Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Arizona on Wednesday for the A’s, who will have a bunch of new faces in the clubhouse in 2021.
There also might be something of a void in the locker room without veteran shortstop Marcus Semien, who signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. The A’s made a flurry of trades and acquisitions in the past week, but watched as free agents like Semien, Liam Hendriks and Tommy La Stella signed with other teams.
A’s fans might be groaning about another offseason of low spending amid the pandemic, but what does the industry think? Alex Coffey of The Athletic spoke to four agents who discussed Oakland’s offseason and to get their perceptions of the A’s front office.
“It’s really sad because they still have a good core,” an unnamed agent told Coffey. “If you could’ve brought back Semien, that would have been a huge bump for everybody. Not just the players, but the fans, everybody would have been stoked.”
The A’s reportedly did not make an $18.9 million qualifying offer for Semien this year to retain his services and he eventually signed for $18 million to switch positions with the Blue Jays.
“It seems like Semien would have come back for a discount,” the agent told Coffey. “I mean, s--t, he went to a foreign country to play second base, while he could have played shortstop and lived at home. It’s just such a shame. I think that motivated [owner John] Fisher to try to find some money to do something, because he got raked over the coals on that one. I mean, how are the A’s ticket representatives supposed to lure in season ticket holders now?”
Sure, Semien is valuable simply as a 30-year-old shortstop who can contribute offensively. But the loss of his leadership in the clubhouse and community will be virtually impossible for anyone else to duplicate.
When the A’s traded Khris Davis to the Texas Rangers in a deal centered around Elvis Andrus, they also reportedly received $13.5 million cash. Oakland was able to sign Mike Fiers to a one-year $3.5 million contract shortly after while also easing the load on Andrus’ outstanding deal for the next three years, as he was originally owed about $45 million in that time.
But as the agent noted, the lack of spending hurts the A’s in multiple ways. It is detrimental to the team’s chances 2021, the long-term draw of the team for fans and it also has depleted the A’s minor league system, since the handcuffed front office often relies on prospects as trade capital.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson each have three years of arbitration left and their salaries should rise every season. The pressure will be on the front office to open up the checkbook or there could be more negative sentiment from players, fans and agents alike.