The A's immediate future as an organization is just one giant question mark right now.
Both on and off the field, the Athletics are figuring out which direction to take the team next, both literally and figuratively.
Finishing the 2021 MLB season with a respectable record of 86-76, the A's were among the teams competing for a playoff spot up until the final days of the season. With plenty of talent on the roster, the A's strong core of home-grown players allowed them to be one of the eight best teams in the American League.
Recent reports claim that the A's are likely to shop All-Star first baseman Matt Olson this offseason, as well as most players on their roster with value. This would indicate that another roster reset is coming in 2022.
If the A's do indeed tear down and rebuild, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday, citing MLB sources, that Oakland could build their 2022 roster with a bevy of free agents signed to one-year contracts.
"One alternative, according to major-league sources," Rosenthal writes. "Is for the A’s to build back up modestly by signing a bevy of free agents to one-year contracts, a course that might enable them to field a presentable team in 2022 while building inventory for additional trades. Think back to the 2014-15 offseason, when the A’s acquired Ben Zobrist entering his walk year after trading Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija and losing others to free agency. The following summer, they traded Zobrist for one of their players who now might be on the move, left-hander Sean Manaea."
Rosenthal says that nothing has been decided yet, and that A's owner John Fisher is cognizant of the criticism that he will likely receive amongst the fanbase if the team trades away their star players while simultaneously trying to figure out the future home of the organization.
Among the players Rosenthal speculates as potential trade pieces are the ones under team control for multiple years.
"The current situation, then, is not hopeless, exasperating as it might be," Rosenthal adds. "Start with the A’s biggest names, all of whom are under club control for two more years. Olson and Montas should bring back significant returns, and three-time Gold Glove winner Chapman might, too, even coming off a season that was below his usual standards offensively. Murphy, under control for four more years, also will be a hot commodity in a market starved for catchers. Manaea and the right-handed Bassitt might be less coveted entering their walk years, but both are capable starting pitchers."
As one of the teams in the league with the least amount of financial flexibility, this toeing-of-the-line between rebuilding and competing on a budget is familiar territory for the A's. Having made the playoffs in six of the previous 10 seasons, they've proven that it's still possible to field a competitive team while trading away young talent and shopping in the free agent bargain bin.
Eventually, though, A's fans would like to break this cycle. Unfortunately for those fans, 2022 does not appear to be the season that will happen.