress plan to build a new football stadium would be the perfect solution, leaving the city and Alameda County to concentrate on a solution for the A’s. But as always, the devil is in the details, and the details are these:
 
* The Lott/Fortress plan has been met with a distinctive chill by the city and county, and no reaction at all from Davis, who plainly wants to leave and has for at least two years.
 
* The Lott/Fortress plan may well include the same “we want a piece of the franchise” codicil that Davis finds so repellent in other scenarios. To his logic, if he has to stay in Oakland, why would he give up any piece of his ownership? It’s almost better to stay in the Coliseum and try again later.
 
* Davis knows that his team’s value more than doubles in Las Vegas, and nearly doubles in Los Angeles. In Oakland, with no new stadium under his control, it remains static.
 
* The city and county have made it fairly clear they will contribute only non-monetary resources to any stadium, and Mayor Libby Schaaf is taking remarkably little political heat for this clearly sensible stance.
 
So A’s management has to wait for all of this to sort itself out -- and waiting is the one thing it has done best since the franchise’s last true glory days in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s before the Haas family sold the team to a series of uninspiring successors.

They waited for Fremont (before the plan was laughed into oblivion), then they waited for San Jose (and bungled while assuming then-commissioner Bud Selig would do them a favor and whip owners’ votes for them just because they made pitiful faces), and now they’re waiting for the Raiders.
 
Even on the field, they wait, for the right time to plan a future run at a title, and the right future always takes a back seat to a nebulous and low-cost present. And it sounds like the MLB powers are tired of waiting for them to stop waiting.
 
But the worst-case scenario for John Fisher/Lew Wolff, et. al., is the Raiders staying in Oakland at the same time that Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing pixie stops filling their pockets, because it means the two reasons they own the team -- making money with a new stadium, and making money with the kindness of strangers -- will disappear entirely, and selling the team under those conditions will be considerably more difficult.
 
So while Major League Baseball may decide to do nothing more strident than view the A’s situation with more skepticism and less charity, Fisher and Wolff are now seeing a potentially grim end where a month ago they saw nothing but rainbows and children’s choirs. They are never free and clear of the wolves that nip at their heels, but one way or another, their typical position of standing still and getting paid for just hanging around is becoming less of an option.

MLB rumors: A's, Yankees talked Sonny Gray deal, but no trade imminent

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AP

MLB rumors: A's, Yankees talked Sonny Gray deal, but no trade imminent

It could be Sonny again in Oakland, but there's reportedly still a long way to go. 

The A's reached out to the Yankees about acquiring right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray, "but there is no present momentum in talks," MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Friday. 

Last week, Fancred's Jon Heyman reported the A's were interested in re-acquiring Gray, who pitched in Oakland from 2013 to 2017 before being traded to New York. As Morosi noted, they've had no problem bringing back former pitchers, and there's good reason that a return to Oakland could bring the best out of Gray.

For one thing, he was a much better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium since the Bronx Bombers acquired him at the trade deadline in 2017. Gray went 6-7 with a 6.55 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 88.0 innings in the Bronx. By contrast, he was 9-9 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP on the road. In 386.0 innings at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with the A's, Gray was 25-20 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

Injuries to promising young starters such as Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk forced the A's to use a patchwork starting rotation down the stretch last season, and the team relied on a bullpenning strategy en route to its first playoff appearance in four years. As a result, A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane identified starting pitching as the team's top priority this offseason.

[ROSS: How Patrick Corbin's contract could affect A's starting pitching market]

[MORE: Did Nathan Eovaldi's playoff heroics put him out of A's price range?]

Re-acquiring Gray would maintain the approach that kept the rotation afloat last season but offer the A's much more upside than bringing back Cahill and Anderson. With the Yankees actively looking to trade Gray, it makes a lot of sense for both teams.

Based on Morosi's report, it sounds like they'll have to start picking up the phone, though. 

How Patrick Corbin's contract could affect A's starting pitching market

How Patrick Corbin's contract could affect A's starting pitching market

Patrick Corbin probably won't be signing with Oakland, but his contract should still be of interest to A's fans.

The 29-year-old left-hander is arguably the top pitcher available in free agency, meaning his contract could set the market for everyone else.

Corbin dominated hitters in 2018, striking out 246 in 200 innings. He posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP despite pitching his home games at Chase Field in Arizona, known as a hitter's park.

Corbin is projected to get somewhere in the range of five years for $100 million. Fellow left-hander Dallas Keuchel is also expected to get that type of money. However, we won't know the exact market for starters until Corbin and Keuchel get their offers.

After the top two starters, there is a slight drop off to veterans like J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, and Nathan Eovaldi. Their offers will also depend, at least in part, on Corbin's contract. There is then a trickle-down effect through the rest of the available free agent starting pitchers.

[ROSS: Did Nathan Eovaldi's playoff heroics put him out of A's price range?]

That means even if the A's don't sign Corbin, his contract could alter the price they pay for their own free agent targets. Oakland could conceivably pursue names like Wade Miley, Tyson Ross, and Clay Buchholz.

Of course, the A's have their own free agent starting pitchers to consider. Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Anderson were crucial to Oakland's success last season. Jackson and Cahill, in particular, significantly increased their value moving forward.

But it all starts at the top with Corbin. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Thursday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin.